Linux is a versatile enough operating system that it could virtually run on anything. Me and some friends have joked about installing Gentoo on toasters but in reality how far away are we from this? For example lets take the Smart Fridge. Its basically a fridge that keeps track of what you have in it. Its packed with lots of features my favorite is its ability to tell you what recipes you can currently make with the ingredients that are in it. The smart fridge could easily be developed with Linux as its plat from.
Next lets look at other house hold items that we take for granted such as washers and dryers. Almost every house hold that owns a computer will have a washer and dryer. I would like to be able to have my washer and dryer notify me via e-mail, on screen display or other means when the cycle is finished. This would be easy to implement with an embedded OS such as Linux. There would be no extra electronics on the appliance because all of the required electronics are already in place. A simple serial or parallel interface would have enough bandwidth to give a detailed information on the current cycle or status.
What else is there? Ovens, Microwaves, Dishwashers or any other house hold appliance. Even simple tasks such as turning them on and off remotely would make sense. For the hardware hacker these features are easy to implement.
I don’t think that we are far from having these features. Take the VCR for example, once the record feature was mainstream some one came up with the idea to schedule recording on the units. A while later we got the Tivo DVR which has even better options for scheduling.
Is Linux going to be running on mainstream appliances? I believe it could be in time. Its already running on so many networking applications. Linksys run a modified version of it on their routers and on network attached storage devices. So I think it will only be a matter of time before it works its way into other mainstream devices. All that is needed is for a company to implement these features and a good marketing campaign. I know I would buy an intelligent household appliance if it would make my daily tasks easier.