Robot vacuum as mapper and research tool for homes

The Roomba may also be a cartography tool to map homes:

Photo by Kindel Media on Pexels.com

The company announced a $1.7 billion deal on Friday for iRobot Corp., the maker of the Roomba vacuum cleaner. And 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

The Bedford, Mass.-based company’s most recent products include a technology it calls Smart Maps, though customers can opt out of sharing the data. Amazon said in a statement that protecting customer data is “incredibly important.”

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…

Amazon would not be alone in wanting to map your home. Apple Inc. also unveiled a tool in June for the next release of iOS, its mobile operating system, that uses the laser scanner on the latest iPhones to build 3-D models that it’s dubbed “RoomPlan”.

While I can imagine the commercial potential of this mapping (beyond retailers, this can be very useful for real estate businesses as well), I am also interested in the research potential. Such mapping could reveal how residents use space, floor plans, and people and pets moving through areas. Rather than relying on people’s reports on their interior activity or direct observations of this, the Roomba can be the research “eyes.” Equip it with a camera, microphone, and other sensors and it could collect all sorts of information (all agreed to by the research participants, of course). A vacuum and research device, all in one.

Misleading graph of Dyson vacuum suction power?

The latest edition of Time includes a back cover ad from Dyson with a graph of their vacuum’s suction:

DysonVacuumSuctionGraph

From the graph and the numbers below, it is pretty clear that Dyson has more suction power than the two other pictured vacuums: 160 air watts compared to 68 and 43 air watts. Fair enough, particularly for those who need the most air watts. But, I also wonder if this graph doesn’t represent a common problem with infographics: it is confusing a linear relationship, 160 air watts is more than twice as much as the competing vacuums, with volume. Not only does the Dyson have the most suction power, it is clearly the biggest vacuum in this graph. While I don’t think Dyson wants to sell their vacuum as the largest (in fact, they often pitch its manueverability), it isn’t necessarily bad to show that your product visually dominates the competition.