Prototype Washer/Dryer Communicates Via Network
Networked appliances might end the horrors of missed loads and sour shirts.
Prototype washer and dryer
Prototype washers and dryers send alert messages to network-connected televisions, phones and PCs.
December 08, 2006 by EH Staff

The jury is still out on this idea, but if you’ve ever faced a washer load of stinky, mildewy clothes that sat overnight in the machine, you just might think the following concept is the best thing since sliced bread: A washer and dryer combo that’s able to remind you to empty and switch loads. It’s something manufacturers such as Whirlpool are currently toying with. Embedded with special wireless communications technology, the units would be able to send a text message to a computer, TV or cell phone so you’d never forget about your laundry.

Here’s one way the system could work: You decide to do your laundry during your favorite show, “House.” After you start the washer, you relax in front of the TV. Thirty minutes later, an alert pops up on the TV screen saying “Wash complete.” No matter how wrapped up you happen to be in the program, you’ll be sure to move the clean clothes to the dryer and put another load into the washer. You could get a similar alert when the dryer was done, allowing you to get the clothes out before they got too wrinkled.

The system can even communicate remotely. While you’re off running errands, your cell phone could receive a text message that reads “Drying complete.” You could then punch a few buttons on the phone to put the dryer into fluff mode until you got home.

The prototype system is currently being tested in three households in Atlanta, GA. The Internet Home Alliance (IHA), the organization conducting the eight-week study in cooperation with Whirlpool, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Panasonic and Procter & Gamble, will observe each family’s behaviors to determine if an intelligent Internet-enabled laundry solution simplifies this time-consuming chore.

So should you be on the lookout for a communicating washer and dryer? The Internet Home Alliance’s Tim Woods says it’s too soon to say, but if the IHA’s Mealtime pilot of a few years ago is any indication, these products could definitely be in your future. The Mealtime’s refrigerated oven was such a big hit with its pilot families that Whirlpool released a refrigerated range, the Polara, in early 2002.

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