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Reuters reported that IBM is rolling out new technology that may be powerful enough to stop college students from bringing laundry home to mom and dad for the weekend. The system is called eSuds and it was developed by IBM and USA Technologies. Instead of the usual chasing all over to find quarters, this new system allows students to swipe a credit card or punch a code into their cell phones to pay for the washing machines or clothes dryers.
I haven’t seen the technology but I suspect it is similar to an IBM prototype developed a few years ago for softdrink vending machines. It used an Intel 486 processor on a card running Linux and Web serversoftware. By providing a Web interface, students can check for washers and dryers that are not busy, they can activate dispensers of soap and fabric softener, and receive an email when the clothes are ready.
IBM and USA Technologies said they are connecting 9,000 washing machines and dryers at U.S. colleges and universities. Dean Douglas, a vice president at IBM Global Services said that the students “just loved it”. A company that owns laundry machines at colleges in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Kentucky will install the machines during the fall semester. The owners will benefit from the Internet enablement too. They will be able to monitor machine performance, do some basic maintenance and check usage online. The chance of vandalism is also cut down because no cash is sitting in the machine. Owners should also see their revenues up as students are more likely to do their laundry if they don’t have to kill time between cycles.
IBM Global Services will host the eSuds transaction data and Web sites and integrate the technology that handles inventory, payment authorization and reports. USA provides the cashless technology, which was also developed by IBM.