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When thinking about smart home devices, your mind doesn’t likely go to vacuum cleaners. However, in today’s age, everything is getting the smart treatment, and vacuum cleaners are no exception. Smart vacuums – better known as robotic vacuums – are not a new thing, but here recently, they’ve become a bit more advanced, fitting nicely into the ecosystem of smart devices, and they are a huge win in terms of convenience.
If you’re looking to pick up a cool new gadget that makes cleaning a bit easier than going ‘old school’, check out this list of the best robotic vacuums. Keep in mind, as is true with most smart home accessories, you get what you pay for. We’ve segmented the list into two sections – the best and the budget.
First up on our list of the best robotic vacuums is the Roomba 690. A very new addition to the lineup up of Roombas, the 690 brings a range of functionality that is sure to delight. Let’s get to the fun stuff straight out of the gate. The Roomba 690 has Amazon Echo and Google Home compatibility. So, you can give the vacuum voice commands when you want it to begin cleaning, or when you want to call it a day and have it return to its dock for charging. I can’t think of many better ways to use your Amazon Echo or Google Home
Speaking of charging docks, the Roomba 690, like many of the best robotic vacuums will automatically return to its dock for charging when the battery gets low. iRobot claims that the Roomba 690 will run for 60 minutes before needing to return home, so that should cover a fairly large area. However, that’s not quite as long as some of the competitors. As you might expect in a robotic vacuum of this caliber, the 690 will adjust to all floor types to get the job done, including carpet, hardwood, tile, and laminate. And, as an added bonus, you can program your Roomba to stick to a cleaning schedule so it does a little touch-up every day. Just don’t forget to empty the basin.
Stepping it up just a bit in iRobot’s Roomba lineup, we have the Roomba 960. In this robotic vacuum, you’ll find very similar features to the lower models. What’s different you ask? In addition to the acoustic sensors that can be found in the 690 and 860 models, you’ll find the addition of an optical sensor. Basically, the 960 will be a little bit more efficient when it comes to locating areas of concentrated dirt and spending more time in those areas.
Outside of the new set of eyes, the 960 officially supports multi-room navigation. The multitude of onboard sensors makes it easier for the vacuum to navigate around obstacles – essentially it’s more comfortable going through doorways and keeping track of where it is in your home so it can still return to the charging dock when needed. The battery life gets a little bump here as well, adding 15 more minutes from the lower models, reaching up to 75 mins. For the extra $ 230 you also get an upgraded motor, more efficient brushless rollers, a 5x more powerful air system, and a smarter dirt bin that sends notifications to the Roomba app when it’s time be emptied. The extra money seems quite worth it.
Stepping outside of the iRobot Roomba world, we have the Samsung Powerbot R7040. At a mid-range price of $ 399, the Powerbot R7040 has a battery that’s rated for 60 mins of run time. Like the Roomba 690, that should get you pretty decent coverage depending on the amount of furniture you have that the robotic vacuum cleaner will need to maneuver around, and if it gets low, the R7040 will automatically return to its charging dock. Samsung’s vacuum is also capable of cleaning all floor types, automatically detecting the type of surface it’s on. The device has large under-mounted wheels that help it transition smoothly from hard surfaces to something like a rug.
Samsung’s robotic vacuum has “visionary mapping” and a “full view sensor” to map out the layout of the room that it’s in. That’s fancy marketing jargon for “it won’t bump into stuff and it won’t fall off of stuff.” In total, the vacuum has 9 sensors. That’s enough to make you feel confident with the little guy roaming around your house. Unlike some of the others on this list, the Samsung Powerbot has a flat front edge. It doesn’t look quite as slick, but it makes the device much more practical in the sense that it can get into corners that other robotic vacuums would not.
Finally, for those of you who like the idea of barking commands at your robot, the Powerbot R7040 can be controlled with Amazon Echo, but it does require that you also have a Samsung SmartThings hub.
