Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Amazon buys iRobot for $1.7 billion

The Seattle-based giant continues to expand into new areas and now focuses on Roomba robot vacuums.

The insatiable Amazon strikes again and is preparing to acquire iRobot, the company that produces Roomba, the most popular robot vacuum ever. According to the Seattle giant, the deal will cost $1.7 billion (including iRobot’s net debt), with a payment of $61 in cash per iRobot share. The two companies have agreed, but the merger must be formally approved by iRobot’s shareholders, while the US Federal Trade Commission will examine the deal from an antitrust perspective. Should the value fall through, Amazon must pay iRobot a $94 million penalty. According to Amazon’s announcement, current CEO Colin Angle, who co-founded iRobot together with Rodney Brooks and Helen Greiner (all former MIT researchers), will remain at the helm of iRobot after the transaction is completed.

The immediate question behind the sudden announcement concerns what Amazon intends to do with robot vacuums. And the answers may be different. Amazon already counts on Ring, a company specialising in developing and manufacturing home devices such as security cameras and smart doorbells, which it acquired in 2018 for $1 billion. With iRobot, therefore, the company takes another step towards conquering the home, expanding its range of products dedicated to the smart home and the Internet of Things. In this perspective, Roomba’s ability to map homes and the relative amount of data that cleaning robots collect (by the way, where will this data end up and how will it be processed?) may enable Amazon to develop new technologies and services for the home.

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Likely, one of the first moves after the approval of the agreement could be the greater integration of Alexa with iRobot devices, some of which are already compatible with Amazon’s virtual assistant. The same goes for the Echo Show, which could prove to be a more effective tools than Astro, the home robot unveiled in 2021 that has limited functions and uses.

In recent months, iRobot itself had begun the journey to expand the functionality and usability of Roomba with the launch of iRobot OS, the operating system through which the robots respond to voice commands and are able to identify more objects. In this way, the cleaning of a room can be set up, allowing the robot to recognise and therefore avoid shoes, clothes, towels, socks, and even pet waste.

“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. Customers love iRobot products, and I’m excited to work with the iRobot team to invent ways that make customers’ lives easier and more enjoyable,” said Dave Limp, senior vice president of Amazon Devices.

The acquisition of iRobot is yet another chapter in a campaign of expansion by Amazon that knows no stops or limits. A few weeks ago, it acquired for $3.9 billion 1Life Healthcare Inc, the San Francisco-based owner of One Medical, a chain of medical clinics across the United States that combines primary care with telemedicine services. Health, even more so than the home, is, after all, a sector of primary importance for Amazon’s future: ‘We want to be the protagonists of the radical change in the healthcare experience that will take place in the coming years, is the message of Andy Jassy, Amazon’s CEO since the departure of founder Jeff Bezos.

Alessio Caprodossi
Alessio Caprodossi
Freelance journalist, I write about technology, sport and news on print & media online (Wired Italy, Mashable Italy, Panorama.it, StartupItalia.eu, Il Messaggero, Spazio Italia). I like people and technologies that improve our lives and our world, 3P addicted (in Italian language means pane, pasta & parmigiano), I love working with music in my headphones. Feel free to write me to talk your story & projects about startup, sustainability and general tech news

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