- Expanding its reach into the homes of consumers, Amazon announced a definitive agreement on Friday to acquire the robot company iRobot for $1.7 billion in cash, according to a press release.
- The robot company is known for its automatic home vacuum, the Roomba, and specializes in “technologies and advanced concepts in cleaning, mapping and navigation,” per the release.
- Amazon already owns several in-home technologies, such as the Alexa assistant devices and its Ring and Blink security devices. The company plans to invent new ways to make customers’ lives easier with the iRobot team, according to the press release.
The latest addition to Amazon’s technology portfolio means the retailer is moving into the home in more ways than one.
“We know that saving time matters, and chores take precious time that can be better spent doing something that customers love,” Dave Limp, senior vice president of Amazon Devices, said in a statement. “Over many years, 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.”
It’s a move that could create concerns for some consumers, who might already be weary of Amazon’s data collection capabilities.
“The one big downside comes from privacy concerns. While Amazon does not use data in a malicious way, some people will worry about how much data is being gathered about their homes and lives through the presence of a greater number of smart devices,” GlobalData Managing Director Neil Saunders said in emailed comments. “Amazon will need to work hard to satisfy both consumers and regulators that it is doing right by the increasing volume of personal information it has at its disposal.”
While Amazon has been criticized recently with how it uses customer information, the company said in a statement emailed to Retail Dive that “we think we’ve been very good stewards of peoples’ data across all of our business.”
Amazon is no stranger to automation though, as it has been focused on bringing autonomous innovation to its fulfillment and delivery operations — a space that might benefit from the navigation and mapping technology iRobot brings. The company expanded its drone delivery service in July to Texas, following its launch in California. In June, Amazon launched its first fully autonomous mobile robot, named Proteus, to help lift and move package carts through warehouses.
Amazon said in an emailed statement it “has no plans to use iRobot’s tech in our warehouses as part of this merger.”
The retailer isn’t alone, as Walmart has also invested heavily in drone delivery. Walmart announced in May that it would expand its DroneUp delivery to 34 new sites in six states by the end of 2022, creating the capacity to deliver over 1 million packages via drone annually.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comments from Amazon.