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Of all robotic vacuum cleaners, Roomba models are considered the best in the market. They clean well, they are easy to use and a breeze to maintain. Soon, your Roomba may be able to do more than just clean.
iRobot, the maker of Roomba robotic vacuum cleaners, has announced that they are planning to release a WiFi mapping feature to their smartphone app soon.
The feature will look like the Clean Map Reports that shows you an overview of your Roomba’s cleaning activities.
An important caveat: The feature will only be available for the 900 series. That is, the Roomba 980 and 960.
How Will It Work?
Roomba vacuum cleaners are already loaded with sensors to help them map out a room and navigate around obstacles. So it isn’t much of a stretch for them to use existing sensors to test for WiFi strength.
The 900 series Roombas are WiFi connected so iRobot just has to use their existing capability to collect data about your home’s WiFi coverage.
The WiFi sensors will get to work as soon as you start cleaning your home. At the same time it is sweeping your floors for debris and dust, it also logs how strong or weak the WiFi is in various locations.
This information is then integrated into the vacuum coverage map used in the Clean Map Reports to create a WiFi coverage map. iRobot says you will be able to switch between the ordinary cleaning map to the new WiFi map.
The WiFi map will indicate areas with the strongest WiFi, those with weaker coverage and those with very poor signal strength.
What’s the Point of All This?
I’ll be the first to say that this is not a ground breaking feature. It’s not that hard for iRobot to use existing sensors to collect WiFi signal strength information.
It also doesn’t add much functionality to your smart home since it mostly tracks the WiFi signal under furniture and at ground level. This many not give you a very accurate representation of where you need to boost the signal.
But the new feature is not completely useless. For one, you’ll get a rough idea of where your WiFi is not reaching. You can then fix the issue by tweaking the WiFi settings, changing the router or getting a range extender.
It will also help Roomba owners predict which areas the vacuum cleaner and any other smart home devices might have trouble accessing the WiFi signal. Boosting coverage in those areas will help improve your smart home.
When Can I Use the New Feature?
Unfortunately, the feature will be available only to limited Roomba owners. You have to be part of their Beta program to request access.
The Beta program is where they are planning to test out new features in the future
You can opt in to the Beta program using the iRobot HOME app on your phone. You’ll then be able to request access to the new feature when it is released later this month.
If you miss out on the initial test group, don’t worry. iRobot says they will soon expand the feature to more of their customers if things go well.
More About the Beta Program
iRobot also announced a new beta program to be launched later this month.
Personally, I think this was the most exciting part of the news. While the first feature (the WiFi coverage map) they are offering through the beta program isn’t all that big, expect many more exciting features ahead.
The WiFi mapping is just a taste of what they can do with an intelligent machine that roams around your home equipped with multiple sensors (Sounds a bit scary when you put it that way, doesn’t it?).
They could put those sensors to use in many ways related to cleaning and other smart home functions.
For instance, there are reports they will create more accurate home maps with distinct rooms. Owners will be able to label these rooms. You can then just say through Alexa, “Go clean the kitchen.”
The Roomba 900 Series models also have cameras so they can conceivably be used for home security and monitoring. But this comes with various privacy concerns.
iRobot can also equip the robots with additional sensors for new applications such as climate control.
In other words, stay tuned…and join the beta program.
If you’ve yet to get yourself a Roomba, see our 10-minute comparison of all the best Roomba models.