High-Tech Washers

You’ve heard of those new dishwashers that rely on dirt-sniffing electronics – not timers – to shut off. You know about the new vacuums that determine how much soil and grime is on the floor, so suction levels can be adjusted accordingly. And, who hasn’t heard of the state-of-the-art microwaves that can detect the weight of popcorn and apply the right amount of heat to get the perfect pop? So what would you say if I told you that new technology is paving the way for the creation of a washing machine and dryer that calls your cell phone or emails you to let you know when your load is done?

It may sound like something you’d find in the Jetson’s home, but it could soon be in your laundry room, if washing machine manufacturers have their way. According to Whirlpool Corporation, washers and dryers that link wirelessly to Internet-connected home networks are still being tested by consumers who are interested in receiving updates on their dirty laundry via cell phones, computers and TV sets.

Company spokespeople say, the “text and voice messages not only indicate when a wash is complete but also can warn that a lint filter is clogged or a load is too large.” Users can remotely command the machines to fluff dry clothes or start a load whether they are at the grocery store or relaxing poolside.

The project, which involves Internet Home Alliance, Whirlpool Corporation, Panasonic and Microsoft Corporation, relies on a wireless network, two TV tuners and Microsoft Media Server software to send the details to devices across the home network and beyond. Depending on how well the current tests pan out, it could be at least a year before the high-tech washer and dryers go mainstream. The appliances, which operate due in large part to complex systems of electronic sensors, now join the ranks of other electronic devices that can be linked to the same home network that connects your computer and printer.

Sounds great, but some critics are not convinced. One home product analyst went so far as to say: “I think this is a great example of people using new technology to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. I’ve done my own laundry for four decades and I’ve never been away from my home and wondered how it’s doing. Until the cell phone can load the dryer, I don’t know how this technology will work for me.”

Conversely, advocates of the new line of washers and dryers say they are pushing for the technology to go mainstream. They point to the success shared by similar technology used in a handful of college dorm laundry rooms. For example, at Georgia Tech, a program called LaundryView allows students to get cell phone calls and e-mails when their laundry’s rinse cycle is done. They can also find out which washers and dryers are available online.

Would you pay extra to have your washing machine call you to tell you that your whites are done?

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.