Could a robot vacuum cleaner monitor your data centre?

El Reg takes LG's webcam-and-WiFi equipped Roboking Turbo+Homeview for a spin

LG Roboking Turbo+Homeview
The LG Roboking Turbo+Homeview

Can you monitor a data centre with a vacuum cleaner?

The Register decided that question had to be answered after learning about LG's Roboking Turbo+Homeview (model VR66803VMNP), a robot vacuum cleaner packing a webcam and WiFi so the images the camera captures can be viewed from afar.

Robot vacuums now are well-known product category and the need to keep a data centre clean is widely-understood. So we imagined the machines would likely be considered innocuous by visitors and decided to test whether they could serve as an extra line of data centre defence.

The Register tried mightily to find a data centre in which we could play. Operators we approached thought it was a fun idea, but not one they'd allow in their live facilities. We came close to securing time in a vendor's demonstration bit barn, but that also proved too tricky. In the end we settled for your correspondent's home which houses enough computers to give the Apollo program a run for its money and has something of an aisle. But is, I confess, in no way shape or form anything like an actual data centre.

It doesn't suck, if you see what we mean

The Roboking can go about its business without an internet connection and does so very well. A simple control panel atop the unit lets you set a pattern for it to follow. A button press or two later and it will merrily start to find its way around your home or office.

When it confronts an obstacle, the device stops a centimetre or three short, jiggles a little to survey the situation and quickly finds a way forward. My laundry basket was easy to spot, and route around. My three kitchen stools, each boasting four slender legs and arrayed in a neat row, gave it plenty to think about but the machine found a way around.

The Roboking Turbo+Homeview spies my laundry

Warning: Reg hack's clean-but-unfolded laundry ahead!

The machine's very good in corners thanks to its square shape that means the little rotating brushes extend well beyond its square chassis and push dust into its sucking maw. Dust in tight spots wasn't missed, a nice outcome I've often heard isn't possible with round robot rovers.

My sofa has a clearance of about 15cm, less than the vac's total height, and the Roboking happily slipped under it. Ditto a chest of drawers under which, ironically, it swept out a remote control I lost months ago.

Also under the drawers was a sock that wrapped itself around one of the rotating brushes. The sock defeated the machine. So did a rug with long tassels. On both occasions the vac emitted warning messages I missed and then shut down and did nothing until I found it. Which took some doing under the chest of drawers.

Other obstacles were handled well. A deepish-pile rug in the lounge room presented no problem and the machine drove up and down without incident. Nuggetoids of of dry cat food disappeared inside the machine. The cat itself freaked out and ran away, but then our cat freaks out when it sees its own shadow. Whole pieces of penne my kids somehow dropped under the kitchen stools and which I somehow didn't notice proved too much to sweep or suck.

The bottom line: the machine cleans nicely, quietly and unless it finds something to wrap itself around will go for hours and make your home pleasingly cleaner. It never quite produces the crisp appearance that comes from a really good human-powered Hoover session, but will save you a daily sweep.

Next page: Data centre sentry

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