Submitted by Don Doman
Welcome to the world of the Internet of Things (IoT). That means connected products delivering fantastic services AND reasons to worry.This is a typical Roomba cleaning device.
“Smart” products use the internet and report back to their home database. For example an smart electric circular saw might report back to the manufacturer when your blade needs to be sharpened. A new smart electronic turntable, might have information sent to you about new records you might be interested in, or to remind you that you need to change your needle. Memory and data are partners in smart connections in IoT. This is all good, however data knows neither good nor bad.
The mind of man and computers are able to draw dot-to-dot piecing together information from various sources that can reveal more about you and your lifestyle than you might want to share. For example, you only do DIY projects every other Saturday morning, and that you only use your turntable on the off Saturday evenings two hours after you activate your Roomba. With a few more pieces of information or even just a healthy guess or two burglars could figure out the best time to invite themselves over for a free shopping spree, while you are away from home.Once set up, the Roomba does a great job as it collects dirt, hair, pet fur, and much more.
Did you know that your Roomba is more than just a throne for a kitten to sit on and travel around your home humming and meowing (the subject of many a Youtube video)? Your Roomba could be collecting data and storing it. As the iRobot product gathers information you reveal more about yourself and your home. “Roomba® vacuuming robots are powered by a full suite of smart sensors that automatically guide the robot around your home. The robot makes 60 decisions every second, navigating under furniture and around clutter to thoroughly clean your floors.” Current Roomba compatible internet devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant give you a small hint about the future and reasons to be aware.
Colin Angle, chief executive of iRobot, declared in a recent statement, “We have not formed any plans to sell data.” The missing word in this statement is “yet.” Who knows what offers will be made in the future that might entice corporations to sell information . . . in the name of science?The Roomba should be treated like any other electronic device containing data . . . carefully.
With possible stored data concerning the size of your home and the furniture in it, thieves could ascertain your income level and more. If you are able to identify objects like a gun safe, objects d’art, or your security system in your Roomba instructions, then perhaps sooner or later thieves will be able to form a complete inventory as well as a blueprint of your home. That would be better than an invitation to be burgled, it would be like offering free “smack” to a heroin addict. It would be outrageously idiotic to turn it down.
I have friends that use the Roomba in their homes. They love it. From under beds, tables and other furniture, the Roomba cleans and vacuums up dirt, dust, dust mites, pollen, human hair and pet fur. It’s a Jetson’s dream come true. It’s a great tool now and I’m sure iRobot will continue to innovate and make it even better, and more sophisticated, but still . . .
As an IoT object, it should be treated with respect. Somewhere between this generation of machines and the next generation users need to treat this urban tool as a memory device (hard drives, flash drives, etc.). I wouldn’t place my Roomba on Craigslist for sale, and I wouldn’t stick it on a table at my next yard or garage sale. It will become just one more piece in a growing puzzle of electronic waste (e-waste) that includes computers, printers, cell phones, modems, and much more. This great labor saving device vacuum could bring you harm and that just sucks.