Is Amazon’s deal for iRobot all about mapping Americans’ homes?
Amazon.com on Friday announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire IRobot, the maker of the Roomba vacuum cleaner, in an all-cash transaction valued around $1.7 billion.
The deal, which will pay iRobot investors $61 a share, will need to get shareholder and regulatory approval to proceed. Colin Angle, iRobot CEO, will remain in that position once the closing is completed.
“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,” said Dave Limp, SVP of Amazon Devices, in a statement. “Customers love iRobot products—and I’m excited to work with the iRobot team to invent in ways that make customers’ lives easier and more enjoyable.”
The Roomba maker’s technologies are currently used for “cleaning, mapping and navigation” and the company is focused on developing robotic and smart home devices.
Multiple articles on the deal focus on iRobot’s mapping technology and Amazon’s designs on it. Mr. Angle in the past suggested that iRobot might one day look to monetize mapping information by sharing it with other companies.
Amazon with Alexa, Ring and Eero is already in American homes. Adding iRobot’s mapping technology will further its understanding of what takes place in those households.
The Verge reports that Amazon has already tried to do as much with its Astro home robot. That device, which does not include a general release date, does not offer the cleaning functionality of the Roomba.
“People tend to think of Amazon as an online seller company, but really Amazon is a surveillance company,” Evan Greer, director of Fight for the Future, told Wired.
“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,” he added.
A Bloomberg article suggests that Amazon may seek to monetize the data to sell to 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 and iRobot Sign an Agreement for Amazon to Acquire iRobot – Amazon.com
- Amazon bought iRobot to see inside your home – The Verge
- The iRobot Deal Would Give Amazon Maps Inside Millions of Homes – Wired
- Amazon’s Roomba Deal Is Really About Mapping Your Home – Bloomberg
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think is the strategy behind Amazon’s deal to acquire iRobot? How would such a deal affect Amazon’s data ambitions and iRobot’s sales?