It's Sunday and you realize that all your clothes are dirty. If you're a student, it's time to go to your campus laundry room. But wait, you might be lucky enough to plan your laundry in advance. In this article, the Boston Globe reports that it's now possible in some colleges and universities in the U.S. "to go online to check all laundry rooms on campus and see which washers and dryers are open, occupied, or broken; how long until a machine completes a cycle; and how many others are waiting."
Mac-Gray, a Cambridge company that installs and services laundry facilities in 400 colleges and universities nationwide, has recently begun testing a Web-based service named LaundryView™ at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Needham and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Here is how it works.
Users can arrange for an e-mail to alert them when it's time to put clothes into the dryer or rescue their wardrobe and fold it. Anyone with a computer, personal digital assistant, or Web-enabled cell phone can access the service.
Ordinary-looking commercial washers and dryers are wired to a box in each laundry room that tracks their usage and operational status. The company's server then contacts each box and posts the data on the Web browser, with information updated every minute.
Here is a screenshot of what students can see if the LaundryView system has been installed on their campus (Credit: Mac-Gray Corporation).
Here is how the system works at Olin.
"The big convenience is, everyone's time is precious," said Scott Slaboden, Olin's assistant director of campus services. "Classes end and start at the same time, so this allows people to maximize their time." The school, now in its second year of existence, has 150 students living in one residence hall. A second dorm will open next year.
Because the entire Olin campus is wired as an ethernet network and students are required to have laptops, Slaboden said the school is a perfect fit for LaundryView.
And students are happy too.
"LaundryView is nice because not only can you easily check the laundry rooms on all four floors, but you can also see how many people are waiting to be notified about available washers and dryers," said student Sarah Oliver via e-mail.
"I personally like [it]," said Frances Haugen, now in her second year. "It might be a little gimmicky, but I often forget when I put my laundry in and come back three hours later and my stuff is on the floor."
And what about finding quarters to feed the machines?
As the school works to install electronic card readers to accept student "smart cards," now used to pay for meals in the campus dining hall, it is also looking into Mac-Gray's electronically controlled laundry detergent dispensers. For now, though, students still have to raid vending machines to collect the 10 quarters to do a single load and lug that box of soap.
As says this Mac-Gray page, "study in the library, not in the laundry room."
Sources: Christina Pazzanese, The Boston Globe, February 8, 2004; and various websites