An Old Vacuum Cleaner at wooden floor.

History of Vacuum Cleaners

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Facts About Inventions of Vacuum Cleaners.

Looking at the robot vacuum cleaners that we have today, a millennial may easily imagine that this machine is just a recent invention. Far from that, this gadget is not modern or as recent as you may think. It traces its origins back to the 19th Century, and its original version claimed more than a century’s revisions to evolve into the automated smart machines we have today.

It would be correct to assume that innovation of the vacuum machine was part and inspired mainly by the challenges experienced when removing dust from the dense Victorian carpets and rugs back in the days.

It seems like the dirt and dust in these articles was posing a health hazard pushing innovators to crack their minds for a sustainable solution. This is because beginning 1860, all the way to the beginning of the 20th Century; several manual vacuum cleaners were developed and sold with a varying degree of success.

This is the First Siemens vacuum cleaner 1906
First Siemens vacuum cleaner 1906
Credit: Wiki

Were vacuum cleaners a direct product of the industrial revolution? Well, you may think so, and what’s more, they seem to have come to deal with one of the problems caused by that revolution.

Up till now, innovators have gifted us with different types of vacuum cleaners, which, though premised on a similar principle, seek to solve the lingering and diverse problems of health, noise, or efficiency.

At the beginning of the 21st Century, vacuuming machines were slightly above the common man’s reach, but after World War 2, more people could afford it. Today you probably own one too, but do you know where and how it all started? Let’s dig back and find out.

The history of robot vacuum cleaners.

The modern robot vacuum cleaner traces its humble origin to the early carpet cleaning machines, which were, in some cases, powered by man. In 1860, Daniel Hess invented the earliest mechanical devices for cleaning floors known as the “carpet sweeper.” Hess’s device leveraged bellows and a rotating brush to generate suction.

Eight years later, in 1869, Ives Mc Gaffey developed his version dubbed the “Whirlwind.”  This one had a fan that would be driven by a belt but powered by man, although it never became commercially viable owing to the human or manual factor.

John S Thurman followed in 1898 with a gigantic gasoline powered cleaner. His was so huge that it had to be horse-drawn to blow the air and clean. The American’s machine also dubbed the Pneumatic Carpet Renovator would blow the air instead of drawing it in. 

In 1901, Hubert Cecil Booth, an Englishman, was inspired by Thurman’s machine to come up with the first machine that would, in principle, form the basis of the modern robotic vacuum cleaner.

After Thurman’s demonstration at London’s Empire Music Hall, Booth was so carried away that he experimented on an idea that he had in mind shortly afterward. He spread his handkerchief on a dusty chair and then sucked in the air. When he saw the amount of dust that was sucked upon the handkerchief, he knew that his idea was viable.

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Hubert would then work hard to come up with a big vacuum cleaner popularly called the “Puffing Billy.” The Billy’s combustion engine powered a piston pump to pull the air through some cloth filter. Its colossal size meant that it had to be drawn by a horse, and since it couldn’t enter buildings, its tubes would be inserted through the window.

His innovative mind stretched on to create another model that was powered by electricity, although this one was also huge and unsuitable for home use. It was either installed within the building or hired to clean commercial sites.

Herbert Booth, in 1902 struck a mega deal when Westminister Abbey commissioned him to clean the place before and after the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. Booths demonstration before the royals so much impressed Lord Chamberlain that he purchased two machines for use at the Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace.

Well, at this time, most of the machines were manually operated, and they involved levers, cranks, and other relevant mechanisms for sucking and trapping dust in water or cloth. Some of the popular models during that time were Baby Daisy and the Kotten Vacuum Cleaner. The Baby Daisy, for example, needed two people to operate, and it used bellows for suction.

Come 1905, Walter Griffiths designed a less weighty vacuum machine that could be carried around. The following year, James B. Kirby delivered another one called the “Domestic Cyclone.” For dirt separation, Kirby’s vacuum machine used water instead of a filter.

