Real concerns are emerging that a new generation of robot vacuum cleans that now have built in cameras could be a security threat and easily hacked.
LG has introduced a trio of new Hom-Bot+ Turbo robotic vacuums, including one positioned as a home-security solution.
At the same time Robot, the maker of the Roomba smart vacuum, said that they could one day sell data drawn from the maps the devices build-up of individual homes as they clean.
Their new Roomba is an automated floor cleaner that can be activated via an app and find its own way around, using sensors and a camera.
Meanwhile the LG flagship Hom-Bot Turbo+ (model CR5765GD) features voice-control operation via the Google Assistant on Google Home, as well as LG’s new HomeGuard motion-detection technology.
HomeGuard will live-stream video to a consumer’s smartphone and will automatically snap five photos if movement is detected.
What security experts are saying is that cameras in vacuum cleaners are a real threat as they will allow smart tech thieves to know if a house is occupied by breaking into a home Wi Fi network.
LG even goes so far as to position the vacuum as a sort of “digital babysitter.” For example, a company spokeswoman said overnight, consumers can schedule the device to begin recording between certain time frames. If the kids are scheduled to come home from school at 3:00 p.m., users can monitor the home from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m.
Consumers will be able to view the live streams using LG’s SmartThingQ iOS and Android mobile app, where they can also remotely control the device.
The upper camera is a CV Slam while the lower is OFS, able to monitor 4.92 feet to the right and left and 9.84 feet forward.
Run time is said to be up to 100 minutes; it will return to the docking station when the battery becomes low and can continue monitoring from there.
Roomba founder Colin Angle said the data they gathered from vacuum cleansers could be used to make other devices work better in a smart home.
Nothing would be done without the owner’s consent, he added.
“Right now, iRobot is building maps to enable the Roomba to efficiently and effectively clean your home,” he said in a statement.
“In the future, with your permission, this information will enable the smart home and the devices within it to work better.
“For example, for the lights to turn on when you walk into a room, the home must know what lights are in which rooms.”
The device became compatible with Amazon’s digital assistant, the Echo, in March, and Mr Angle suggested to Reuters that Amazon, Google or Apple could be interested in the data collected by Roomba.
None of the companies commented.
Roomba’s terms and conditions state that it collects a range of data about its customers, including when they interact with it on social media.
When connected to wi-fi, the device can collect and transmit information about itself and its location, they add.
Security researcher Ken Munro, from Pen Test Partners, told the BBC that privacy could be an issue.
“I think manufacturers aren’t seeing the growth everyone expected in internet of things, and the temptation for gathering data from your house and monetising it is enormous,” he said.
“We think about the internet of things invading our security, but actually it has the potential to invade our privacy too.”