Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Clever Idea 

Sometimes the best PR ideas are the simplest. Here is one that caught my attention in the past week that is brilliant. It is a webcam and software system that lets college students know if a laundry room is full of students doing their wash. This solves an longstanding problem of students lined up with baskets full of dirty underwear and socks waiting their turn with exams looming in the morning.

The outfit that thought of this idea is a company in Cambridge, MA that installs and runs laundry rooms nationwide in 400 colleges and universities. The company used a web browser that allows students to go online and check every laundry room in the vicinity. The name of the service is called, appropriately, "Laundryview." Added to this service is software that tells the operational status of every machine in a room -- broken, operating, in use and in what cycle, if in use. And, the system will e-mail a student when the student's laundry is done so the student can retrieve it. (How many remember finding their laundry dumped on a table or the floor because they didn't get it out of a machine fast enough?)

The system works because the company can connect it right into a university's broadband communications system, which every institution of higher learning has these days. According to the news story I read, some students open a little window on their laptops while studying so they can keep an eye on the laundry room. The next step for the company is to get rid of quarters for washing machines and dryers and to move to electronic payment cards that tie to debit cards students use in universities now.

What do I find this interesting? The problem of waiting in line is as old as a college laundry room. It is one of those annoyances that students adjusted to because they thought it could never be fixed. This company with an eye to public relations and customer service has potentially solved the problem once and for all. Ideas like this are good business and great PR.


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