Okay, in my “Are They Listening” article I discussed some privacy concerns of Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa. I just learned that iRobot’s Roombas are going to start mapping your home’s Wi-Fi soon. This is being touted as a “benefit” or “added bonus” for owners of the little autonomous vacuum cleaners. How?
They map the best/worst areas in your home for Wi-Fi, how nice.
Interestingly, the Wi-Fi versions of the Roomba can be controlled via Google Home or Amazon Alexa. How nice of them.
Anyhow, the purported benefit here is that you will have a visual map of the strength of your Wi-Fi available. Apparently, there is many people walking around their homes trying to find the best signal. I was not aware this was a thing.
“The beta program is where things like this will live and grow, as the team wants to test new features,” Gary Hall, the company’s senior director of digital product management told TechCrunch ahead of launch. “Initially, we’ll allow users to signal their interest in the mobile app. From there, we’ll do releases of the beta features as they make sense.” Quote credit, TechCrunch.com.
CNET reports that this update will be available for the Roomba 960 and 980. At least in the beginning, other models could be given these features later. Also, the roll out will be small at first prior to rolling out to a larger base.
Additionally, earlier this year there was apparently concern over a comment about what iRobot does with the data they collect. It was later clarified that they won’t sell your data (though they never said they won’t “lend it out” to partners in return for favorable positioning in agreements and contracts).
All in all, it sounds like Roombas come with a serious privacy concern in return for the convenience of not having to vacuum a few times a month. Not for me. What are your thoughts?