back to article iRobot just banked a fat profit. And it knows how to make more: Sharing maps of your homes

Roomba maker iRobot recorded soaring sales and banked rising profits in the three months to July, according to figures revealed on Tuesday. Yet despite all that success, the vacuum-cleaning bot builder has its eyes on another lucrative prize: the layout of your home. Chief exec Colin Angle believes his bottom line can be …

  1. Christian Berger

    Thanks iRobot...

    ... I was considering to buy one of your products... now your products are off the list of the once I'd consider buying.

    1. Jamesit

      Re: Thanks iRobot...

      Me too,my first one was really great. Not buying another one now.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Thanks iRobot...

        I think the article is quite explicit in the fact that if you don't register or connect to the WiFi/Bluetooth then it won't return information. How true this is? Who knows. However I do think they have taken a more mature stance than most companies by announcing what they want to do before just enabling it by default.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Thanks iRobot...

          Well I think it is pretty safe to say that if it doesn't have any wifi/bluetooth - i.e. no networking - it might be able to collect a bunch of data but it will never be able to transmit it back home...

          1. Mike Richards

            Re: Thanks iRobot...

            No doubt they'll ensure that all the robot's health monitoring, battery information, scheduling and replacement components will require you to create an account and maintain a constant connection.

          2. BillG
            Headmaster

            Re: Thanks iRobot...

            iRobot takes privacy and security of its customers very seriously.

            iRobot takes privacy and security of its customers! Very seriously!

            Fixed it for ya'.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Thanks iRobot...

          I think the article is quite explicit in the fact that if you don't register or connect to the WiFi/Bluetooth then it won't return information

          True. But you'll find that quite a lot of facilities and gadgets are now sold with an explicit assumption that you register, otherwise they won't even work. I've got a few health tracking apps that would be great if they didn't want to ship my data to some unknown entity in the big blue sky as well, and I thus got my money back for every single one (not in description).

        3. Vector
          Big Brother

          Re: Thanks iRobot...

          Sorry but this is data that just does not belong in the cloud! Why do our whole lives have to be registered with big brother? I'm pretty sure the data being collected by their little cat saucers could easily be processed by a local connected PC.

        4. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: if you don't register or connect to the WiFi/Bluetooth

          You know how this device goes off exploring the floor-space in your living accommodation? It might just do the same with your WiFi. What SSID's are in the vicinity? Let's try logging in using a dictionary of common passwords. BTW if you drop your credit card on the floor and the device detects either the characters on the card, or can read the magnetic strip then the fall-back is to login to OpenZone or similar.

          A bit far-fetched maybe today, but in a few year's time people will be tying down their IoT's to prevent them going walkabout when their owners are out at work.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the old days

    The Stasi would have employed Rosa Klebb as a maid.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In the old days

      The Jetsons employed Rosie Klebb...

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: In the old days

      How to covertly toss an apartment, Stasi style

      Also, Rosa Klebb would have employed the Stasi.

  3. MrDamage Silver badge

    Glad I bought a "dumb" competitors' model.

    See title.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Glad I bought a "dumb" competitors' model.

      So did my wife - she just pointed to the Dyson and told me to clean the floor up.

  4. davcefai
    Alert

    I suppose that the next step could well be that if you drop your keys it will photograph them and send the photo off for making copies..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      More likely it would photograph your household items so that Amazon could say: "We noticed that you have these items, would you like to buy more of them, exactly the same?"

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        re: would you like to buy...

        or you could get adverts from Amazon (other etailers are available for the time being) that give you a picture of your room with the item of dross they want to flog you shown already in situ using AR.

        With all that IoT and its inherrent insecurities and now this thing, it is going to be harder than ever to keep what goes on inside our homes a secret from the outside world.

        Does anyone sell a kit to turn a home into a giant Faraday Cage? (and don't say Amazon...)

        1. Eddy Ito

          Re: re: would you like to buy...

