iRobot adds WiFi and Alexa functionality to more Roombas

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Back in March, iRobot announced that it would be bringing Alexa functionality to its 980 Roomba, letting users with an Echo clean their home with a simple voice command. Today, that functionality expands to all WiFi connected Roomba, a list that includes a pair new additions, the Roomba 890 and Roomba 690, which lower the barrier of entry for the company’s connected robotic vacuums.

In spite of being a pioneer (and still the industry leader) in the robotic vacuum space, iRobot was a bit late to the punch with WiFi connected devices, introducing the 980 in late 2015 after the competition had already announced their offerings. Since then, the company has also been a bit slow to add WiFi functionality to other devices. Today’s two new ‘bots bring its total connected Roomba count to four – a fraction of the overall Roomba line.

The actual WiFi functionality is still fairly basic, as well, with the ability to do things like schedule cleanings remotely. Of course, the upside of connectivity is the ability to continually update the device’s feature set. And while the company hasn’t exactly worked fast when it comes to building out the feature set, it has outlined a long term plan to make Roomba an essential part of the connected home.

Alexa functionality is a piece of that, with commands like “Alexa, ask Roomba to begin cleaning.” Clean Map is a part of the puzzle, as well. With it, users can get a clearer picture of where the Roomba is cleaning the most, offering a better idea of where messes are coming from. Of course, that functionality relies on the 900 series’ more advanced mapping technology, with means that it may not be available for the lower-end models.

In future iterations, iRobot envisions its popular robotic vacuums as serving as a sort of connective tissue for the smart home, helping a wireless system get a regularly updating insight into how different devices are laid out in the home. Of course, that’s still a ways off (“single-digit years” according to what the company’s CEO told us). As such, I wouldn’t go basing any purchasing decisions on the possibility of it coming to existing products.

The newly connected 690 is available now for $375. What it does offer is a significantly more affordable starting point than the 960 – previously the most affordable Roomba at $699 (not to mention the $899 Roomba 980). The 890 is arriving later this quarter.

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