Amazon today announced plans to acquire home robotics firm iRobot for an all-cash deal valued at a whopping $1.7 billion or $61 per share. This latest multi-billion deal follows Amazon’s recent acquisitions of healthcare technology platform One Medical (July 2022), which public in 2020, and order fulfillment company Kiva Systems (March 2021). And it’s the ecommerce giant’s second acquisition of a publicly-traded company in less than a year.
The iRobot deal ranks among Amazon’s largest acquisitions and represents the company’s latest play in the highly lucrative home robotics space.
Based in Bedford, Massachusetts, iRobot is a technology firm that designs and builds robots. The company was founded by a group of researchers from MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab, Colin Angle, Rodney Brooks, and Helen Greiner. A decade after its founding, iRobot introduced its home robots flagship, the Roomba, which sold more than 30 million units by 2004.
The company’s products include widely popular autonomous home vacuum cleaner Roomba, automated floor moppers Braava, robotic lawn mower Terra, floor-washing robot Scooba, swimming-pool cleaning robot Verro, gutter-cleaning robot Looj, and other autonomous home cleaning devices.
It’s not just home robots, iRobot also develops a number of defense and security robots. In 1998, the robotic firm received a DARPA, the US Defense Department’s premier research division, research contract which led to the development of the PackBot, a series of military robots designed for explosive ordinance disposal, surveillance, and other missions.
Currently, the US military had more than 2000 of iRobot’s PackBots in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition to deployment as bomb-disposal units in hotspot places like Iraq and Afghanistan, PackBots have been used to gather data in dangerous conditions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster site in Japan. The company’s long-range dual-role autonomous underwater vehicle Seaglider was used in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
As of 2020, the company has already sold more than 30 million home robots and has deployed more than 5,000 security robots, according to the company’s website. In February 2016, the company announced plans to sell its military robotics business to Arlington Capital Partners to focus more on the consumer market.
Technology stocks have been hit hard by the economic downturn, and big companies, such as Amazon and Thomas Bravo, have seen that as a great opportunity to make strategic acquisitions at discounted prices. iRobot’s stock price, which is down 12 percent since the beginning of the year, has been hit hard by the economic downturn and is one of the few publicly-traded companies that has been acquired in recent weeks.
Amazon’s acquisition of Ring, the home automation startup that specializes in smart-camera-equipped doorbells, has already widened the company’s consumer competitive moat and improved its smart home engine. The addition of iRobot will definitely give the company another major boost and extend its reach in the smart home business.