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iRobot continues to diversify itself with non-robotics products. iRobot announced today it paid $72 million in cash to acquire Aeris Cleantec AG, a Switzerland-based developer of air purifiers. iRobot will pay more for the acquisition if Aeris hits certain performance targets in 2022.
Aeris’ two co-founders and nearly 30 employees have already joined iRobot. The companies said Aeris will eventually adopt the iRobot brand. Like iRobot, Aeris was born out of technology developed at MIT when it was founded in 2016.
“Today’s acquisition of Aeris is an important step in iRobot’s strategy to expand our total addressable market and diversify our product portfolio in ways that will provide consumers with new ways to keep their homes cleaner and healthier,” said Colin Angle, chairman and CEO of iRobot. “We are enthusiastic about the growth potential for Aeris’ products, especially as the pandemic has raised greater consumer awareness of the value of maintaining a cleaner, healthier home. We are also excited about the potential to leverage our Genius Home Intelligence platform and existing ecosystem of home robots to bring the iRobot experience to air purification.”
Air purification systems have been in higher demand because of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Grand View Research, the global residential air purifier market is expected to grow from $3.4 billion in 2020 to over $6.7 billion in 2027.
The acquisition also supports iRobot’s smart home focus, which Angle has talked about for years now. iRobot said it plans to add new features and functionality to Aeris’ products, integrating them with its existing ecosystem of home robots and its Genius Home Intelligence platform.
The Robot Report reached out to iRobot for more clarity about its air purification product plans, but a spokesperson said the company can’t speculate about future products or technologies.
On the surface, there doesn’t appear to be a robotics angle here. Could iRobot add air purification capabilities to its cleaning robots or charging docks or add autonomous navigation capabilities to an air purifier? Perhaps. But Angle told The Boston Globe the Aeris acquisition is the “least robot thing we’ve ever acquired.”
In prepared remarks ahead of today’s conference call about the acquisition, Angle offered more insight into why iRobot acquired Aeris. It sounds like this is more about building an ecosystem of smart home products and turning Genius into a home automation control platform.
“We see tremendous potential to extend the AI, home understanding and other relevant technologies that power our Genius Home Intelligence Platform into air purification. As we noted on our Q3 results call last month, we see Genius as a fundamental building block to help us create a larger ecosystem as we enter new, adjacent robotic and smart home categories. By integrating elements of our Genius technology into the Aeris product portfolio, we expect to further extend our competitive differentiation in this category with air purification systems which will be unique for their intelligence and resulting performance.”
Aeris generated about $8 million in revenue in 2020, but said it’s on track to roughly double revenue in 2021. Angle said iRobot is optimistic that “air purification will be a $150 million in annual revenue product category for iRobot within the next several years while also helping improve the long-term profit profile of our company.”
While Aeris is iRobot’s first non-robotics product acquisition – it acquired a distributor in 2016 – it’s not the company’s first product that isn’t a robot. Earlier in 2021, iRobot introduced its H1 handheld vacuum. The H1 is designed to clean spaces that are basically out of reach for robots at the moment, such as couches, curtains and stairs.
The non-robotics diversification certainly is a major part of iRobot’s future strategy. Again, Angle has talked about iRobot’s potential role in the smart home for years, now we’re seeing iRobot pick away at that. Angle told the Globe iRobot “has been studying various products to take advantage of digitally connected homes beyond cleanup robots, and eyeing possible acquisitions, to expand iRobot into everything from security to energy efficiency to health.”
Aeris is the first such acquisition, but it won’t be the last.