Amazon.com Inc.'s $1.7 billion acquisition of robot vacuum cleaner company iRobot Corp. is a move by the megacorporation to use Roombas to map the interior of homes. This data type is a digital gold mine for Amazon because if marketers know more about what's inside, they can easily create tailormade ads.
From a market perspective, Amazon's acquisition of iRobot is to gain deeper insight into customers' homes via the autonomous robotic vacuum cleaner called "Roomba."
The latest model of the Roomba, called J7, has a front-facing, AI-powered camera that maps out each room and will identify nearly everything in its path, such as floor plans, where the kitchen is, which space is the master bedroom, and where the kids sleep, as well as items on the floor.
"Slightly more terrifying, the maps also represent a wealth of data for marketers. The size of your house is a pretty good proxy for your wealth. A floor covered in toys means you likely have kids. A household without much furniture is a household to which you can try to sell more furniture. This is all useful intel for a company such as Amazon which, you may have noticed, is in the business of selling stuff," Bloomberg said.
Roomba's surveillance from within the home is pure digital gold, as Amazon's ambition to learn more about the customer will allow marketers to sell more junk.
very excited to wake up one day to a push notification from my robot vacuum: "i saw you left your nike shoes on the floor and they look a bit old. check out this great deal on nike shoes!" pic.twitter.com/fkoh883Zn5— Owen Williams ⚡ (@ow) August 5, 2022
It’s less detailed but our Roomba definitely knows the basic layout (we do have furniture lol but it can get under) pic.twitter.com/aquqTXXNE3— Nick Moore (@nickwritesit) August 5, 2022
Vice News said, "leaked documents acquired by Motherboard revealed that one of the goals of Astro [Amazon's robot] was to create a robot that intelligently plotted out the interior of a user's homes, even creating heat maps of highly trafficked areas."
Amazon customers haven't received Astro well for privacy reasons, and the same could happen with robot vacuums following the acquisition. Some on Twitter are already calling the Amazon/iRobot deal "pure dystopia."
Pure dystopia.— cocktailhag (@cocktailhag) August 6, 2022
People will actually pay for these things. https://t.co/mMHrgtvsVO
People are starting to catch onto Amazon's mass surveillance program of the household:
Add this to Alexa, listening to you all day long, Ring, watching your front door all day long, and OneMedical, a company that knows all your secrets, and suddenly Amazon has built a pretty powerful panopticon controlled by Jeff Bezos. https://t.co/9PnCSWVw9s— Garrett M. Graff (@vermontgmg) August 5, 2022
#Amazon knows what you buy, it can listen to everything (#Alexa), see everything (#Ring), and now map everything (#Roomba) in and around (#Sidewalk) your home. Building total #surveillance from the bottom up... if we let them. https://t.co/3NuKpCBkQr— keep your electric eye on me (@murakamiwood) August 5, 2022
Amazon can now:— Dan Siroky (@dansiroky) August 5, 2022
listen to you (Alexa)
watch you (Ring)
know the precise layout of your home (Roomba)
know about the changes in your body (Amazon Halo)
DON'T BUY THIS SHIT!!1 https://t.co/740AdhaxRE
So, what iRobot brings to Amazon is the ability to embed its vast surveillance infrastructure into what appears to be a harmless vacuum, but just as Echo smart speakers are always 'listening,' perhaps the vacuum will always be watching.
As a reminder, Amazon has a frightening partnership with the Central Intelligence Agency -- maybe it's time to ditch the Roomba.