The Neato Botvac D3 Connected is another one of the best robotic vacuums – fitting a fair amount of features into a price that is still relatively affordable. Personally, this my favorite looking robotic vacuum on this list. It’s very sleek and almost looks like a stealth vehicle of some kind. Besides its good looks, the Botvac D3 has many of the same capabilities as others on this list. It has a 60-minute battery run time, it automatically docks and charges, and it connects to WiFi to be controlled by Amazon Alexa and Google Home. The Botvac D3 connected can also be controlled with the Neato app which will inform you when the vacuum gets stuck, when the battery is low and when cleaning is finished.
As with the other devices in this price range, the Botvac works on all floor types, and it also has a flat front edge like the Samsung Powerot to help get into those tricky corners. Unfortunately, unlike its bigger siblings in the Botvac lineup, the D3 Connected does not have side brushes to sweep dirt away from walls and into the line of the vacuum. Overall, this is a very slick device that packs in solid features for a little bit of better price than the Roombas and Samsung’s Powerbot.
If you’re looking to get into the world of robotic vacuum cleaners and add to your overall smart home ecosystem, you might start to look for a few options that aren’t quite as expensive as the first few on our list. The iLife A4 Robot vacuum might just be what you’re looking for. At only $ 207 (relatively affordable in this segment) you will miss out on a couple of features, but overall this is still a solid option to get you started. Like the other vacuums, the iLife A4 Robot vacuum will automatically adjust depending on what floor surface it is on. A small but useful addition of side brushes can found here as well to help draw some of the dirt and dust away from the edges of the room and into the path of the vacuum.
With a lower price point, you will, unfortunately, sacrifice internet connectivity with the iLife A4 Robot vacuum cleaner. Your control options to get the vacuum started, stopped and scheduled are limited to using the included remote, and you also won’t be able to activate the vacuum with Amazon Echo or Google Home. If you can stomach the lack of internet connectivity, however, you’ll find the battery life in this device to actually far surpass that of others in the category. Whereas some of the $ 600 and up vacuums will only get you 60-75 minutes of run time, you’re looking at up to 120 mins with A4 in optimal situations. That’s quite impressive considering the vacuum will also automatically dock and charge itself.
If even the iLife A4 Robot vacuum is a bit out of your price range, maybe you’ll consider the Monoprice Strata Home Cadet. The most affordable robotic vacuum cleaner on our list at only $ 110, the Monoprice Strata can still get the job done while obviously sacrificing additional features. Like the iLife A4, Monoprice’s vacuum also does not have internet connectivity. In addition to that, the Home Cadet does not include a remote. To get the vacuum started you simply push the power button on the top. Sure, you could say “ease of use” is a plus, but you might miss being able to schedule cleanings and never having to push a button at all.
Even though you can’t command your vacuum to start with your voice or with an app, the Home Cadet still offers decent cleaning power with its 10-watt motor, while also sensing the type of floor it’s cleaning and adjusting accordingly. Like all of the others on this list, you will find all the sensors necessary for the Home Cadet not to bump into furniture, walls or fall down stairs. One thing you want to make sure to note on this one. The Monoprice Strata Home Cadet is the only vacuum on this list that does not automatically return to a docking station to charge. In fact, the Monoprice does not include a charging dock at all. Yes, you actually have to plug this vacuum in for it to charge.
Let’s call it like it is. There’s a lot of feature parity when it comes to robotic vacuums. Just by looking at the devices on this list alone, you can see a common theme amongst most vacuums. All of them adjust to the flooring type automatically, nearly all of the return to their charging docks automatically, and they all share a pretty similar product design. What it comes down to is the level of importance you place on things like internet connectivity, integration with other smart devices, battery run time, voice control, and other features like optical sensors.
If you ask me, if you’ve decided to ditch the stand-up vacuum, you might as well take the plunge and go for one of the more expensive, feature-rich devices like the Roomba 690. I mean, really – who doesn’t want to activate their vacuum with voice commands? That’s just awesome.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Actually, it’s a little bit of both.
Canada’s Edmonton International Airport (YEG) is planning to deploy robotic falcons in a novel attempt to prevent bird strikes at the airport. The mechanical birds of prey will patrol Edmonton’s runways, scaring away small birds that might otherwise nest nearby passing planes.