As though he was queuing for his moment, James Murray Spangler (a janitor from Ohio) in 1907 designed the first portable vacuum cleaner. Murray’s machine had an electric fan, a rotating brush, a dust bag, and a box, and for the dust bag, he first used his wife’s pillowcase.

Due to lack of funds, James Murray Spangler could not mass produce, so William Henry Hoover, in 1908, bought his patent and went on to redesign the vacuum cleaner. Initially, he placed it in a steel box and designed attachments for the hose. Later on, he fixed disposable filter bags and finished the first-ever upright vacuum cleaner in 1926. 

Henry was quite instrumental in redefining the shape of the modern portable vacuum cleaner by covering its exposed parts to bring it closer to what we see today. By the late 1930s, he, through Hoover Suction Sweeper Company, started marketing the more stylish machines, thereby redeeming the vacuum cleaner out of the shadows. His campaign had so much impact that, to this day, the UK vacuum users still refer to the act of cleaning as “ hoovering”regardless of the machine’s brand.

As earlier mentioned, vacuums were a luxury, way out of an average earner’s reach at the turn of the 20th Century, but after the Second World War, their prices came down. For example, in 1937, the brand new Hoover Model 150 would sell for $80, which is roughly $1300 today.

By the year 2015, a similar sold for $800. Seemingly, there was a booming growth within the middle class between 1945 and 1960 in the US, because their expenditure on home appliances like vacuums had gone up 12 fold.

Toward the end of the 19th Century, some wealthy homeowners had installed fixed vacuum cleaners, which comprised of basement bellow chambers and copper tubes leading to every room. Unfortunately, this system was not only costly but also ineffective, and it remained unreliable until flexible PVC pipes took over in the 1960s.

How Home Vacuums were inspired hair dryers. 

Do you know that the evolving vacuum machines inspired hairdryers? Well, having observed the vacuum machine for some time,  Alexandre F Godefroy, in 1888, thought out of the box and invented a large hood dryer to serve seated patrons.

The device would simply be hooked up to the furnace to operate, but in 1920, the earliest commercial dryers went into the market. These machines heavily borrowed from the vacuum, and this makes more sense when you reflect on John S Thurman’s Pneumatic Carpet Renovator.  The gadget remained bulky until the 1950s.

The technology behind a vacuum cleaner and its specifications.

To date, most vacuum cleaners still experience a significant challenge with perfect air filtration. They can’t filter dusty air very well. Placement of an ideal filter could have helped, but if that were done, the system would easily clog. Now, this is something that can easily cause health issues, but to deal with this problem, manufactures had to think differently.

With fixed central vacuum cleaners, the solution was found through rerouting the filtered air to the outdoors. Portable vacuums also work on a similar principle, and in their case, a hose is fixed and rerouted out through the window. 

The next variant involves paper or cloth bags that arrest dust while allowing the air to pass through. These can be emptied or discarded when full.

We also have the bag less variants with a filter in the front container for collecting dust. These work pretty much like the one with cloth bags. 

Cyclonic separation vacuum cleaners, on the other hand, have no bags, but they leverage gravity and centrifugal force to remove the dust. An Ultrafine air filter called the HEPA filter arrests minute particle like dust mite feces and pollen, and it serves as a secondary filter. Should the need arise to purge odors from the machine, activated charcoal filters usually apply.

Some spaces are much harder to clean than others, and so for a vacuum cleaner to access or clean more challenging surfaces, some attachments should be fixed at the end of the hose. These attachments include; a powered floor nozzle, hard floor brush, a crevice tool, a dusting brush, and an upholstery nozzle.

How to identify the specifications of a vacuum cleaner?

