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Exploring the CTO Role - AI & Robotics - Home Robots

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

Understanding the Business and Technology

The use of AI & Robotics in Intelligent Sensing is not new - be it in the area of space research - Mars Rover exploration - that explains Colin M Angle, Co-founder of iRobot, a home robot company, having a background and previous work experience at the National Aeronautical and Space Administration’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory where he participated in the design of the behavior controlled rovers that led to Sojourner exploring Mars in 1997. Early applications of smart devices using similar technologies have been in the areas of deep sea exploration, use by defense personnel in the detection of land mines and bombs and small portable communication devices.

Lets explore this increasingly competitive marketplace where the players are providing a differentiated customer experience with ongoing updates, best-in-class technology, easy set-up, premium built quality, and great customer support that make it attractive to trade partners who are offering more shelf space.

The Competitive landscape can be viewed in three broad buckets - 1) those that are pure play Robotic Vacuum Companies, 2) those that are Consumer Electronics Companies offering Robotic Home Products and 3) those that are Robotic and Automation Companies having relevant technologies.

In evaluating the technologies involved of one of the leading players in this marketplace, Neato Robotics, their product stack uses a combination of their proprietary Intelligent LaserSmart LIDAR based navigation technology, Smart Home Connectivity (IoT), Mapping Technology and Superior Cleaning Technology. Their Smart Design infused product shape along with Robotics & AI based algorithms make it truly a consumer centric personalized experience in home cleaning.

Exploring the CTO Role - A key growth enabler

Let's first look at spotlighting Chris Jones, CTO, iRobot.

Dr. Chris Jones has 20 years of experience in robotics research and development across academia, government, and industry.

At iRobot, Chris' responsibilities are centered on long-term technology planning and strategy and fostering strategic partnerships to advance the state-of-the-art in practical robotics.

Prior to joining iRobot in 2005, Chris was involved in robotics research and development at the Center for Robotics and Embedded Systems at the University of Southern California, the Artificial Intelligence Lab at the University of Zurich, the Intelligent Systems and Robotics Center at Sandia National Laboratories, and the Robotics Research Lab at Texas A&M University. Chris received his Ph.D. and M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Southern California and his B.S. in Computer Engineering from Texas A&M University.

Interesting facets of his career journey:

  • Along with iRobot’s team of scientists and engineers, he has identified and overseen the development of technologies behind revolutionary products such as the Roomba 980 – which brought iRobot into the smart home with intelligent visual navigation, app control and wi-fi connectivity – as well as the Ava 500 telepresence robot and numerous bomb disposal robots.

  • Built a new generation of robots that help people throughout the home, including in the important areas of mapping, navigation, cloud robotics and manipulation.

  • Earlier worked to support iRobot’s products for Defense Organizations (Bomb disposal applications) built in collaboration with Defense Organizations like DARPA, Air Force Research Lab and National Science Foundation. Academia collaboration with MIT, Harvard and University of Chicago.

  • Also built small robots that could be deployed in a building and used as communications infrastructure

  • Other innovations include Ground Robots, UAVs, Under Water Robots (Deep Sea Exploration)

  • Oversaw pivot to Consumer Products (including shift of focus from Hardware to Software) - visual technologies, smart mapping using AI, ML, Embedded Software

  • Runs a 500 member Engineering Team

  • Transitioned the team from a focus on hardware to software - in 2015, 1 in 8 were software engineers to it’s current ratio of 1:3.

  • Built a Strong Culture of “builders”

What are the critical dimensions of a CTO role?

In defining a compelling CTO role description that will fuel growth, innovation and intellectual property, here are some of the suggested dimensions to consider. Please note that in some companies, Business IT still remains a separate imperative and does not role into the CTO function.

What are the compensation parameters for a CTO?

Total Pay for CTOs as in most Executive Roles includes Base Pay, Benefits, Short Term Incentive / Bonus Plans and Long Term Incentive Plans.

The Long Term Incentive Plans typically incorporate a weightage assigned to Individual Performance and a weightage assigned to Company Performance.

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