Washlava is the world’s first app-enabled laundromat that makes quarters and cash a thing of the past. Combining patent-pending machine-integrated technology and a mobile app, Washlava allows customers to reserve and pay for machines from their smartphones, and laundromats to monitor, track, and control their entire deployment remotely.
Washlava’s founder Todd Belveal originally bought a laundromat as an investment property a couple years ago. Before they could renovate, the laundromat was robbed. Because 80% of laundromats are 100% coin operated, robberies are common.
Thinking there had to be an easier and more secure way to operate a laundromat, with fewer coins and more convenience, Todd set out to build Washlava.
“Todd found that there was nothing else out there for app-enabled laundromats that create a better laundry experience for both customers and operators. What was the scene of the crime is now the home base for Washlava,” said Jamie Sewell, CMO at Washlava.
On the customer side, Washlava’s smart laundry experience is driven by a smartphone app for iOS or Android that lets users reserve, pay for loads, and sends realtime alerts to notify users when their laundry is finished.
The entire operation is run through the application, 100% coin free, and the simple UX and interface have made adoption seamless.
“People have loved it. We’ve been somewhat surprised by just how fast it has been adopted. People walk in with the app downloaded, machines reserved, and boom, they’re off to the races,” said Dexter Weiss, CTO of Washlava.
The Business Dashboard
On the operations side, Washlava is perfect for laundromats, as well as multi-housing (like university residences and multi-tenant apartments). With a robust business dashboard, managers have full control over the finances and analytics, and also the machines themselves.
The business application streams machine productivity readings and error codes, and lets the manager reset machines if there’s an issue. Managers can even apply customer refunds in realtime if necessary.
With so much realtime functionality, the business dashboard can automate many of the manual tasks that come with running a laundromat. In fact, Washlava can run entirely unattended.
The Need for Realtime
To build a seamless user experience for both customers and business managers, Washlava required a realtime messaging layer for their laundry machines, backend, and mobile app to communicate between one another. Whether it’s customer actions, like reserving and paying for machines, or the metrics flowing through the business dashboard, realtime is key.
“When we started the build, I knew there needed to be a realtime, unflappable component facilitating communication between our laundry machines and the backend system,” said Weiss.
Early in the development stages, Washlava considered a number of realtime service providers, as well as open source options for pub/sub. Ultimately, due to ease of use, scalability, and a variety of SDKs, the Washlava development team chose PubNub to power realtime communication.
“I downloaded the PubNub Node SDK, popped open the console, and started seeing messages flowing through. I immediately got a sense of robustness, and we started to build with it. It was basically there from day one. PubNub felt like the most rapid, solid way forward,” said Weiss.
How PubNub Powers Washlava
PubNub facilitates all communication into and out of Washlava’s machines. This communication happens between their backend and the washers and dryers. Each custom embedded systems inside every machine is kept online through wifi, allowing bidirectional communication between the machines and the Washlava backend for machine control and monitoring
“To keep each machine online, we originally thought we’d do persistent sockets or MQTT, those types of frameworks, but ultimately having a service provider like PubNub made it a lot faster and let us focus on what made us, us. We’re not in the business of maintaining realtime communications infrastructure. PubNub is!” said Weiss.
For example, if a customer wants to reserve a machine, the mobile application talks to the backend with a REST call and checks the state (ie. makes sure the user can make a reservation, is the machine available). The backend then issues a command to the machine via PubNub, which is reflected in the business dashboard, a colored light on the machine, and the customer’s app.
From Development to Deployment
Ease of use, as well as an available PubNub support team took Washlava from development to deployment fast. “It’s been great. It lets you quickly prove a concept, and scale that concept into a real live product,” said Weiss. Not having to worry about infrastructure or open source frameworks let the development team focus on building new innovative features on both the hardware and software side.
“I never found myself struggling with how to use PubNub. From the get go someone on the PubNub team was there. Customer success helped me puzzle through channel topology. We even worked with a PubNub engineer early on which was a huge help. It saved us a lot of time. I was, and am, a really big fan,” said Weiss.
Washlava continues to grow into both laundromats, as well as multi-housing, and will prove to be a game changing technology for operators. Inexpensive, easy to install, and highly scalable, the fully-connected Washlava system will transform the ownership experience.
Just look how much the students at Infinity Hall at the University of Florida loved it:
“If you need realtime communication in a robust and easy-to-digest way, look to PubNub. There’s no need worrying about all the mechanics involved in making realtime messaging work. That’s nontrivial,” said Weiss.
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