Roomba Maker iRobot Wants To Map Homes For Connected Devices

LAS VEGAS - Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner maker iRobot ( IRBT ) believes it has a valuable role to play in the coming age of the smart home.

"There"s a lot going on in the smart home and AI. Those are among the big themes" at CES 2018, iRobot CEO Colin Angle told Investor"s Business Daily at the consumer electronics show. "And we are a very interesting player in this market because what we"re doing solves a lot of the challenges that the smart home folks are struggling with."

The smart home is a giant system that needs to understand where devices are located in order to behave correctly, he said. IRobot"s mobile robots are capable of mapping homes to determine which rooms have which connected devices.

"This idea that we"re just going to add more connected devices to our home and suddenly magic and nirvana happens is a failed promise," he said. "The importance of organizing the physical data in the home is beginning to be recognized as the missing link and thinking about the home as a robot is a perspective that we"re bringing to the conversation."

Bedford, Mass.-based iRobot is developing a trusted relationship with customers that involves letting iRobot learn more about a home"s layout in return for its cleaning robots working better, Angle said.

IRobot wants to get to the point where people can say "Go clean my kitchen" and the robot will know where the room is located, he said. The same issue applies for controlling other smart devices throughout the home, such as connected lighting, door locks and thermostats, he said.

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"We have this emerging role in the smart home where we"re the Google for physical information in the home," Angle said. He stressed that iRobot would be a trusted service provider for customers and would not sell their home layout and connected device information to third parties.

IRobot currently has an app that can analyze Wi-Fi coverage in homes using its Wi-Fi connected Roombas. It can provide a map showing where wireless signals are strongest and weakest.

"The positioning for iRobot is we"re going to be the spatial-understanding people," Angle said. "We"re trying to make the home sufficiently self aware to be self configuring and useful ... The emerging AI home dimension is going to play out in a big way over the next two years."

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