          Does anyone sell a kit to turn a home into a giant Faraday Cage? (and don't say Amazon...)

          Funny you should ask. I have on offer a special discount on my new Faraday wallpaper especially for owners of various IoT devices. It's available in rolls from 37.5 sq. ft. all the way up to 150 sq. ft., in multi-roll packs, and in two convenient widths of 12 and 18 inches. There's even a lighter duty version for those low trafficked areas that works well when applied to windows1 and ceilings. Act now and I'll double the offer for fee2, just pay separate shipping, fuel surcharge, taxes, title, destination, license, groping, and handling fees.

          1. Alternate interior illumination sources may be required. 2. no, it's not a typo.

        2. uncommon_sense

          Re: re: would you like to buy...

          Alucraft might work..

      2. Ben Bonsall

        More likely it would photograph your household items so that Amazon could say: "We noticed that you have these items, would you like to buy more of them, exactly the same?"

        We noticed your Roomba just broke one of these, would you like to buy another?

        1. VinceH

          We noticed that your Roomba just spread dog shit all over your carpet. Would you like to buy a carpet cleaner?

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Two words

    "Red Dragon"

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Red-Dragon-Hannibal-Thomas-Harris/dp/009953293X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1501055638&sr=1-1&keywords=thomas+harris

  6. Pen-y-gors

    Ratner moment?

    I don't know how effective these little beasties are at cleaning.

    Could this be iRobot's Ratner moment - one careless comment which wipes out the company?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ratner moment?

      I don't know how effective these little beasties are at cleaning.

      It appears they're mainly efficient at redistributing dog poo (see other comment)

      Could this be iRobot's Ratner moment - one careless comment which wipes out the company?

      Nah, just to Europe :)

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Joke

    I have a proposal for a new business model (which I generously won't patent)

    1) Make stuff people like to buy.

    2)Don't have it collect personal data on them or their belongings

    3)Don't send it to a remote server farm

    4)Don't sell it to WTF pays you the most.

    I like to think of it as the (none of your f**king) business model.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I have a proposal for a new business model (which I generously won't patent)

      You mean like Apple? Now maybe that doesn't hit point '1' for you due to price or other reasons, but they don't do 2 & 4, and only do 3 if you configure iCloud.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        "You mean like Apple?"

        It's just that 4) at Apple prices doesn't find anybody with such amount of money...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I actually made my own vacuum robot instead of shelling out a ludicrous amount just for this slow piece of junk.

    I don't know what to say, I'm just really sorry for those poor souls who are going to get their houses broken into because the floorplans of their house were sold on the black market. Don't let these people lose their sanity in vain, let this be a lesson to us all.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Well, I was going to rob this house, but decided not to because I didn't know what the internal layout was. Even though it was a standard Georgian terrace house of which I've seen dozens, I just didn't feel comfortable climbing in without a sketchy point-cloud representation of its insides.

      /s

      Meanwhile, theft of phones has gone down *because* they are connected and can shop the thief or be disabled.

      1. Mephistro

        (@Dave 126)

        Like you, I don't think the house's layout is of much interest for burglars (unless it's some big mansion), but on the other hand, they would be really interested in knowing which stuff you own, at what times you are at work and when you're on holidays, and all this info could -I think- be extracted from the Rumba's data transmissions.

  9. Sweeper
    IT Angle

    Old tech still works, albeit mostly under duress.

    We have a bespoke AI house cleaning device, admittedly produced in very limited numbers. Me. Doesn't store any data and certainly cannot send it anywhere. It is even stated that it isn't very good at cleaning, only adequate like these robots. Just ask my wife.

  10. Electron Shepherd
    Unhappy

    Weasel words as ususal

    "will always ask your permission to even store map data"

    is not the same as

    "we will not store map data unless you give us permission"

  11. LDS Silver badge
    Facepalm

    The butler did it...

    .... even when it's a robot butler...

