Antalya, Turkey

Premium German home appliance brand Miele has unveiled its new robot vacuum, the Scout RX1. Miele made this revelation at the 2014 IFA Global Press Conference, a multi-brand product expo used to promote the annual IFA exhibition taking place later this year in Berlin.

Best known in Australia for its bagged range of canister vacuums, and also a marketer of uprights and stick vacs overseas, the Scout represents Miele’s launch into the growing and lucrative robot market, which traditionally has the highest average selling prices in the $300 million Australian floorcare market.

Miele scout
Miele’s new Scout RX1 has a remote control and a charging base.
Miele scout 2
The packaging for the Miele Scout shows it has duster brushes to clean in the corners the robot cannot reach.

Miele explained its relatively late entrance into robotics with the old chestnut that the technology wasn’t mature enough and the products not good enough for the Miele brand. This is a similar reason offered by Dyson for their non-starting in the category, though Sir James Dyson recently invested in a UK-based robotics lab to fund greater exploration.

The Scout RX1 was developed in collaboration with a Korean robotics company and will be manufactured in Korea, unlike the vast majority of Miele’s appliances, which are assembled in Germany.

Miele board member Eduard Sailer said the company was outsourcing the Scout’s manufacturing because “robotics simply isn’t our core competence”. He did, however, stress that Miele is overseeing the Korean manufacturing to ensure the robot vac lives up to Miele’s high performance and endurance heritage.

Unlike rivals in robot vacuuming that present a holistic view of a robot’s ability, Sailer readily admits that the Scout cannot replace a traditional vacuum cleaner.

“The robovac is currently intended as a practical second appliance for automatic cleaning in between times,” he said. “For many years to come, a high performance vacuum cleaner…will be difficult to beat in terms of dust pick-up.

“But, having said that, robotics are likely to continue making progress and might one day replace a manual canister vacuum cleaner altogether.”

According to a media statement, the Scout RX1 has a 2-hour runtime on a full charge and promises 300 recharging cycles on the replaceable lithium-ion battery without deterioration. There are four cleaning programs: Auto (free roaming), Spot (for a defined area), Corner (for a second pass over room edges) and Turbo (straight parallel lines).

One interesting complication that this release throws up is its 0.6-litre dust box. Miele has been the most vocal and prominent advocate for bagged vacuuming, maintaining that only by using a disposable bag can you properly trap in all the dust and dirt. While it is unlikely that Miele will be releasing any bagless canister vacuums any time soon, the Scout RX1 shows Miele is not completely opposed to bagless technology, if only in a robot.

The Scout RX1 will go on sale in Europe in May 2014 for 619 euros (around AU $920 on today’s exchange rate). No Australian availability has been confirmed.

The 2014 IFA Consumer Electronics Show takes place in Berlin, Germany; 6-10 September 2014.