1. Suction or vacuum: The maximum pressure difference created by a pump. It is measured in Pa or pascals

2. Airflow: It is measured in [l/s] or liters per second.

3. Airspeed: This is how fast air passes through the machine, and it measures in meters per second [ M/s ]

4. Input power: This is a vacuum cleaner power consumption, and it measures in watts [W]

5. Output power: This refers to the amount of input power that is converted into airflow via the cleaning hose. It measures in Air Watt.

When was First Robotic Vacuum Cleaner Invented?

The first-ever Robotic Vacuum Cleaner was unveiled by a Swedish home appliance manufacture called Electrolux in 1996. Electrolux Trilobite, as it was called used ultra-sonic sensors, find its way around the floor and its name derived from an extinct arthropod that marauded over the ocean floors in search of nutrition bits to suck up.

This gadget worked well, but as you would expect of any new idea, it suffered a host of teething problems. First, it would frequently ram into objects, leave unclean spaces before the wall, or simply fail to do a thorough cleaning job.

This dismal performance led to its discontinuation, paving the way for an updated model. The manufacture successfully purchased the new model from James Dizon. After making the necessary improvements, it was well-received and even featured on Tomorrow’s World, a BBC science program in 1997.

Forward to 2001, Dyson, a British Tech company, built a robot vacuum dubbed the DC06. All demonstrations were done, and it proved useful, but it never saw the light of the day due to its high price. The gadget was going to ask for $ 3000, which was way out of the average buyers spending range.

One year later, iRobot, a top American Tech Company, released the Roomba floor vacuuming robot. Unlike earlier models, Roomba could sense obstacles and change direction. It could also detect steep drops and avoid falling down the stairs.

This was the first robot vacuum to be mass-produced and mass-marketed. The success was a great morale booster, and iRobot in 2005 released Scooba for scrubbing hard floors. In 2006, it released “The Dirt Dog” to vacuum large and more cumbersome dirt. 

iRobot’s robots became an instant sensation, and before long, it was producing up to 50,000 units to meet the rising demand. Everyone wants to be associated with success, and in Roomba’s case, significant outlets like Kohl’s, Target and Linens n Things quickly stocked the gadgets. In total, over 4000 outlets marketed the vacuum cleaner.

Roomba’s success and popularity inspired other companies to consider producing more robotic vacuum cleaners, and since 2002, many variations have appeared on the market. In 2014, for example, Dyson made public its plans to release a new cleaning vacuum dubbed the 360 Eye.  This one had a 360-degree camera to give it better negation as compared to other cleaners.

The company (Dyson) has heavily invested in robotics and AI, intending to develop the most updated, reliable, and capable unit. So focused was Dyson that it proposed to establish a UK campus that would require a 7000 strong workforce. It also offered to pump £330 million in developing a research facility in Singapore with a particular focus on “connected technology and intelligent machines

Reviews on robot vacuum cleaners.

The modern robotic vacuum cleaner is a handy autonomous machine with highly intelligent programming to clean floors, carpets, rugs, and other dirty surfaces. Initially, this device could be operated manually using remote control; but today, it has many smart features that almost eliminate the whole human factor.

It, for example, has several built-in sensors to boost its cleaning efficiency as well as stop and reroute the robot before it crashes into objects that may be standing on its path. These sensors are also programmed to detect an edge of a precipice so that the robot may stop and reroute at the staircase.

Without this detector, it could drop and even tumble down the stairs. The sensors are also instrumental in helping the machine to navigate more difficult circumstances to avoid getting lost or stuck.

So smart is this robot that you can put in a whole week’s cleaning schedule and get the job done whether you are ever around or not. Measuring roughly 13.9 x 13.6 x 3.4 inches, the modern gadget uses powerful batteries that can run it for between 80 to 120 minutes depending on the model.

More interesting is that, once it senses low Battery, it will find its way back the docking station for charging; and in case the Battery ran low midway the cleaning session, smart robots will leave the charging dock and resume cleaning where it left off.

