Smart washing machines…is there a real need?

The other evening our 86-year old neighbour, who lives by herself, asked for help with her 18-month old washing machine. She’d pressed a button accidentally, panicked, and pressed other buttons randomly too. As a result, the clothes were in the drum with the door locked, and the machine was dormant with red symbols flashing on its display panel.

The Badger quickly diagnosed the problem from the flashing symbols. It was nothing serious; she’d accidently set a delay, so the machine was dormant waiting to start it’s cycle an hour and a half later. Resetting the timer triggered the washer into life, and the Badger was lauded as a hero!

Yesterday the Badger happened to be in a computing and electrical retailer’s showroom and came across the latest examples of ‘smart’ washing machines. Prices are high (£70-1500) but you can control the machine via the internet using an app on your smart phone. Prices will inevitably drop, but the Badger wondered if anyone really needs a washing machine more sophisticated than the much cheaper norm that his neighbour has. Marketers push the case for smart anything in a connected world, and – of course – the technology can provide smart capability, but do you really need a smart washing machine, and will it really make your clothes cleaning experience any easier?

The Badger’s dubious that the answer is yes! Perhaps the Badger’s just a dinosaur? No, just someone that believes smart technology should, first and foremost, address real life needs, and the need doesn’t look persuasive. Those under 25, of course, may really believe there’s a need for smart washing machines because they’ve grown up with the internet, personal computing devices, games consoles, and mobile phones as the norm. Obesity, however, is generally rising in this age group across the developed world, with sedentary lifestyles one of many causal factors. Perhaps our youngsters need to ask themselves if smart white goods will help them to more healthy lifestyles, or just encourage the opposite? A provocative thought perhaps…but just because technology can do things doesn’t mean it should.

This morning the Badger checked on his neighbour and her washing machine. She’s put bright stickers on some of the buttons to help her avoid a repeat of the same situation. She grumbled about the ‘unintelligible’ symbols displayed on her 18-month old machine, and the Badger mentioned, in passing, that smart washing machines were including more technology. A bad move. She looked at the Badger, grimaced, and just said ‘When will people realise that too much of a good thing is bad for you’. She has a point…

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