THE TECHNOLOGY COMPANIES ARE finally starting to get it: Except for the hardcore geeks—who always have to have the latest gear—many homeowners are looking for technology that will help make basic household tasks easier.
A couple of years ago, the Internet Home Alliance (IHA) worked with about 20 families in Boston on Mealtime, a pilot project focused on helping families with meal preparation. This year, the IHA took on Laundry Time, which uses wireless washers and dryers, a Windows Media Center server, plasma TVs, and cell phones to streamline the laundry process for working parents with children.
The pilot programs involved six families each in the Seattle and Atlanta metro regions earlier this year. Each family lives in a single-family home, with both a mother and father, at least two children under 18, and a total household income in excess of $75,000. The families also are “Active Balancers,” defined by Whirlpool as homeowners who save all of the laundry for one day a week, sometimes doing as many as 6.5 loads on that day.
“What we're looking to do is to develop a smart home that meets the needs of everyday moms and dads,” says Tim Woods, IHA's vice president of ecosystem development.
Woods says that when systems such as Laundry Time become more commercially available, builders will have practical applications they can sell that will justify investing in structured wiring, Ethernet networks, and wireless access points.
Here are three examples of how a homeowner might use Laundry Time:
“What I find is that when I work from home and do several loads of laundry, it helps to get the alerts on the computer,” says Lisa Gunning, whose family tested Laundry Time in Roswell, Ga. Gunning and her husband, Bruce, have three boys, ages 21, 19, and 12.
“On odd days when I just do one load at night, getting the alerts on the TV is great,” she says. “Even if I'm not watching TV, one of the kids will come and remind me.”
Along with Whirlpool, which supplied the wireless washers and dryers, Cingular provided the cell phones; the Windows Media Center machines were Hewlett-Packards; Microsoft developed the Laundry Time software application and the Media Center platform; Panasonic supplied the televisions; and Procter & Gamble provided consumer research and focus group facilities.
Visit www.internethomealliance.com for more information.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Atlanta, GA.