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Cloudwashing

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A couple of weeks back in CIRED I participated in a roundtable discussion concerning smart energy usage at home. Although the whole event was primarily geared towards high voltage utility people among large ABB, Siemens and Vattenfall booths, these roundtables inspired many visionary but surprisingly practical ideas.

One of them was the cloud-based washing machine, which I contemplated with Electrolux, the famous Swedish appliance maker. One of their problems is that when manufacturing products with a lifespan of 25+ years, it is increasingly difficult to find e.g. color LCD displays and switch knobs with the same durability and guarantees. 

One way to overcome this is to outsource the whole user interface to the customers’ device, being his/her phone, tablet or any other connected browser. The physical washing machine just has Ethernet or WiFi connectivity and a simple fail-safe logic that is continuously updated from Electrolux’s cloud service. 

The user interface (UI) dilemma is now solved and manufacturing costs slashed. This is all good, but suddenly the cloud offers an arsenal of new opportunities – how about measuring water pH, temperatures and outgoing dirt content accurately and adapting the washing program accordingly, using data from millions of connected washing machines? Furthermore, clothes could have permanent NFC/RFID tags informing the machine of temperature and other restrictions. Programs tailored for specific detergents? 

The cloud easily has a thousand times the computing and storage capacity available, as opposed to a hardened, embedded processor in a household machine. Like Xboxes and PlayStations, these machines need a continuous cloud access with smart offline capabilities in case connectivity is lost. Doable, and this eventually rids us from those hieroglyphic UIs at current washing machines. 

//Pasi

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