Maybe Amazon do want to know where you placed your sofa

8/8/2022

The fallout from Amazon’s $1.7 billion purchase of iRobot has analysts and industry insiders dismissing fears that Amazon is buying a shortcut to consolidate data from consumers’ houses.

In Bloomberg’s technology newsletter, for example, Brad Stone said he thinks that “the idea that Amazon wants Roomba’s help mapping the inside of your home is absurd: Amazon does not care where you’ve placed your sofa.”

On Twitter, Benedict Evans echoed the sentiment:

The general point that perplexes me about threads like this is the idea that anyone wants to know trivial and random details about your life - that this has any economic value. “Amazon will know where your furniture is!” No, it won’t, but why on Earth would it care?

Perhaps the co-founder and current CEO of iRobot could help us understand? From a 2017 Reuters interview of Colin Angle:

There’s an entire ecosystem of things and services that the smart home can deliver once you have a rich map of the home that the user has allowed to be shared.

At the time, iRobot had just made its Roomba robots compatible with Amazon’s Alexa. In the interview, Angle floated the possibility of sharing home maps with the three technology giants — Amazon, Apple, and Google —, a service that would be free of charge.

The advantage to iRobot in these arrangements, in the executive’s vision, would be to connect the Roomba robots to as many other companies as possible to make them more useful at home.

The reaction was quite negative, which led Angle to a damage control tour. In another interview, this one with Mashable, he emphasized the fact that data from houses gathered by Roomba robots is only sent to the cloud and would only be shared with third-parties with user’s consent, but he also didn’t rule out selling it in the future: “We have not formed any plans to sell the data.”

So, yeah, maybe this is indeed a point of concern?

Discuss @ Hacker News.

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