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Laundry Monitoring to Go Online for All Dormitories

By Kevin Der

Random Hall’s decade-old, student-built laundry monitoring system may have been the first of its kind, but the rest of MIT’s dormitories are about to catch up.

A new system to be implemented over the coming months will allow MIT students to use the internet to find out whether laundry machines are free before carrying their clothes to the wash.

LaundryView, already in place at schools such as Tufts University and Boston College, is an online system that allows users to view the availability of washers and dryers. Students can also use the system to receive e-mails or instant messages notifying them when machines are free and when their laundry is done. The cost of doing laundry will remain 75 cents per load, said Dennis J. Collins, assistant director of operations at MIT Housing.

Eastgate, East Campus, and Senior House will be receiving the LaundryView system by the middle of April, Collins said. The system will be integrated in all remaining dormitories, excluding Random Hall (which operates its own laundry machines), by the end of the summer, he said.

With LaundryView, a student uses the Web site to check the availability of each washer and dryer, including the amount of time remaining for a machine in use. Additionally, the student can receive an e-mail or instant message notification via computer, cell phone, or personal digital assistant when a certain number of machines become available or when the student’s laundry is finished.

The usefulness of LaundryView will likely vary across different dormitories. Simmons Hall, for example, has several different laundry rooms spread throughout the dormitory, each containing two washers and two dryers. Sebastian Castro ’08, a Simmons resident, said the first laundry room he tries “is full every time I do laundry” and that LaundryView would “save a lot of time walking across the dorm to find a machine.”

East Campus, on the other hand, has one laundry room with over a dozen washers and a dozen dryers. Ashlie M. Brown ’07 said she “has never gone down to the laundry room and not been able to use it.” Brown said receiving a notification when laundry was done would be useful even though it can be kept track of by watching the clock.

LaundryView is part of a bundled upgrade of the system that allows students to pay for laundry using their MIT identification card. The cost of maintaining the existing, outdated system increases every year, Collins said. Though the new system will also cost more than the current one, the upgrade will be cheaper than the rising maintenance costs by about 1 percent, he said.

Dormitory governments currently receive a percentage of the laundry revenue, a percentage that will slightly decrease as a result of the upgrade, though Collins said he did not know the exact number.

Random Hall will not use LaundryView because it owns, operates, and maintains its laundry machines independently. As such, Random laundry costs only 25 cents, one third the cost of laundry in other dorms. Two-thirds of Random’s laundry revenue is returned to the dormitory government, according to Brad A. Stronger ’08, a laundry chair at Random. Random’s laundry server provides much of the same basic functionality as LaundryView.

According to the Random Hall Web site, at one point a company threatened legal action against Random and “tried to patent the idea of a laundry server out from under us years after we built ours.”

The Random Hall system uses photoresistors to monitor LED’s that indicate the state a machine is in, Stronger said. Students are not legally allowed to modify laundry machines at other dorms because those machines are not owned by MIT, Collins said.