Are Smart Connected Products Too Hard to Use?

Written by: Cat McClintock

iRobot Connects with Alexa for New Opportunities, Better Ease of Use

Creo customer iRoomba is adding another dimension to its already smart, connected product. The company just announced that its popular vacuuming robot is getting a new friend: Amazon Alexa.

Starting later in the year, with Amazon Alexa, customers can start, stop, and pause Roomba cleaning jobs with simple voice-activated commands (e.g., “Alexa, ask Roomba to begin cleaning”). The Alexa skill for Roomba vacuuming robots will be available to U.S. customers in Q2 2017 and is compatible with any connected Roomba vacuum.

In a recent article, iRobot CEO Colin Angle tells TechCrunch why the Alexa connection makes sense:

“The challenge right now with smart home and connected devices is that they’re too hard to use. There’s wonderful voice interfaces like the ones from Amazon and Google that allow you to talk to your home and have your home understand the words that you say. But if the house doesn’t know where the kitchen is, what’s the use in saying, ‘turn on the lights in the kitchen?’ You can program your light to be the kitchen light, but your average consumer doesn’t want to program. Typically there’s a really poor track record of wanting to program these things.”



The Roomba 900 Series will soon let Alexa users tell it what to do.

Indeed, the company believes the melding of the two technologies is right on time with the rise of the smart home, and according to TechCrunch:

“…the company is hoping that its widely deployed robot can serve as sort of a connective tissue, leveraging its Wi-Fi connectivity and advanced computer mapping capabilities to devise a better way to lay out the home...”


Our Takeaway

In a Harvard Business Review article, Michael Porter and Jim Heppelmann predicted that smart, connected design would change the nature of products, “transcending traditional boundaries.” Indeed they said that new types of products would not only alter industry structure, but also expose companies to new competitive opportunities, and threats.

 The relationship between iRoomba and Amazon Alexa provides a great example of market innovators spotting those opportunities and pulling ahead in a burgeoning IoT-driven market. The fact that they’re also making smart, connected devices easier to use is an added bonus we all welcome.

The Future of Product Design

 If you’d like to learn more about where product design is going, download our free eBook, 10 Expert Insights: The Future of Product Design in the Age of Smart, Connected Devices. You’ll hear from industry experts on topics like augmented reality, the internet of things, and the future of 3D CAD. 


Tags: CAD Industrial Connectivity

About the Author

Cat McClintock

Cat McClintock contributes to the Creo and Mathcad blogs for PTC. She has been a writer and editor for 15+ years, working for CAD, PDM, ERP, and CRM software companies. Prior to that, she edited science journals for an academic publisher and aligned optical assemblies for a medical device manufacturer. She holds degrees in Technical Journalism, Classics, and Electro-Optics. She loves talking to PTC customers and learning about the interesting work they're doing and the innovative ways they use the software.