The gadget’s average 3.5 inches height makes the design slim enough to for it to move under beds, sofas, desks, closets, and cabinets. And for a complete and efficient job, most models are programmed to work in several driving modes. A robot like iClebo, for instance, is driven by the Navi, Sport, and Auto modes. You will apply any of these modes based on your lifestyle or personal preference.

Some of them are featured with a dual vacuuming functionality, meaning you can still do wet mopping with the machine as well. Vacuuming, which is the primary machine function, entails picking up cereals, dust whatever debris there may be using modern suction systems. Mopping, on the other side, refers to using a reusable wet microfiber cloth to polish tiled or wooden floors.

How does robot vacuum move into different rooms without hindrances?  Well, to transition over to the carpet or climb over door sills, they are programmed to adjust to an approximate 0.7-inch climbing height.

Smart navigation analysis of a robot vacuum Cleaner.

Models like iClebo Arte come with a smart navigation feature that does the environment detection process at high speed of 200 x per second, although for advanced cleaning sessions, the robot can run a whopping 10800 times per second movement analysis.

Sound levels of a vacuum Cleaner

The RoboVac is much more silent as compared to the older machines meaning that you can still carry on with a study or do whatever else that requires concentration without any distraction. Furthermore, such low noise levels are ideal for night cleaning because you will still sleep easy as the cleaning or mopping goes on right under your bed.

Alexa and Google Assitant enabled vacuum cleaners

Most modern robotic vacuum cleaners are Wi-Fi enabled to allow you to clean the office or house from anywhere. What’s more, they are Google and Alexa compatible, which means that you can use the voice control function to command for action via an App.

See Also: 15 Best robot vacuums that work with Alexa and Google Assistant

The Smart App Editor enables you to customize the pattern and style of cleaning, which you can view and monitor in real-time. It is capable of reporting to tell you about its cleaning status and periodic maintenance notifications. This is a giant leap that will, no doubt, oversee the App completely take over from the IR remote control.

What you take home from a vacuum robot?

Each model has its own set of accessories. Still, if iClebo was to serve as our example, then you should expect a robot vacuum, an adaptor cord, a charging station, a mop plate, two mop pads, two filters, a remote control plus batteries, a cleaning brush a bot boundary strip a manual and a quick guide. 

Botboudary strip enabled robot vacuum cleaners

And what is the role of the bot boundary strip, you may ask? Well, this is a magnetic strip that you can use to mark lines beyond which you don’t want the robot to go. A boundary strip will, for example, prevent the robot from entering the bedroom or kitchen. 

What are the downside of robot vacuum cleaners.

So far, it is clear that the key advantage of the robotic vacuum is the convenience it offers owing to the modern smart features. The fact, though, is that nothing is perfect, and this gadget too has its downsides. This is according to a recent Robot vacuum cleaners review by Checkermarx, a renowned tech research firm.

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Did you know that some modern robot vacuum cleaners have multiple security loopholes? Well, you better believe it because shocking security flaws were brought to the light in a recent cybersecurity expert’s annual conference in San Fransisco.

The breaches are numerous, although their degree of severity is quite varied.  A case in point is the Trifo Ironpie robot vacuum. It has been observed that one Trifo Ironpie robot allowed remote attackers to infiltrate the user’s video streams through Trifo’s servers. 

In yet another Robot vacuum cleaner review, a hacker sent a fake software update to the robot’s App. In this second case, the user was then tricked into downloading malicious software.

Also, it is now confirmed that if an attacker gets within your robot’s Wi-Fi range, they can hack and manipulate the device by sending control instructions.

Reportedly, the Trifo Ironpie network data is unencrypted, meaning the robot software is lacking crucial security protection. 

Worst of all, the attackers can hack into the mapping details and get all the information about your house. This includes the size of your house and the number of rooms it has.

Trifo Ironpie’s breaches bring to the light a wider problem in the circles of connected devices (also known as the internet of things). Every day, people are buying appliances with mics and cameras without knowing how safe the gadget’s software is, and this has resulted in many hacking incidents.  

