Keeping attires clean is a non-perishable chore, be it the next decade or a century. Use-and-throw dressing, perhaps, is more unrealistic than futuristic. This means the age-old washing machine has a long way to go. It’s a machine with a future.
Washing clothes consumes time and energy. The need encouraged mechanization, the first manual followed by the introduction of electric machines. Technologically, many features got added over the years. The washing machines of today have umpteen features which make these extraordinary in the domain. Erstwhile washer communities have now been replaced by public laundry services start-ups.
The machines of the present
Leading brands are pitching features that promise better washing. Better designed, in attractive colours, a washing machine is no longer a boring gadget, as it used to be. The control panels, capacity, motion during wash, are all being tackled better. The care for fabric, low level of noise during operation, the quantity of water used, are other features being put forth. Post-pandemic, companies are also competing at talking hygiene. The washed clothes are claimed to be free from infection-spreading germs.
While the features by most manufacturers overlap, there’s one aspect that can help a washing machine stand out as futuristic – is it smart? New models are Wi-Fi enabled and it’s possible to operate these using an app on your mobile phone. Embedding AI control is also being explored to give users a more personalized experience.
World over, designers and engineers have projected what they feel is the washing machine of the future. To understand the trends better, we asked analysts, brands, and visionaries what they feel. For readers, may we mention, that our query didn’t elicit any response from two washing machine manufacturers of repute, in India. Perhaps, there’s not much innovation to share? Well, we also received some exciting responses from stakeholders who are keenly observing the washing machine space. We share (abridged) responses, here.
Satyajit Sinha, senior analyst, IOT Analytics, said: “Washing machines are usually seen as a household product. However, many regions like the US, EU, and China are largely dependent on community-washing machines (public laundry market). Further, recently, in the age of the connected world, we have seen a huge development in these community washing machine centres. Now, these public laundry centres are becoming hassle-free.”
“One of the key examples is from Konka, a Chinese home appliance manufacturer. They are embedding Quectel’s NB-IoT connectivity Module within these machines. This allows users to control it through smartphones. After scanning the QR code printed on the washing machine, users can select different washing modes, place an order, pay the bill online and start the machine. Besides, consumers can search nearby available washing machines and make a reservation online to avoid spending time checking whether there are idle devices,” Sinha said.
Further commenting on the concept of smart home appliances, he said: “In India, the concept of smart home appliances is very niche. Still, we have seen several brands launch smart washing machines embedded with non-cellular technology for consumer household purposes. One of the major roadblocks that we can overcome is creating awareness of these applications and their benefit.”
Neeraj Bahl, MD & CEO, BSH Home Appliances, said: “Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are now creating a new ecosystem of constant engagement and consumption. Hence, home automation is on a rise.”
“We have introduced a user-centric approach in our product development and we collaborate with designers, engineers and sales experts on innovations through AI that invigorate and ensure better quality of life in harmony with the environment. Consumers can now enhance luxury experience by offering the integration with appliances connected via our Home Connect ecosystem that will allow them to request a higher premium for their projects. Appliances like washing machines, freezers, refrigerators, ovens, hoods, ranges and dryers fall under the Home Connect ecosystem. One can assume that smart homes/home automation may soon become the ‘New Normal’ and with the increase in demand, there is a vast scope of innovation and efficiency of this technology,” Bahl further added.
Commenting on the same, Rafiq Somani, area vice president, India and South Asia Pacific, Ansys, told The Electronics: “With the consumer appliance industry expected to double by 2025, the future is ‘smart’ and ‘connected’ and involves washing machines that can be operated remotely using smartphones. Some of the latest advancements include eco-check, automatic detergent dispensing, safety features, variable speed motor, auto-optimal wash, power-wash system, steam-care function, self-cleaning elements, spin-shower program, tri-roto scrub pulsator and in-built cartridge lint filter among others.”
He added: “Engineering simulation is helping manufacturers reduce the design cycle time and bring these future-ready products into the market faster. Simulation aids designers to evaluate alternatives and to refine designs early in the process cycle when it is least costly to make changes.”