This may well be the digital age's response to the Rube Goldberg machine: The Atlanta-based Internet Home Alliance is showing a WiFi-equipped washing machine. Needless to say, the name "washing machine" is too 20th-century. The new machine is called Laundry Time System. The system is outfit with WiFi and it allows users to control the machine--temperature, cycle, laundry type, etc.--remotely, using email, instant messaging or cell phone.
The system can automatically alert you when the washing or drying cycles have been completed. The designers of the machine calls it a revolutionary step forward in laundry handling, except that they admit that equipping the machine with WiFi has not solved the basic issue: The laundry owner must still load and unload the washer and dryer. Partly because of this problem, the first installations are expected no in public Laundromats, but rather in homes--big homes--where, owing to the size of the home, the homeowner may not hear the buzzer announcing the the washing or drying cycles are over.
Although the trials of the new system are underwritten by some big names--Whirlpool, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Panasonic and Procter & Gamble--there are critics who remain skeptical. Analyst Laura Champine, for one, calls it a solution in search of a problem.