On August 9, 1910, 101 years ago to the day, the U.S. Patent Office granted Alva J. Fisher of the Hurley Machine Co. a patent for an electrically powered washing machine.
In recent years, the washing machine has been transformed from a utilitarian appliance to a tweeting, texting, mobile-friendly and Internet-connected addition to the digital home.
We saw a few clever washing machine hacks, inspired by Twitter, introduced between 2007 and 2009. At CES, manufacturers such as LG teased audiences with the notion of a smart home, where appliances would talk to each other and the web. Some of these washers are just now becoming available for consumer purchase.
What’s next in the evolution of the washing machine? With Wi-Fi prevalent in homes and social media the preoccupation du jour, should we expect to see washers, dryers and other in-home appliances become sophisticated extensions of our digital obsessions? Or is this a fad that will fade with time? Chime in with your thoughts in the comments.
Laundry Room Twitter Bot
Roland Crosby created the @laundryroom Twitter bot in early 2007 during his freshman year in college. The bot spoke on behalf of a laundry room, at Needham, Massachusetts’ Franklin W. Olin College, with two washers, two dryers and a condom dispenser — it would update followers on the availability of each machine.
As of 2010, Crosby’s bot has ceased to update followers, but the creation did get ample press mentions and was mentioned in conjunction with other sensor-based applications at the heart of the web 2.0 movement by Tim O’Reilly at the Web 2.0 Expo in 2008.
The Washing Machine Hack
In 2009, Ryan Rose made headlines for his Washing Machine Twitter Hack.
Rose’s replicable machination calls for a network port, BS2 Stamp, 9 volt power inverter and a limit switch to detect wash mode. When added to a washer (an old Maytag model in Rose’s case), the end result is an automatic way of getting notified by tweet that your laundry is done.
Rose’s washer @PiMPY3WASH is, to this day, still updating the world via Twitter with each completed load.
The Internet-connected washer of tomorrow promises those with a penchant for digital and social behaviors a way to get more function out of their appliances, without the need to hack or modify the machines on their own.
LG demonstrated the potential of connected appliances with a preview of its THINQ line and futuristic home appliance strategy at CES in 2011. The product line proposed to offer homeowners a way to manage their appliances via PC, tablet and mobile applications.
“This year will be the beginning of a new era of home appliances. By that I mean that we have reached the tipping point where appliances are now run entirely by CPUs and computer code,” Young-ha Lee, president and CEO of LG’s Home Appliance Company said at the time. “Just as automobiles became rolling computers a decade ago, home appliances are experiencing the same transformation.”
Now, LG’s Smart Washing Machine, model FR4349BAYZ, is making its debut in Korea. The machine allows users to monitor and control the appliance via an Android application. The device is expected to be released in more markets before the end of the year.