Washing machine app
I used to live in a dormitory with 1000 residents and a grand total of 10 washing machines. Finding a free washer was usually a challenge.
So naturally, I resorted to creating an app to help with just that.
A little background
The Schönherz dormitory has 20 floors, making it the eleventh tallest building in Budapest as of publication. 17 of those floors are residential, each one holding 16 four-person rooms.
There are 4 elevators, which is decent but not plenty.
Taking the elevator for less than 3 floors down or 2 floors up is discouraged.
The public washing machines are, for the most part, spaced out evenly between floors.
You can see this on the sketch of the building below – I've highlighted the windows where a laundry room can be found.
If you want to wash your clothes, your best bet is to start at the highest level with a laundry room and then go floor to floor until you reach a free machine.
In my experience, you have to check out an average of 5 washing machines before you find a free one.
But wait: elevators are reserved for longer journeys – this means you're going to have to take the stairs. (Technically, you could zig-zag your way around the floors to be eligible for using the elevator, but by doing so, you would defeat the purpose of that rule.)
In short, if you want to do the laundry in the dorm, you're likely in for some serious stair-climbing.
Washing machine status app to the rescue?
Apparently, others have also noticed this.
The dorm's group of IT wizards and electronics enthusiasts have already made an almost-real-time online status display for the washing machines.
I applaud their effort, but I've had couple of problems with this system:
- By the time you pick a machine and approach it, someone else might have already started filling it with their laundry.
- The current status of each machine is displayed, but not the remaining time of occupied ones.
- Sometimes, the status displayed by the app is wrong.
By looking at the status display app, you can get a rough idea of which floors are worth checking out, but you might still end up traversing the whole building not having found a free machine.
It would be nice if the effort of climbing all those stairs didn't go to waste.
By visiting the occupied washing machines, you can learn how much time is left in their current program.
You could take a notepad with you and jot down the remaining times,
then review them once you've returned to your room.
However, that sounds like a little too much work.
But what if all you had to do was enter a couple of numbers into a mobile app?
This is a progressive web app. You can open it in a browser on your phone, and even use it offline (handy while hopping between floors in a concrete building).
The name translates to 'big wash', and the 'SCH' bit is just short for 'Schönherz' (the dormitory's name).
Here's how it works:
- Pick a floor and enter it into the app using the numeric keypad.
- Check the washing machine on that floor. If it's occupied, enter how long until the program finishes (in minutes).
- The floor's number is added to the list in the app, along with the time of completion.
The list shows all the machines you've checked so far, starting with the one that finishes the soonest.
2 minutes before a machine finishes, its entry will start to glow yellow and you will get a notification. Then, once the program terminates, the machine is removed from the list.
You can try the app here.
I have tested it while I was living in the dorm, and it has done me good service. I'm not sure why I waited 2 years before releasing it publicly – I guess it's just one of those things.