    I'm going to live in Faraday cage outside of mobile coverage, underground outside satellite reach.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken
  12. Nick Kew

    Dodgy story

    My roomba is not equipped with wifi. Nor bluetooth, or any other communications other than the physical controls on it. Neither does it have half the other attributes described in the article.

    But it does a b***** good job with my floors. Especially the bedroom carpet, which (being deeper than others in the house) was visibly cleaner after the roomba than it ever had been after cleaning with a conventional upright vacuum cleaner.

    The article says $irobot-boss would like to sell such data. But it only invites you to suppose that a roomba collects any such data (Granny Weatherwax would say headology). Maybe some do, but I've not encountered them.

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: (being deeper than others in the house) was visibly cleaner after the roomba

      It is possible that the roomba had great fun designing Crop Circle designs in your bedroom carpet and you would never know it unless you were to get up on a step-ladder and look down.

    2. Mark 65

      Re: Dodgy story

      But it does a b***** good job with my floors. Especially the bedroom carpet, which (being deeper than others in the house) was visibly cleaner after the roomba than it ever had been after cleaning with a conventional upright vacuum cleaner.

      All I can say is that you must have a really shit vacuum if one of these undergassed battery powered fluff flickers does a better job. I haven't encountered one yet that will even come close to my Miele.

  13. sebt
    Mushroom

    Seriously....

    “$COMPANY takes privacy and security of its customers very seriously."

    This is becoming a familiar refrain. Along with the next sentence, which is always thought, rather than said:

    "That's why we don't give your data to anyone unless they cough up serious money"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Seriously....

      The problem with those privacy statements is that they fail to clarify as to which customers they're discussing. Third parties buying up their data are customers, too.

      I always get a kick when Facebook users refer to themselves as customers, when in reality they're more like the product...

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Headmaster

        I..get a kick when FB users refer to themselves as customers,..in reality they're.. the product

        They are users, not customers.

        Product is what FB advertisers buy from FB.

        Which is the data on habits of the users and access to them on their pages.

        "Product" is exactly the correct word for them.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For example, in order for the lights to turn on

    or to lock the doors when directed by law enforcement, as robo-officers are approaching in a robo-car. Possibilities are not endless, they're pretty obvious.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Feedback

    The owner could always set out some barriers so their roomba's track spells out a suitably offensive message.

  16. Wade Burchette

    Pinocchio

    "<<SOME COMPANY>> takes your privacy very seriously."

    "<<SOME COMPANY>> values your privacy."

    If Pinocchio uttered those words, his nose would instantly be a million miles long. They are meant for you to think they respect your privacy. "We take your privacy very seriously" means "we only listen to serious offers." "We value your privacy" means "your privacy is valuable to our company and we want to sell it to increase our value."

    But the saddest part of all is people blithely just surrender their privacy. Benjamin Franklin once said (paraphrasing) 'any society that would give up a little security to gain a little freedom will deserve neither and lose both'. Well, I am saying that any person who would give up a little privacy to save a little money will deserve neither and lose both.

    1. HieronymusBloggs

      Re: Pinocchio

      "Benjamin Franklin once said (paraphrasing) 'any society that would give up a little security to gain a little freedom will deserve neither and lose both'."

      Franklin actually said the opposite, ie. "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." The inverted version is quite apt here though.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I like Roomba's..

    .. when they're in houses of people that have animals that poo within its operating range.

    You can summarise the numerous Youtube videos of the consequences with one word: Schadenfreude :)

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: I like Roomba's..

      Or perhaps scheissestreuung

    2. Swarthy Silver badge

      Re: I like Roomba's..

      Scheißenfreude?

  18. adam payne

    Keep your Roomba, I want a Mister Handy.

  19. conscience
    FAIL

    Knowledge is power

    "in order for the lights to turn on when you walk into a room, the home must know what lights are in which rooms"

    Wrong. It would also work just fine with a sensor that only connected to a lightbulb and a power source, without the need for any internet connectivity or data collection.

