Guest post by Colin Houghton
NXP Semiconductors, the co-inventor of NFC technology, has used the “Embedded World” 2012 exhibition in Germany, to show off what it believes could be the next generation in kitchen appliances – a super-smart washing machine that’s NFC and RFID-enabled.
What that mean then?? NFC = Near Field Communication. It is a set of standards for smartphones and similar devices (such as washing machines!) to establish radio communication with each other by touching them together or bringing them into close proximity, usually no more than a few centimetres- although distances are growing… RFID = Radio Frequency Identification- a smarter successor to the ubiquitous barcode.
The device is full of new tech and features, most notably the ability to recognise what fabrics you put in it and then chose a washing programme to suit. It can read RFID-tagged buttons on each item in the washing pile, which tell the machine the exact fabric properties. The appliance then judges whether it needs to set a washing pattern for colours, whites or something in between. It can also tell if something needs more delicate care. I guess that’s ok as long as you don’t try to put in delicate materials that are prone for the colours to run along with whites- but then you wouldn’t have done that with a non-smart washing machine anyway!
In addition, in-built NFC allows a service engineer to talk to the device through his/her mobile phone. They can perform diagnostics, change its status, upgrade firmware and even launch an app that communicates directly with the manufacturer’s service centre. The next thing is you’ll begin to wonder whether if there is a little man or woman inside telling you what to do- a sort of Washday Terminator.
Where can you buy one? Nowhere. Yet. NXP’s smart washing machine is only a proof of concept at present, with no word on a consumer release. After all, the fabric detection functionality will only work if clothes manufacturers and fashion retailers sign deals to add RFID-tagged buttons to their garments. But it’s still a great idea that deserves to be taken forward.
There’s also the Samsung WF457 washing machine that can be controlled via a smartphone. That is expected to hit stores anytime now, in the US initially. Unveiled in Las Vegas (err… the washing machine capital of the States?? Maybe all that Bourbon spilt on white tuxedos!) this is washing machine that integrates mobile technology to tell you your wash is done via a smartphone application.
Using wi-fi technology, the washing machine possesses a “Smart Control System” that the Samsung says will “streamline the laundry process.”
So what does this “smart” washing machine do exactly? Here we go…
• Uses a wireless router and a smartphone app to tell consumers their wash is done through a phone alert
• Allows consumers to remotely control their wash, such as a restart or pause, even if they are not at home
• Monitor cycle selections
• Eliminates need for user manuals, it diagnoses washer problems and sends alerts to the owner’s smartphone
The washer also has a large capacity and is being marketed as more efficient, with 25% shorter wash cycle time and up to 70% less water use.
Samsung is also promoting this product as a time-saving measure. You don’t need to keep going back to the kitchen or utility room to see whether the washing cycle has finished.
Consumers interested in buying Samsung’s smarter washing machine can expect to see the appliance in major retails stores come this spring. No price tag has been stated, but the word on the streets is that this won’t sell for less than 1000$. We’ll see.
I guess there’ll come a time when all white appliances will be totally joined up and talk to one-another, like Wallace and Gromit meet the Jetsons…