Amazon drones could see straight into millions of homes after buying ‘iRobot’

Amazon is about to get its hands on the maps of millions of homes after it acquires robo-vacuum cleaner company iRobot.

The online retail joint announced its plans to buy the home android company for $1.7 billion (£1.4bn). iRobot manufactures the Roomba vacuum cleaner, which automatically cleans peoples' homes. 

Using a range of smart sensors and laser scanners, the Roomba builds a map of home interiors and then cleans it. 

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As well as owning the robots themselves, the buyout will also mean that Amazon gets hold of all the data iRobot devices hold on their users, giving them a window directly into the homes of millions of customers.

In a statement, Dave Limp of Amazon Devices said: "Over many years, the iRobot team has proven its ability to reinvent how people clean with products that are incredibly practical and inventive—from cleaning when and where customers want while avoiding common obstacles in the home, to automatically emptying the collection bin."

Combined with Amazon's Ring doorbell, smart speakers, cameras, and more, it means the world's biggest online retailer will have an unprecedented glimpse into the data generated by our private lives at home.

An Amazon spokesperson told WIRED in a statement: "Customer trust is something we have worked hard to earn—and work hard to keep—every day.

However, privacy experts are worried. Evan Greer of digital rights organisation Fight for the Future said: "People tend to think of Amazon as an online seller company, but really Amazon is a surveillance company."

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Greer added: "Amazon wants to have its hands everywhere, and acquiring a company that's essentially built on mapping the inside of people's homes seems like a natural extension of the surveillance reach that Amazon already has."

Alongside the data, Amazon will likely look to integrate iRobot's devices into its own range of smart home products.

That could mean Alexa integrations into Roomba vacuum cleaners or even being able to ask your Echo Dot to mop the kitchen floor using voice commands.


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