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Whirlpool Tests 'Smart' Washers Controlled by Cell Phones


Posted: 19 Jul 2006
Whirlpool Tests 'Smart' Washers Controlled by Cell Phones

Whirlpool today began testing "smart" washing machines and dryers, monitored and controled from computers and cell phones.

The pilot project, called "Laundry Time," part of an open collaboration involving some of the nation's top technology and consumer products companies including Whirlpool Corporation, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Panasonic and Procter & Gamble.

To be conducted in Atlanta homes between today and early September, Laundry Time is built around a connected laundry solution that links a washer and dryer to a home network and sends text messages about the laundry's progress to a computer, TV and/or cell phone. The technology lets consumers manage the laundry process from remote locations such as a grocery store or soccer game, freeing them up to go about their day rather than forcing them to stay home to manage the process.

A few examples of how Laundry Time will work include:

  • You decide to do your laundry while the family is watching TV. After you start the washer (the system will allow you to implement the process remotely), you relax in front of the TV. Thirty minutes later, an alert pops up on your TV screen saying, "Wash Complete," so you put the load in the dryer and put another load in the washer. You get a similar alert on your TV when the dryer is done, so you never forget about your laundry and can fold your clothes before they get wrinkled.
  • You settle down to do some Web surfing after a busy day. When you start up your browser, you get an Instant Message alert telling you that the dryer did not start its cycle. You realize that you forgot to press the start button. Laundry Time asks you in the IM whether you would like to start the cycle. With your mouse, you select "yes," which starts the dryer, and you continue Web surfing without interruption.
  • While running errands, you get an alert on your cell phone that the dryer is done. You don't want your clothes to sit in the dryer and wrinkle so you use a key on your cell phone to tell the dryer to "fluff" the load for an additional 15 minutes, the time it will take you to finish your errands and return home.

Laundry Time was tested in concept form in May 2004 when the Alliance launched a comprehensive research study to assess the appeal of notification about various types of events in and around the home. Alliance members have long expressed an interest in understanding consumers' reactions to event-driven notifications as a way of learning whether or not a notification platform of some kind would be a viable connected home solution. The research suggested that remote event notification has the potential to appeal to a broad base of consumers. Top-of-mind reactions to the concept consisted mainly of positive comments around convenience, improved safety and/or security, improved appliance control and time savings.

Following are the contributions each participating company is making to the Laundry Time pilot:

  • Whirlpool Corporation, the world's leading marketer and manufacturer of major home appliances, is providing front-loading, regular capacity washers and dryers and technical support.
  • Hewlett-Packard, the leading global provider of products, technologies, solutions and services to consumers and businesses, is providing Digital Entertainment Centers and customer support services.
  • Microsoft, the worldwide leader in software, services and technology that help people and businesses realize their full potential, developed the Laundry Time software and is furnishing the pilot team with Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, general technical support and coordinating cell phone service.
  • Panasonic, a leading technology and manufacturing company committed to providing innovative products and services to enrich lifestyles, provided development around the transceivers, televisions and consumer insight research.
  • Procter & Gamble, a consumer products company with one of the strongest portfolios of trusted, quality, leadership brands, provided consumer insights, focus groups facilities, consumer screening and development lab facilities.

Laundry Time is the latest project in Internet Home Alliance's Pilot Program, which brings companies from various industries together to test how their products and services will work collectively in connected home solutions. The results of Laundry Time, which will be available to Alliance members in the fall of 2006 and the public in early 2007, will help the participating companies and other Alliance members develop and launch new connected home products and services.

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