The drone birds — made by Netherlands-based Clear Flight Solutions — mimic real falcons, with a detailed feather print and beating wings. Flying in figure-eight patterns alongside airport runways, they will be operated remotely by trained pilots.
“By mimicking their natural counterparts through silhouette and behavior, they are indistinguishable from real-life birds of prey to other birds,” said Wessel Straatman, a research and development engineer for Clear Flight Solutions. “Birds instinctively react to the presence of birds of prey, making it less attractive for them to come to that area,” he told Digital Trends.
Airport officials hope that their new fleet of on-the-go scarecrows will help make Edmonton safer for birds and planes alike. Bird strikes are a major problem in the aviation world; the FAA reported over 56,000 incidents from 2011 to 2015. For small planes, bird strikes can cause structural damage — especially to their windows; larger passenger jets can suffer engine failure if birds are sucked into their turbines.
Edmonton has not yet announced when it expects to roll out its robotic falcons, but officials have indicated that once deployed, the drones will become a part of the airport’s daily operations.
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Construction is one of the least digitized industries in the world, and its productivity is suffering.
Construction is a $ 10 trillion global industry. It’s also mired by waste, severe worker shortages and weak productivity growth — all of which mean the business of building is ripe for a robotic takeover.
Productivity — the total economic output per worker — in the construction industry has remained flat, partly because of theslow adoption of new technologies across the industry.
Since 1945, productivity in manufacturing, retail and agriculture has grown 1,500 percent, while it has barely gone up in construction, according to aMcKinsey report from earlier this year.
McKinsey compared U.S. industries in 27 criteria, including how much a sector spends on technology and how extensively they use computers in their operations, to create a digitization index of 1 to 100, with 100 being the most digitized.
Below we chart select industries by their digitization score and annual productivity gains.:
The construction industry’s technology gap may not last for very long, not only because the robots are poised to get to work but also because humans aren’t.
As of February 2017, nearly 200,000 construction jobs were left unfilled across the U.S.,according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In addition,on average, 98 percent of construction megaprojects go over budget, according to McKinsey. And in a multi-trillion dollar global industry like construction, even the slightest uptick in efficiency could amount to tremendous savings.
Drones and robots ready to work
Work sites often span large areas, and buildings can shoot stories high into the sky. That means inspecting an entire site by foot can take days, even with a large crew.
With drones, the same information can be gathered and compiled by a single pilot in only a few hours. Companies have already started using drones to survey stockpiles and conduct site inspections.
“I was able to accurately measure the volumes of stockpiles at one of our quarries in just 10 minutes,” said John Davenport, a surveyor at Whitaker Contracting Corporation, who uses a drone system made by Kespry, a California-based drone services company. “Previously, it took me about two days of strenuous GPS work to cross-section those piles.”
Using drones for business services — like flying a robot to check inventory on a construction site or to monitor the health of crops on a farm — has an addressable market estimated at $ 127 billion, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers 2016 report.
More than $ 45 billion of that is for construction projects. Delivery by drone, by contrast, has an estimated addressable market valued significantly less at $ 13 billion, in part because national regulations that would permit autonomous drone delivery are still being written.
And it’s not just drones. American builders are starting to move into prefabrication, where homes and buildings are constructed on factory floors by robots. Factory-built homes are far more popular in Sweden and Japan, where 40 percent and 16 percent of residential buildings, respectively, are built with prefabrication, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Masonry is also being roboticized. Construction Robotics, a New York-based startup, has invented a bricklaying robot called the SAM100, which is already being used on job sites across the U.S. The robot is able to lay around 2,000 bricks per day, a massive increase from the 400 bricks a day an average mason can lay, according to Philip Kenney of Wilhelm Construction, a construction company that got its own SAM100 last year. That’s a 400 percent increase in productivity.
“I think the opportunity and the challenge for the tech industry and Silicon Valley is for us to figure out how to have a much bigger impact in the slow-growth sectors [construction, healthcare and education] of the economy,” Andreessen said at Code.
But boosting productivity in construction won’t be easy, Andreessen warned, largely due to strict regulations, such as land-use restrictions in urban areas.
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