Checking the laundry room every five minutes for an open machine will soon be an act of the past for college campuses installing e-Suds systems, which will allow students to check availability without leaving their rooms. A virtual laundry room will provide information on how many machines are open or when they will be available.

Paul Wong
LSA sophomores Julienne Echavari, Jennifer Caldwell and Nicole Johnson do laundry in West Quad. A new feature on laundry facilities in residence halls would allow students to check the status of their laundry from their computers.

The e-Suds system, which was piloted last semester at Boston College, makes the idea of having to carry coins, correct change or even detergent to do wash obsolete. Instead, they will swipe identification cards, input PIN numbers via cell phones and select the detergent of their choice from the machine.

Students can leave the laundry, head home and wait for a call, page or e-mail to let them know when their laundry is done. And if a student should forget the fabric softener, a click of the mouse will add it in.

In the near future, about 9,000 e-Suds machines, a project of IBM and USA Technologies, should be rolling out in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, though University officials said they are unsure whether e-Suds will be implemented on campus.

“A lot of schools are very interested in this because it takes vandalism out of the equation,” IBM Wireless Services spokeswoman Jan Walbridge said. “Then there’s no money in the machines, no reason to break into them. And vandalism can cost the vending industry as much as $500 million a year and that doesn’t even count repairing or replacing the machines once they’ve been broken into. That’s just the money in the machines.”

Roger Overturf, director of public relations at Cedarville University in Ohio said the purchase of 150 e-Suds machines was another way to make the most of the school’s investment in technology around campus.

“We had the wiring and technology to make this happen. It was just a matter of buying and plugging in the machines,” he said. “It was an obvious way for us to take what already existed on campus and enhance it for the direct benefit of the students.”

He added that while some schools may not have the technological infrastructure to support such a system, the choice was clear for Cedarville.

“It was a really easy decision for us,” he said. “There probably aren’t a lot of laundry rooms around the country that are Internet-connected.

Many students at the University of Michigan said they would like to see laundry go online, as the benefits could save both time and energy in already busy lives.

“I live on the 4th floor and the washer’s in the basement,” LSA freshman Brian Peterson said. “It’s a lot of stairs.”

He added that he likes the idea of not having to wait around for an empty machine or keep checking back when he could look online instead.

“It’s a pain to go up and down every time I want to know if there’s a washer available, and then you don’t have to waste your time hanging around the washing area where it’s 300 degrees,” he said of living in East Quad Residence Hall.

Engineering junior Milind Chinoy said while he likes the idea of being able to “sit in my apartment and see how my clothes are doing,” he also has some concerns over the idea.

“You couldn’t possibly get any lazier than if you have to have a machine call your cell phone and tell you to change your load,” he said. “And I’m not sure it’s going to be updated quickly enough to matter. It could be open now but in five seconds someone could take it.”

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