But there is a next step that Colin Angle, iRobot’s CEO, described at Amazon’s AWS Summit in Santa Clara, California. Uploading that map to the cloud — something Roomba doesn’t do yet — could be the key to making the consumer Internet of Things (IoT) really happen, he said during a brief appearance in the Summit keynote.
One stumbling block has been that the initial visions of the smart home, weren’t so smart. iRobot’s original premise was that the smartphone would be the new remote control for the home — a good idea, until you consider that phones can be misplaced or (heaven forbid) turned off.
What would be really smart is a home that controls itself, Angle said. It would turn lamps on and off as you move through a room, for example.
A lot of missing pieces have to be filled in before that can happen. Most notably, the house needs a map of itself: Where are the lamps? Which rooms have TVs?
Create that map, and “suddenly the house is starting to have enough information to make a smart home a reality,” he says. “You just live your life, and the house does the right thing.”
Roomba can now build that map, and iRobot has begun toying with what it can do by combining the map, personal location, and artificial intelligence.
This is where Amazon Web Services (AWS) comes in, because “the information pathways and flows are incredibly complicated,” he says.
iRobot’s talk was meant to demonstrate the power of AWS IoT, the specialized suite of services launched in October. That includes services that communicate asynchronously with end devices, which is one way to accommodate devices that are turned off or that have minimal battery life. Dealing with those not-always-on devices is one reason why those IoT information flows get complicated, Angle says.
Angle also noted that iRobot is running artificial intelligence applications in AWS, using the AWS Rules engine for some logic and Lambda — the service that provides raw, “serverless” CPU cycles for individual functions — to run more sophisticated AI models.
iRobot also likes AWS for its potential to scale. “Within a year, we’ll be competing with Echo as the third most common connected device in the house,” he says.
So, how does this lead to an avalanche of consumer IoT? Angle envisions a chain reaction where the cloud-based home map makes something like automatic lighting possible, which in turn shows consumers that this smart home stuff can actually work. Then “the barrier to purchase is demolished,” he says.
“That is how we are going to see the Internet of Things for the consumer reach its full potential,” he says.