What Does Amazon's Acquisition of iRobot Mean for Households?

What Does Amazon's Acquisition of iRobot Mean for Households?

iRobot is best known as the maker of the Roomba, a robot vacuum cleaner that's changed the way that we clean our homes. It was recently acquired by Amazon, in a $1.7 billion deal announced last week. But, the retail giant isn't just seeking a greater piece of the robot vacuum cleaner sales pie. Instead, as always, it's all about the data.

Mapping Your Home For Tailored Product Ads

iRobot isn't just a vacuum company. It's a home-mapping company. The data picked up in a user's Roomba can be used to identify your potential needs and curate ads on your devices to meet them. The more that your Roomba knows about the spaces it cleans, the more it knows about you.

For instance, bare floors and sparse furnishings may indicate that you need more furniture, and you'll start seeing great deals on couches and tables. Or, if kids' toys are all over the floor, you'll start seeing the latest gadgets and trends for the under-10 set.

Making Your Smart Home Smarter

Making Your Smart Home Smarter

Despite the name, today's Smart Home isn't actually that bright. It works on the data it has, like knowing that your connected TV and Philips Hue lightbulbs are in the same room because you've told it as much. But, the Smart Home may not know what other devices are in the room. The more that your smart home and smart, AI-capable appliances know about your house and you, the more tightly their choreography is with your needs.

Amazon is committed to the Smart Home. The Echo speaker outsells both its nearest rivals from Google and Apple combined, while the Ring video doorbell remains the most popular on the market. But, the Astro home robot revealed at a tech conference by Amazon is still out of reach for consumers. For customers that like privacy, though, this might be a good thing since the robot was a thinly veiled device for mapping the interior of your property.

Collecting Data For Marketing Companies

Interior mapping can collect an incredible amount of useful data for marketing companies. For example, the square footage of your home and its location can give a fairly accurate indication of your wealth and disposable income. And, visuals, including video and photos, of what the appliances "see" may give insight into your hobbies and needs, perfect for a company like Amazon, which is in the business of selling everything under the sun.

In a recent statement, Rick Jordan, CEO and founder of Reachout Technology, says, "now [Amazon] can actually know the layout of your home and products that are in your home to target you for further purchases for really anything — any consumer goods."

What Kind of Data Have iRobot and Amazon Already Collected From Users?

If you own a Roomba, you've already given the iRobot company information about your billing info, mailing address, any devices you've connected to in your home, including your smartphone, and your social media accounts. If you're worried about your privacy, Amazon has an option allowing you to limit the company's permission to track through the privacy settings menu.

This isn't the first time that the retail giant has come under scrutiny for privacy violations. Last month, Amazon admitted that it provided footage to law enforcement, obtained through the Ring app and devices, without the user's permission at least 11 times.

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