An expert from Checkermarx research said that every new connected device could expose users to multiple security risks. Exposed video streams are particularly quick to find in search engines that index connected devices.

To confirm their case, the researcher ( Checkermax ) made a video demonstration that clearly showed its researchers accessing the video stream of an Ironpie robot in Portugal.  The trial victim was a Checkermax employee stationed in Portugal.

Other cons are;

It takes more time to clean a room as compared to the standard vacuum cleaner. This weakness plays out especially when you wish to clean the entire house in one session

They can be a bit expensive. An average robot vacuum cleaner will ask you for about $ 200 while the more pricey ones will cost up to $400. Standard vacuum cleaners only go for roughly $ 100

RoboVacs can only clean flat surfaces, which may be their major downside. They are challenged while cleaning thicker carpets and they cannot clean the stairs

Batteries of models like Roomba are relatively expensive

Of course, sensors are not perfect, and RoboVac sometimes strays into spaces where they get stuck, calling for “manual deliverance.” Those with the option of retreating to the charging station sometimes get lost and miss the doc.

Great as Robo Vacs are, they cannot fully replace the standard vacuum cleaner, at least for now.

Let us quickly run a comparison between these 2 Robot vacuum cleaners best used for home cleaning.

Roomba 980 vs. Samsung POWERbot R9350

Most of us associate Samsung with the TV, mobile phone, and several other standard products, but we rarely picture it along the line of Robot Vacuum Cleaner Samsung. Well, the fact is that Samsung has one of the most powerful robotics on the market, called the Samsung POWERbot R9350. In the next few lines, I will try to pit Samsung POWERbot R9350 against the legendary Roomba 980 to help you choose one or take both.

Similarities and differences of Roomba 980 vs. Samsung POWERbot R9350

8 Differences of Roomba 980 vs. Samsung POWERbot R9350.

1. The POWERbotR9350 has the front camera navigation, whereas the Roomba 980 relies on bump sensors as well.

2. For edge cleaning, Roomba has side brushes while the POWERbot R9350 uses a mechanical plank 

3. You can use a laser to point clean using the POWERbot R9350, but you cannot do that with the Roomba 980

4. The POWERbot uses magnetic tape, or the botboundery strip prevents access to certain areas while Roomba uses the virtual wall barriers.

5. Samsung’s Battery runs up to for up to 90 minutes while Roomba 980’s Battery goes for up to 120 minutes

Image of irobot roomba robotic vacuum
Roomba Robot

6. The Samsung Robo Vac comes with a slightly bigger dustbin than the Roomba 980.

7. You can use the mobile App to steer the POWERbot, but this feature does not apply to the Roomba 980

8. Samsung comes with a remote control Whereas the Roomba doesn’t have it.

12 The Similarities between POWERbot and Robot vacuum cleaner Roomba

Can gadgets from entirely different manufacturers have anything in common, you may ask? Well, these giant rivals have a lot of striking similarities, and this is something that may interest and confuse you, especially if you are comparing to make a buying decision. 

1. They both give you a full year’s warranty

2. They both have the mapping and navigation feature, and to achieve this purpose, they use camera technology.

3. Both gadgets are built for extra speed while cleaning carpets.

4. The POWERbot R9350 and Roomba 980 has been featured with high profile wheels for terrain transition 

5. Both gadgets have the scheduling function, meaning that you can program it to a daily or weekly cleaning schedule

6. The two robots are compatible with Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa. 

7. The POWERbot and Roomba 980 will automatically trace their charging dock once the Battery runs low. 

8. Both robots resume duty once the Battery is charged. This is in the case where the bat ran low midway the task. They are intelligent enough to remember precisely they left off.

