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Company Overview and Context
Neato Robotics is a leading American robotic vacuum company founded in 2005 and based in Newark, California. They were acquired in September, 2017, by Vowerk, but maintain independent operation under their own name. They are best known for their XV and BotVac series of robotic vacuums, and the design work for those vacuums is done at their offices in California, while the manufacturing is completed through contracted work in China.
Neato Vacuum Design and Operation
The Neato robot vacuums operate by travelling in partially overlapping straight lines to cover wide, flat surfaces. And by utilizing laser sensors that scan 360° around the machine, its software’s ‘SLAM’ algorithm can create a map of the room while cleaning, the goal being to preempt potential obstructions. The vacuums also have sensors to prevent them from falling down stairs or off high ledges.
When the Neato robot vacuum is running low on power, it will return to its predetermined home base to recharge its batteries. If the robot was in the middle of a cleaning job when the battery went low, it can be programmed to continue the job once it completes its charge cycle.
Product Line and Continued Development
In 2010, Neato released the XV line of robot vacuums, starting with the XV-11, which was generally positively-received by both critics and consumers. Key points of praise included the low noise level and cleaning efficiency. And it was widely noted that both were overtly improved upon in the company’s next major release in 2012 with the XV-21. This model featured improved navigation and cleaning capabilities and was marketed towards pet owners and people with allergies.
In 2013, Neato added both the Signature XV and Signature Pro models to the line, which both featured minimal changes to the design and features of the XV-21’s. But the 2014 release of the company’s BotVac, a project years in development, brought significant changes to both the look and cleaning power.
This BotVac line deviated from the company’s standard all-black models in favor of a white plastic outer construction with multiple color accents. Aside from the updated aesthetics, BotVac Model Vacuums also came with a number of new selling points, including a larger filter for fewer cleanings, a single-compartment battery, an improved bump sensor, and longer brushes. The internal materials and electronics were upgraded and the battery was swapped for a lower voltage model, which gave BotVacs a notable efficiency upgrade.
The first five models of the BotVac line (65, 70e, 75, 80, and 85) are virtually identical in appearance but differ a bit in advertised features. The packaging of the BotVac D3 and D5 models boast a lower volume during operation, improved brushes, and a new Neutrino operating system. However, all the machines are indeed the same in terms of electrical and software aspects.
Firmware and App Integration
The original line of Neato XV robotic vacuums allowed users to upgrade their firmware by connecting it to a computer with Linux via a mini USB port on the back of the vacuum. These DIY updates ceased in 2015 however, and Neato Customer Support released a statement saying that, after extensive review, the firmware updates were not addressing many customers’ needs and therefore would not be returning as a feature.
While Neato may not offer customer-driven firmware updates anymore, they still offer customers some unique ways to control their tech. In recent years, all Neato Vacuums are compatible with the Neato Robotic Vacuum app. This allows users to program, view, and schedule cleaning areas; start, stop, and pause vacuuming cycles; and more.
The Neato Robotics App is compatible with all of the latest smart technologies, like Apple and Android, but also Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, IFTTT, and Facebook Messenger via a custom chatbot.