HomeAutonomous VehiclesAmazon buys iRobot for loads of money – to vacuum homes and home data

Amazon buys iRobot for loads of money – to vacuum homes and home data

Amazon has signed a deal to acquire US smart-home brand iRobot, maker of the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner, for $1.7 billion. The disc-shaped Roomba robot – which autonomously vacuums floors using IoT sensors to navigate obstacles, drops, and dirt – integrates with various smart home systems. The deal is the latest big-ticket bid from the US mega firm to take charge of the smart home market; as always, the deal is about data, besides just gadget sales.

The agreement, when it closes, will represent Amazon’s fifth major billion-plus dollar signing since 2017, following deals for digital healthcare organisation One Medical for $3.9 billion in July, media company Metro-Goldwyn Mayer for $8.45 billion in May 2021, self-driving technology firm Zoox for $1.2 billion in June 2020, and grocery retailer Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion in June 2017.

The firm has also snapped up smart-home startups, with notable deals for router maker Eero for $97 million in February 2019, doorbell maker Ring for $839 million in February 2018, camera maker Blink Home for $90 million in December 2017. The Seattle-based company is also home to the Alexa smart assistant, the Astro home monitoring robot, plus its Echo and Fire ranges of home devices.

The iRobot robotics platform already runs on AWS already. The new deal values iRobot at $61 per share. The trade, subject to shareholder and regulatory approval, is designated as an all-cash transaction, which includes iRobot’s net debt (about $332 million). Colin Angle will remain as chief executive of iRobot. The main narrative, from market watchers, has been about data from room mapping, which the iRobot platform collects to navigate chores.

Speaking to The Guardian newspaper in the UK, Robert Weissman, president of the progressive consumer rights advocacy group Public Citizen, commented: “The last thing… the world needs is Amazon vacuuming up even more of our personal information. This is not just about Amazon selling another device in its marketplace. It’s about the company gaining still more intimate details of our lives to gain unfair market advantage and sell us more stuff.”

Dave Limp, senior vice president of Amazon Devices, said: “Saving time matters, and chores take precious time that can be better spent doing something that customers love. Over many years, the iRobot team has proven its ability to reinvent how people clean with products that are incredibly practical and inventive… and I’m excited to work with the iRobot team to invent in ways that make customers’ lives easier and more enjoyable.”

Colin Angle, chairman and chief executive at iRobot, said: “Our team has been on a mission to create innovative, practical products that make customers’ lives easier… Amazon shares our passion for building thoughtful innovations that empower people to do more at home, and I cannot think of a better place for our team to continue our mission. I’m hugely excited to be a part of Amazon and to see what we can build together.”

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