9. They both have a detangle feature for cords

10. Each of them, iRobot and Samsung have optical sensors to detect cliffs for example when they get close to the stairs

11. They both have a full bin indicator

12. Samsung and R9350 both use sensors for deeper cleaning and dirt detection.

The Vacuum Cleaner’s full timeline Development.

1890:  Daniel Hess from West Union, Iowa, invents a carpet sweeper. It had a broad rotating brush and bellows to generate suction, but it never got to the mass production stage

1869: Ives W. Mc Gaffey, a cleaning machine named Whirlwind. It had a hand-operated fan. It felt awkward to operate, but all the same, sold more than Hess machine.

1876:   Melville R. Bissel invented the Grand Rapids. This wasa carpet sweeper with brushes that were connected to the wheels. The brushes would clean the floor as the sweeper moves along

1898: John S. Thurman from St Louis, Missouri, introduced the Pneumatic carpet renovator. It was gasoline-powered, and instead of using suction, it would blow the air to clean

1900: Corine Dufour upgrades the carpet sweeper. He powers it with electricity and covers its rollers with a moistened sponge for better dust collection.

1901: Englishman, Hubert Cecil Booth, invents the first motorized vacuum cleaner. It was driven by a combustion engine and would be moved on a horse carriage due to its size.

Home Vacuum Cleaner
Home Vacuum Cleaner

1905: Walter Griffiths invents the first portable vacuum cleaning device.

1906: James B. Kirby invests the Domestic Cyclone, a vacuum machine that would collect dirt using dirt.

1908: James Murray Spangler from Canton Ohio introduces the first motorized handy vacuum cleaner. It would collect dust in a pillowcase, and it had a box and an electric fan. He sold the patent to William Henry Hoover

1909: Eureka Vacuum Company was founded by a Detroit businessman called Fred Wardell

1910: Louis Hamilton, Fredrick Osius, and Charles Beach invent a motor that ran on AC OR DC electric power. It would later be used to power small vacuum cleaners.

1919: Jim Kerby signs up to serve as the chief designer for Carl Fetzer and George Scots vacuum cleaners

1920: An Ohio based company Air Way Sanitizer begins to manufacture vacuum cleaners with disposable bags. It is was the first to implement this idea

1921: Lux V, the first vacuum machine to use metal sleds, was invented. It used sleds instead of wheels and became the standard product.

1926: Hoover came up with the beater bar. This metal barwould be fixed to the rotating brush roll to help shake up the carpet for the efficient dirt removal.

1930: The first plastic vacuum cleaner is introduced into the market.

1935: Kirby’s name is labeled on a vacuum cleaner by Fetzer and Scot. It was labeled Kirby Model C.

1950: The first  upright vacuum cleaners are introduced on the market

1954: Hoover introduces the first hovercraft vacuum cleaner. It had no wheels but floated on its exhausts.

1963: David Oreck embarks on manufacturing upright vacuum cleaners for industrial purposes. He tried to reduce their weight for more comfortable use significantly

1969: Hoover makes the first self-propelled vacuum. 

1978: James Dyson begins his experiments with the bagless vacuum cleaner. For 15 years, he made over 5000 prototypes before settling on his Dual Cyclone Machine. 

1979: Black and Decker start producing small, Battery runs cordless vacuum cleaners.

1997: Electrolux’s Tribolite, the first robotic cleaner features on BBC’s Tomorrow’s World.

2002: iRobot develops Roomba which is a disc-shaped robotic vacuum cleaner 

2011: Briton, Jake Tyler, invents a cardboard vacuum cleaner.

 2013: Roomba introduced the Roomba 800 Series, is similar to the 700 series that was introduced 2011 May and its predecessors, but contains updated technology. The aeroforce performance cleaning system, which is five times more powerful than older series.

 2015: Roomba 980 series was released in September, and the robot had a new Visual Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (vSLAM) navigation system which allows it to clean an entire level of a clean an entire level of home more efficient. The 980 also features Wi-Fi connectivity an Android App and an iPhone.

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