iRobot’s robot vacuums have a new enemy: weak Wi-Fi. The RBR50 company will later this month make it possible for its Roomba to create a map of indoor Wi-Fi signals in your home and search for spotty signals.
Available on iRobot’s Roomba 960 and 980, the new feature will log any problem areas and merge that data with the vacuum’s coverage maps.
The Wi-Fi maps won’t show upload and download speeds. The information will show up as decibel readings. Roomba owners can then use the info to tweak their network settings or see where they might need a signal extender.
Robot Vacuum Comparison: iRobot Roomba 960 vs. Roomba 980
iRobot has talked for a while now about making the Roomba an essential part of the connected home. This is certainly a little more insight into its thinking. Chris Jones, iRobot’s vice president of technology, is featured in our CES conference “Artificial Intelligence: Insights into Our Future.” We will be sure to ask Jones about this news and the role he sees the robot vacuum cleaner playing in smart homes going forward.
According to CNET, Wi-Fi mapping will be an upgrade initially available only to members of its Beta program. However, the report says iRobot does does anticipate larger trials that “may involve 10-20 percent of iRobot users.” The beta program will launch on January 23.
iRobot got into a bit of hot water late in 2017 when iRobot CEO Colin Angle seemed to imply that the company intended to sell user’s mapping detail to third-parties. However, Angle quickly clarified his statement by saying, “iRobot will never sell your data.”
In mid-2017, iRobot rolled out Amazon Alexa voice control to its Wi-Fi-enabled vacuums. Alexa voice control allows users to start, stop and pause their Roomba 960 or 980 by simply speaking to an Alexa-enabled device, such as the Amazon Echo, Amazon Echo Dot or Amazon Tap. For example, saying “Alexa, ask Roomba to start cleaning” will fire up the robot vacuum. iRobot didn’t specify when, or if, Alexa support will be rolled out globally.