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Smart Appliances: IoT and the Laundry

While there has been an ongoing battle for the living room among media companies (essentially who will dominate consumer content), there is an even greater competition to outfit the smart home. Advances in IoT technology have created a lucrative scenario where any appliance, even electric toothbrushes, is fair game for smart enablement. And the low barriers to entry and massive, untapped home/apartment marketplace mean tremendous opportunities for providers, large and small.

In this blog well look at the most mundane of chores, getting clothes clean, and how IoT is redefining how people do laundry.

Wash away the blues

In Victorian days, it took nearly three days just to complete the family wash, and that was with the help of servants. Thanks to IoT technology, homeowners today barely have to participate in the washing/drying process at all.

Using a smart phone or the machines controls, preset parameters are programmed into the system. These can include things such as energy savings (time of day, cold versus hot/warm water), urgency (activate once clothes are loaded or begin at a certain time), and various alerts (when clothes are done, when are the optimal energy usage times, or if something other than clothes is detected in the machine).


Clothes then are simply loaded into an appliance, detergent is added, and the washer does the rest. The smart machine can detect the type of clothes (whites, colors, specialized), the exact amount of detergent needed based on load, and even the best cycle to employ based on how soiled the load is. The machine also can send notifications if an issue occurs (power outage, unbalanced load), if mold is detected (common to frontloading washers), or any number of other predefined issues.

More advanced machines can take on more work. Homeowners simply load all the laundry into the appliance and leave. The machine knows the load size and type, adds the appropriate amount of detergent, then washes and dries to completion. It can stop and start itself during a cycle if hot/warm water is needed for other uses (such as people showering), as well as take other corrective action if the power is cut off or a mechanical issue arises. This reduces ruined loads that must be rewashed, and can prevent damage to delicate fabrics. Once a cycle is finished, the system sends a notification that the laundry is complete, and can escalate the alerts if the contents are immediately needed (such as a family about to leave on vacation). In the interim, the machine can initiate anti-wrinkle measures, such as frequent tumbling or steam, until the load is removed.

Smart standalone dyers can do their part as well. Once loaded, the machine instantly can notify the user of the exact completion time thanks to moisture and weight detectors. If there is an issue during a cycleclothes that get caught in a sheet and cant be effectively dried, for exampleand the machine cant remedy the problem on its own, an alert is generated. Such alerts can include specific details, such as how many trapped clothing articles still need drying and which articles will be dry first (if a certain item is needed more than others). The system can eliminate a major cause of home disastersfires caused by overloaded lint traps. An alert is generated if the trap is not cleaned after each load, or the dryer can refuse to operate without a clean trap.

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In addition, the washer and dryer can talk with other appliances in the home to determine priorities of operation via an electronic auction. For example, if the combined washing/drying process consumes the most energy, it would run at the most energy-efficient time, as dictated by the utility, thereby enabling less energy-intensive devices to bid for remaining times. Or if clothes were a priority, then the laundry process would outbid all other devices for priority status. The system takes into account each devices total energy requirements, and can even distribute power unevenly to maximize efficiency. For example, if an electric car needed six hours total of chargingbut not consecutive hoursit could receive sporadic charging priority versus a washing machine that cannot stop and start once in use. This constant behind-the-scenes bidding ensures the homeowner always achieves the lowest energy bills possible, and that every device is operating at peak efficiency.

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