How clean is your house?
Whether you’re meticulous when it comes to your home, or you have to wade past empty pizza boxes to get out of the door, surely everybody could benefit from some automated assistance. (Even The Jetsons had a robot maid.)
We might not be at that level just yet, but there are some decent products that will handle a lot of your chores in the household. If you’re interested in finding out more, have a look through our guide to see if automated cleaning would be right for you.
Let’s kick off the list with the basics.
The Basics of Automating Home Cleaning
Smart home cleaning appliances and technology are available in a few different forms. This is where Android comes in, as you generally use your device to control the hardware remotely.
Cleaning devices vary slightly, as they tend to bypass the need for control. Most automated cleaning devices can be set up and left alone, although there are a few that allow you to control schedules and routines, depending on the hardware and the manufacturer.
Dishwashers and robotic vacuum cleaners like the one below are reasonably well known, but is there anything else you can clean via automation or robotics?
(For the record, LG robot cleaners are some of the most expensive on the market.)
There aren’t as many smart cleaning appliances as you might expect, and portable options often bypass your phone entirely. You may be surprised at the lack of options available, but the technology is still being perfected.
If you want something portable, they’re usually pretty costly, especially when you consider that battery life can often be an issue.
The Winbot W730 above is a window cleaning robot that fell off the glass and ‘cleaned 95%’ of the windows for one user on the Amazon forums. It’s an apt example of how pricey some of these items are, which is a shame because the technology is getting closer to perfection with each passing year. (95% is a lot better than nothing, but most people expect 100% considering the cost.)
Unfortunately, they probably won’t work like they do in the adverts for the vast majority of people. For now, be careful before you shell out on a new smart home cleaner. They never seem to work perfectly unless you have a model home with smooth flooring.
How Automated Home Cleaning Works
Typically, automation is controlled using your mobile device, through apps which are downloaded after you’ve bought the product. It’s a simple method that allows you to use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to connect easily.
However, most cleaning devices are different, as they aim to take the stress out of the situation by keeping you at arms length. (That’s why you can lounge around while a robot cleaner goes about its business in the background.)
To be fair, there can’t be many people who have the time to control exactly where their robot goes, although a few users have hacked their devices so they can be fully controlled with their Android phone. (You can also get something like the Roomba 980 Vacuuming Robot, which comes with an app that allows you to control the cleaner with your mobile phone.)
You can get cleaners that go up walls and windows, and the difference in quality can vary drastically depending on the price, as well as the quality of the innards. (Check below to find out more about this.)
Hardware won’t completely replace traditional cleaning methods, but they should be seen as an aide that should allow you to get the job done faster. At the very least, they can help to lighten the load.
Don’t make the mistake of expecting a small robot and a few apps to give you the freedom to forget about chores forever, but if you go in with reasonable expectations there’s no reason why they can’t free up some of your time.
Problems and Issues You Might Encounter With Automation
It’s never going to be plain sailing with smart technology, but what sorts of problems could you potentially run into? Also, what’s the worst that’s going to happen? The technology stops working, and you’ll need a replacement?
Here’re a couple of product reviews for the Neato Botvac, which originally retailed at $700;
“Neato uses horrible batteries. Out of the multitude of battery powered devices I have owned, Neato manages to be the only one I have ever had a problem with the battery. Guaranteed to fail right after you get through the very brief 6-month battery warranty. Believe me? If not, look at Amazon reviews for their previous amazing XV line. Also, look up “battery xv” to see the many replacement batteries and all the time and money this company has wasted of its customers.”
Here’s another review:
“So had this for 2 days and hated it… Got stuck everywhere. Couldn’t handle high pule carpet at all ate up my cords, it was just a mess. I have the old Roomba 650 and after this experience with Neato, I’m sticking to Roomba, yea the Neato cleaned in a more organized manner, but the Roomba is much smarter when it comes to getting around obstacles and outside of CNET’s tests, not everyone has a rectangular area with no furniture, so it’s something to consider. Going to wait for the Dyson 360 Eye, maybe it’ll actually make an improvement on the current robot vacuums.”
As you can see, even if the technology works, it’s not always as simple as plugging it in and setting it to start. There are lots of people who are happy with a Botvac from Neato, but it’s unreasonable to expect it to work perfectly for everyone.
Here’s a link to a study that looks at Lessons Learned from Robotic Vacuum Cleaners Entering the Home Ecosystem.
Here are some of the key points regarding usability;
“Participants in our study wished that the robotic vacuum cleaner would solve the shortcomings of their manual vacuum cleaner, and consequently decrease the amount of work for the user.
However, six of the nine households stopped using the robot after a while. Although people were at first enthusiastic and interested in trying out a robotic vacuum cleaner, the majority became disappointed as they actually assessed the robot’s relevance within their own ecosystem. In this case, the rejection of robotics is not motivated by some underlying fear or negative preconceptions but is an issue of how functional the robot is within people’s ecosystem.
After novelty effects had worn off, the robot became another cleaning tool with its own flaws.”
In many ways, that’s the problem with smart cleaning technology. They don’t really seem to have the capability to make cleaning easier for us on the whole, and we don’t trust the machines to complete the task properly.
The novelty factor is a big pull if money is no object, but the study made the obvious point that if it doesn’t impress, you’re very likely to get bored with it quickly. The same goes for most smart tech unless it truly can improve your life.
The fact is, there isn’t much out there that can actually do that when it comes to home cleaning.
The Future of Automated Home Cleaning
What can we expect regarding future technology that will help you automate cleaning? Aside from the murmurs about the potential for ambient intelligence, it seems like we’ll have to wait for home developers to catch up, and outfit homes with the tech accordingly.
That’s probably going to take at least a few decades, and it’ll be longer still before humanity gets to experience the delights of an Ultra House.
(Then again, the house did try to kill them in the end, so…)
The vast majority of buildings just aren’t ready for large scale modifications of this type, and there doesn’t seem to be any sort of financial perk to consider. Hiring a cleaner would be a better bet if you can afford it, and you can sack them if they only finish off 95% of the window cleaning.
Humans are better and cheaper, so it’ll take more than a few fancy tricks to make it a viable alternative to traditional methods.
Safety is a key area to improve, depending on the cost and the situation. For example, cleaning, painting and maintaining high-rise buildings can often be a chore, and it’s not the safest job for the cleaning team that has to hang off the side.
Automating these roles should save time and money in future, and the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Chungnam National University in South Korea have been looking at ways to start building this tech in the near future.
Similar advances are expected inside the home, and we’ll finally start seeing the cheaper, energy efficient models that we’ve been waiting for over the next few decades.
The technology is far from perfect, but hard work right now should translate to less work in the future.
Building automated robots that work how we would like them to easier said than done, but it is possible. As technology improves, so will the ability to control these devices. For now, it’s just a waiting game.
The idea of automated cleaning has been around since early science fiction, and for good reason. It’s a chore, and that’s why we’re so desperate to ensure that we aren’t the ones who have to keep things tidy.
We’re often too busy to find the time to get everything done in the day, so automated help does make sense.
Technology is improving, although it’s not exactly at the point where we can trust it to take over the majority of the work. If you just want a helping hand, a small robot cleaner could be helpful to keep your floors and windows clean.
Would you rather pay a maid or take the automated route? Considering the price, would it be better to pay someone to tidy up after you? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
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