- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 24, 2005

College students, who traditionally don’t mind a little slovenliness, are getting high-tech help with their laundry.

An online laundry system, spreading on campuses nationwide, has been installed in nine of the residence halls with laundry facilities at American University in Northwest Washington.

The system, connected to all of the university’s 283 new washers and dryers, enables students to check via the Internet whether and when an appliance is available.

“It’s nice because students can pull up the status of the laundry room and better schedule their time,” says Julie Weber, executive director for housing and dining programs.

The laundry system, called E-Suds.net, tracks the use of the washers and dryers, informing students when a washer is done with a load or how much time is left in a washing or drying cycle.

E-suds tells the 3,300 students in American University’s dorms when their laundry loads are done through a text message to a cell phone or a personal digital assistant (PDA) or through e-mail.

The company estimates that 120,000 U.S. college students at a dozen universities will be able to use the system during the fall semester.

Only a handful of universities in the Washington and Baltimore region offer a similar service. Officials at the University of Maryland, Georgetown University, Howard University, George Washington University and George Mason University have no plans to offer the service this semester.

So far, the reaction from American University students, who started classes Friday, has been “ecstatic,” Mrs. Weber says. “It was one of the services that got the biggest response during orientation this summer.”

USA Technologies Inc., the Malvern, Pa., technology company that provides E-Suds, says demand for the service has spread among college campuses since it was introduced last year.

“It’s an interesting phenomenon that a lot of students have embraced,” says Wendy Jenkins, vice president for marketing.

USA Technologies won’t say what the system costs, but Ms. Jenkins says the system has not increased the cost of laundry for students.

The company last month reported $1.4 million in sales in preliminary results for its fiscal fourth quarter.

Mac-Gray Corp., a Cambridge, Mass., operator of card-and-coin-operated laundry facilities at U.S. colleges, offers a similar product, LaundryView, at 60 universities.

The company started offering LaundryView at the beginning of the year and plans to have it available in the more than 500 university laundry facilities that it operates during the next two to three years.

“What we’ve heard from students is it saves them a lot of time, especially for students who live in big dorms and don’t want to wait around for their laundry to get done,” says marketing manager Nicole Panas.

Mac-Gray expects its revenue for the year to reach $245 million to $260 million, the company said in its most recent financial report.

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