The SMS-Enabled Laundromat

Laundrymat - taken w/Nokia N8
Whenever I go to the laundromat, I get these thoughts about relevant mobility which seem to make more and more sense the longer I read this dribble about social and search. So what’s up with this latest idea? Well, it’s got to do with mobile payments, location-based services, and a little bit of fun with sms.

The normal situation with a laundromat is that the person brings their clothes, sometimes goes to a change machine, and finds a machine that’s not in use. Then there is this idle time while you wait, usually with the background noise of a TV or radio. When your machine beeps, and you are around to hear it, you move your clothes to the dryer, and go about waiting again.

Sounds like something where going mobile could really make some sense. Here’s my thoughts of what could be.

The laundromat owner is given an incentive feel with local carriers through the local chamber of commerce to purchase a shortcode specific to that establishment (for example, 123-11L-0001 – city-specific area code, prefix, and laundromat number 001; in order of when they registered for this). The number is tied to a direct response system where the sender might dial 123-11L-0001 and get a voice recording of hours or wait times. Send a text to that number and they get hours of operation and number of machines not in use as a response.

Oh yea, washer and dryer machines would be connected to that trunk. Will explain more and you’ll see why.

Once you show up there, you don’t use change, but you use a text to pay system for each machine. Going back to our number, you send a text to 123-11L-0001 and in the body you put the number of the machine (10) and then the number of minutes you want our cycle (washers usually run in cycles, dryers in minutes), and the temp (hot/cold, high, medium, etc). The string works look like this:

  • Send message to 123-11L-0001
  • Get message “open today till 9pm, currently 10 washers and 11 dryers available”
  • Send message to 123-11L-0001
  • Message body contains “W10, regular, warm/warm”
  • Get confirmation message “you’ve chosen washer 10, regular load with warm wash and warm rinse cycle; your machine will start in 5min, please make sure you have loaded the detergent you want to use; you will be charged $3. Reply YES to confirm”
  • 2 min before the cycle ends you get the text “your wash cycle for machine 10 will conclude in 2 min, please respond with the dryer number, cycle, and minutes you would like to use next. Reply STOP to not use any other machines at this facility”

So many times, we just take out our mobile, and fiddle around with games and such, and there’s more to do with it. Its nothing more than doing laundry. And to those who already see there’s no need for coinage, this not only make sense, but it just feels a touch empowering.

Yes, there’s a lot of moving parts here. But, what would happen if we moved them all together? What would happen if we took the folks who most use their mobiles, and these laundry machines, and gave them a bit of the mobile revolution that seems to usually be in the hands of those who shop dry clean only?