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Messages from a washing machine
June 2, 2011 - 7:00pm

I started doing laundry when I was in my teens. When I began attending community college in the mid-90's I was fairly adept at making sure that I had enough clean clothes. The laundromat was a popular hangout as it was connected to a pool hall. I played a lot of billiards while waiting for clothes to wash/dry. Quarters were useful for starting loads of laundry and for holding your place at the pool table.

Fast forward to today. Laundry, at least for a lot of residents in university/college housing, has gone high tech. Students can pay for loads with their school ID and monitor available machines via their smartphone. And, if you're really lucky, your washing machine will send you messages.

At the University of Northern Iowa (my alma mater), students can track available washers and dryers via UNI's mobile website. This functionality is also present on both Iowa State University and the University of Iowa's mobile sites. I'm not sure if most university marketing / communications pros are proponents of giving such valuable mobile real estate to laundry information. However, I bet students are excited. With residence halls like Bender Hall (I lived on the level with washing machines back in the day) at UNI that have 11 levels, knowing that a washing machine is "open" would be a nifty amenity. The mobile pages are simple to use. Navigate to your residence hall and check the washers/dryers. I'm not sure how the tech works, but I would love to hear about routers/switches in laundry rooms.

Mac-Gray takes laundry tracking even further with their LaundryView system. Students can view virtual representations of machines in action. Caldwell & Gregory also offer technology that lets students monitor machines via "esuds." Both Mac-Gray and Caldwell & Gregory offer text messaging and email notification capabilities. Make sure you check with your cell provider as standard text messaging rates are applicable. You can't really accuse a dryer of messing with your phone bill.

I'm looking forward to the day when a dryer can send me a tweet... Note that mobile laundry "views" are not strictly an Iowa thing. I just love touting tech from my home state. Go Panthers!

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