Washing machines and dryers have evolved quite a bit over the last few decades. First, there were slide-out trays for quarters, then easier-to-load coin drop trays, then the so-called Value Transfer Machines (now prevalent in New York buildings) that allow users to top up their laundry smart cards with bills or credit cards, rather than carry a pocketful of change.
The next stage in laundry innovation? Mobile.
Washing-machine manufacturers will soon offer customers the chance to refill and track laundry balances with smartphones.
In the next few years, "everything is going mobile--eliminating reliance on cash and credit cards," predicts Seth Breitman of laundry vendor SEBCO Laundry Systems, which sets up laundry rooms in residential buildings in the city.
While, for the most part, these kinds of payments are in the very beginning stages, many laundry vendors already offer customers certain mobile amenities, mostly in the form of free apps that alert them via text or email when their cycle is done or machines become available.
Just last year, Hercules, another vendor that installs laundry rooms in New York City buildings, unrolled a touch-screen that's designed to streamline the repair process, called the Hercules Smart Center. It's being added to all their new laundry rooms.
When a laundry room user types in that a machine isn't working, "there's a double notification. An alert gets sent to our operations center and to a technician in the area," says Mark Eisler, vice president of sales at Hercules.
"We find that 75 percent of service calls that don't get taken care of quickly are a result of no one actually calling in the problem," Eisler adds. "The Smart Center makes it easy to call in a problem and see what the current status is. Washers are not sitting unplugged for two days."
The screens also show residents which machines are out of service, as well as the status of any repairs underway; and they provide immediate refunds when a machine malfunctions after taking someone's money.
So how close are we to locking and reserving machines with a swipe before leaving our apartments? "The industry is not quite there yet," says Eisler.