Amazon wants to make itself at home—in your home.
With last week’s $1.7 billion purchase of iRobot Corp., the company that makes the Roomba line of robot vacuum cleaning products and Aeris air purifiers, Amazon is stepping up its involvement in smart home technology. And this is just the beginning.
Roomba devices combined with Amazon’s existing Ring home security products (bought in 2018) and its own Alexa virtual assistant systems give it an impressive presence in the long-awaited promise of the automated home of tomorrow. The e-commerce giant already owns Eero Wi-Fi and the camera company Blink, and is developing its own Astro, a household robot in limited distribution.
What’s the deal with Amazon’s latest bet on a future that looks more and more like The Jetsons? In reporting on the acquisition, Bloomberg technology reporter Alex Webb wrote, “Yes, Amazon will make money from selling those gadgets. But the real value resides in those robots’ ability to map your house. As ever with Amazon, it’s all about the data.”
Bloomberg speculates that because a Roomba maps out a person’s home it can deduce many findings about who lives there, from whether they have kids to how much furniture you have—and how much you might want to buy on Amazon. “This is all useful intel for … Amazon, which, you may have noticed, is in the business of selling stuff,” wrote Webb, who called the e-commerce behemoth having a map of your house “slightly terrifying.”
For The Verge, smart home reviewer Jennifer Pattison Tuohy wrote that robot vacuum technology can give Amazon crucial data and context that contribute to an end goal of “ambient intelligence”—an automated home environment where all devices work together to make a space exponentially smarter. “We’ve been able to understand the utterance ‘Go to the kitchen and get me a beer’ for a decade,” iRobot co-founder Colin Angle told the publication. “But if I don’t know where the kitchen is, and I don’t know where the refrigerator is, and I don’t know what a beer looks like, it really doesn’t matter that I understand your words.”
Of course, Amazon isn’t the only tech giant in hot pursuit of the smart home market. Apple has introduced several smart home apps via its HomeKit system, from lighting to security controls, and companies like Google and Microsoft also have their tech in millions of homes through assorted apps and devices. Just as with other emerging market segments, one company—two, at most—will end up becoming the dominant smart home platform.
With this deal, Amazon seems to be the furthest along. As Bloomberg put it, “Now, iRobot can give Jeff Bezos & Co. a sense of what’s in your home.” Resistance is futile.
Homepage photo: ©hakinmhan/Adobe Stock
Warren Shoulberg is the former editor in chief for several leading B2B publications. He has been a guest lecturer at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business; received honors from the International Furnishings and Design Association and the Fashion Institute of Technology; and been cited by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and other media as a leading industry expert. His Retail Watch columns offer deep industry insights on major markets and product categories.