I guess one of the reasons is to prevent wasted trips to the laundry. Another may be to help justify the cost of university accommodation on top of the rise in tuition fees.
It was not an idea we came up with, it was put in motion by the accommodation services.
With tuition fees reaching £9000 a year (more for international students) I imagine the new students and their families will have less money available for the higher quality student accommodation and so there will also be less demand. Accommodation services must work hard to justify the prices (as the rest of the university needs to do with the tuition fees) and provide quality services to the students.
I have spoken before about how the students should also be getting wireless in their university accommodation for next year. They also, briefly, had a service for internet TV and gaming but it was causing problems on our network so had to be removed. I predict something similar may be in place again in the future.
I never imagined there would be internet connected washing machines and tumble dryers. I am sure there will be an iPhone app at some point.