IRobot, With Stock at Record High, Continues Down Smart Home Path

IRobot today announced new features intended to make its Roomba vacuums “smarter,” continuing the company’s sharper focus on consumer robotics and its goal of enabling the connected home.

The Bedford, MA-based firm (NASDAQ: IRBT) is adding Wi-Fi connectivity to its cheaper Roomba 600 and Roomba 800 series of autonomous vacuums, a capability that was previously only available in its most expensive line of vacuums, the Roomba 900 Series. Now, owners of the less expensive models can use a mobile app to schedule cleaning jobs, get notifications about cleaning status, get direct access to customer service, and other features.

Owners of Internet-connected Roombas can now also control them with their voice, thanks to a new integration with Amazon Alexa devices such as the Echo. That feature was announced in March, but wasn’t enabled until this week; it’s only for U.S. customers.

The new capabilities illustrate iRobot’s emphasis on the Internet of Things and smart home applications. IRobot went all-in on consumer robots last year, when it sold its defense and security business for up to $45 million to private equity firm Arlington Capital Partners.

So far, that move has paid off for iRobot. The company’s stock hit an all-time high last week—exceeding $80 per share—after its first-quarter financial results reportedly beat Wall Street’s expectations. The stock is trading even higher this week, closing at $83.26 on Monday. A year ago, it was trading below $40 per share.

Jeff Engel is a senior editor at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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