I recently bought a Xiaomi Roborock S50 vacuum cleaner. On the surface, it sounds like a great product -- pretty affordable, makes for a good looking home appliance, and most importantly, good at taking over a mundane activity that should’ve been automated a long time ago.
On the software side, there is a pretty usable app that allows you to make the most of the device, like checking its current status, customizing some settings, such as cleaning speed, schedule, and several modes of cleanup - general one, spot cleaning, and with the use of the indoor navigation enabled by a laser sensor, zone cleanup, or setting up virtual barriers and no-go zones.
The app also enables you to control the vacuum when you’re away from your home Wi-Fi. It does that by taking advantage of the cloud, i.e. Xiaomi’s computers located in China.
That last thing creeped me out most about this product, and before making a purchase I made sure there’s a way to do something about that. Turns out, there is!
Rooting a vacuum cleaner is so 2019
The software is called Valetudo, and it is essentially a webserver that’s running on the vacuum locally, faking Xiaomi’s backend services. It is not the main piece of the puzzle, though, as putting that webserver on the device was enabled by the amazing work of a group of people behind Dustcloud, which brings a set of methods of opening up the device to hacking.
Installing Valetudo is a pretty simple procedure, and in the end, instead of a piece of software with an origin in a country of questionable respect for people’s privacy, you get a mobile-friendly web client served by that device as well. There is an option to run some of the stack on a home server, but that sounds like too much of a maintenance burden.
As an Apple and home automation nerd, making all things HomeKit-enabled is important to me. The robot even with its original software is not compatible, but there are several plugins for Homebridge that connect both worlds. The thing is, those plugins don’t control the robot directly, but through the Xiaomi cloud. Once we freed the vacuum from it, we need to find another way. Valetudo with its locally-running web server is exposing a simple HTTP API, so there is a way to control it programmatically, but as niche Homebridge is, a rooted vacuum is surely an even narrower niche, although I can see an overlap in audience there.
The plugin is called homebridge-valetudo-xiaomi-vacuum, it’s available through npm, and the basics are pretty solid already. It exposes a few cleaning modes as buttons, provides the battery status, and some other conveniences. And I had heck of a fun time making it.