Why you might want a Weightless washing machineMarch 24, 2013
There have been many visions of connected household devices – often fridges – but little deployment to date. Indeed, so little has happened that the idea of a connected appliance is more likely to be treated as a joke than a serious initiative.
Let’s pick a lowly appliance – say the washing machine – and ask why there might be benefits of connectivity and then just how it might be achieved. Of course, washing machines function perfectly well without being connected, but might they do better? For example, on first turn on a machine could automatically set the water hardness level based on its location, reducing hard water problems over time. Over its lifetime as new washing powders are introduced its programs could be updated accordingly. Vibration sensors on the machine could detect bearing wear and flow sensors could detect pipe blockages and this information could be passed back to the manufacturer for action as needed, and for improvement of future designs. Auto-activation systems could allow the machine to be run at times of low energy cost, or for those with solar panels when the sun is shining. Sadly, it probably can’t yet do the ironing but there are likely many other useful features.
So a communications link could be useful. But equally, it could be very annoying if it doesn’t work or is intermittent. A washing machine set up to use cheap electricity that then doesn’t run overnight because the home Wi-Fi was turned off so it was out of communications of the grid would soon be returned. Indeed, making use of a home network is probably too complex and unworkable. How, for example, would you ensure the washing machine is connected to the right Wi-Fi base station and then enter the right password? What happens when the router is replaced? And will there be Wi-Fi coverage in the utility room of the house? Or indeed, will it be one of the 30% or so of homes that don’t have a Wi-Fi system at all?
So to make sense, the wireless solution needs to be cheap and free of any user intervention. This is where Weightless comes in. With $2 module costs the impact on the washing machine price is minimal and soon saved through using cheaper electricity. With direct connectivity back to a network and onto the manufacturer it is independent of any user-owned network. And the low data volumes – perhaps just a few tens of bytes each time the machine is run – mean the cost of data provision is trivial. Next it’ll be that fridge….This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. ← A defining moment – the first chipset emerges Ofcom’s co-existence consultation →