IBM And EMC Are Building Armies Of Hacked Roomba Robots To Patrol Their Data Centers

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Roomba

The Roomba is a big hit in homes; will it catch on in data centers?

iRobot is best known as the maker of the Roomba and Scooba home vacuum cleaners.

But if pilot projects at IBM and EMC pan out, iRobot could become a key part of enterprise data centers. 

IBM and EMC are using iRobot Create, a hackable version of Roomba, to build robots that patrol data centers and keep track of temperature and humidity, TechWeekEurope's Peter Judge reports

This might sound funny, but IBM and EMC are trying to solve an important issue. Data centers are expensive to run and pollute the environment. So enterprises that find ways to shave even a little bit of cost from operating them can save a lot of money while helping the greater good. 

What often happens inside data centers is that cold or warm pockets will form in certain areas. Not only does this inflate electricity bills, but it can also cause servers to overheat and break down. 

With robots patrolling data centers around the clock, IBM and EMC are hoping to nip these situations in the bud as soon as they develop. Before, a person had to wheel around a cart and do all the monitoring manually. 

The companies are building their robots in similar ways. The iRobot Create serves as the base, and there's a six-foot tall pole attached to it with environmental sensors on top. There's also a webcam for navigation and a netbook for Wi-Fi connectivity. 

IBM is currently using the robots in nine of its data centers around the world and expects to roll out "quite a few more" by the end of the year, IBM researcher Jonathan Lenchner told TechWeekEurope.

It's unclear how EMC is using its hacked Roombas, but in February, a team of India-based EMC employees posted a video of theirs and said they built it for around $200 (except for the netbook) using off the shelf components.

In an interesting (and somewhat ominous sounding) twist, the iRobot Create is also capable of "completely autonomous behavior," according to iRobot.   



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