    The only reason iRobot would even suggest otherwise is to make more money by selling all that customer data, betraying their customers in the process. A real 'Ratner moment' indeed.

    1. onceuponatime

      Re: Knowledge is power

      But you heathen that is totally against the IoT mantra and therefore you must say five "Hail Terminator"'s. Sensors are for people who live in the 90's and not a modern individual which has everything connected to the interwebs!!!!!!!!

      <insults were half price, don't complain> :P

      1. Mark 65

        Re: Knowledge is power

        If you then embed an RFID under the skin of each resident the system can then know who is entering the room and act accordingly.

    2. DJSpuddyLizard

      Re: Knowledge is power

      "in order for the lights to turn on when you walk into a room, the home must know what lights are in which rooms"

      Wrong. It would also work just fine with a sensor that only connected to a lightbulb and a power source, without the need for any internet connectivity or data collection.

      I have these in my house - they're called infrared motion detectors.

      or, you can even build the IR detection into the bulb:

      https://www.amazon.com/7W-Motion-Sensor-Light-Bulb/dp/B071NJ71KH/ref=sr_1_24?ie=UTF8&qid=1501096739&sr=8-24&keywords=infrared+detector

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Won't send data until you connect

    So that means no firmware updates, ever. And I'm sure Bluetooth and WiFi are disabled out of the box so users can make an "informed" decision and not use functionality promised on the box. Yeah, right.

  21. Haku

    Rearrange your furniture every day so the floor plan spells out the letters

    F

    U

    C

    you can see where I'm going with this :)

  22. PhilipN

    Do academics have to assume we are all helpless morons?

    “sound systems could match home acoustics"

    Check. Called a volume control.

    "air conditioners could schedule airflow by room"

    CHECK. CALLED A REMOTE.

    "smart lighting could adjust according to the position of windows and time of day.”

    CHECK!! CALLED A F****** LIGHT SWITCH!!!

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Do academics have to assume we are all helpless morons?

      For the sound system to actually match home acoustics, it would need a full 3D model including the materials the objects are made with. And then only a few trained ears will spot the difference.

      To optimize AC airflow again, you'll need a model of how air moves inside the house for different conditions external and internal, and where hot/cold spots happen. It would need distributed temperature, pressure and air speed sensors - and different air outlets.

      Lights would need to know how much ambient light is already available, its direction, and how much light the person in the room *actually* need to perform a given task. Eating is different from reading a book which is different from watching TV which is different from listening to music, etc.

      If the Roomba turns into a real robo-butler which will take my jacket when I return home, serves the tea and turn on the lights accordingly to my actual needs, I'll buy it...

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'Once you have a rich map of the home that the user has allowed to be shared'

    ~ This incenses me!... I buy less tech / electronics overall because of this 'hey consumer, you're a mark' shit! So keep going Roomba / Microsoft / IoT-whoever. You are collectively killing the consciousness of your market.

    ~ You're extinguishing yourself out of existence, not creating the tech renaissance you think you are. A lot of smart-watch / fit-shit / IoT-smart-ass outfits are finding this out right now! Even VR is hurting in its hype etc!

  24. GcdJ

    But what is phase 2 of the plan

    So iRobot enables the room layouts to sold for marketing purposes. In and of itself this would be annoying but it is of limited value.

    BUT - what if a later version of the vacuum cleaner was equipped with a dust analyzer?

    The dust data then becomes VERY valuable. Imagine the targeted ads for soaps & detergents, or letting us know that our cat has fleas.

    Some bright-spark will write an app that tracks home cleanliness, mashes the data into a single index and then shares the ranking with our friends. Some other bright-spark will take the home cleanliness index and use that to feed into credit scoring, or employability ranking.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But what is phase 2 of the plan

      Just make sure all that {insert narcotic of choice} ends up where you want it, and not on the floor.

  25. jhonnikolson

    good to see this discussion! it is really helpful for me.

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