Death, Taxes, and Laundry

There’s an old saying that the only two things that are certain are death and taxes. However, unless you live in a nudist colony, there’s probably also laundry. [Darpan Bajaj] and some friends were at a hackathon and decided to put their washing machine on the Internet.

Most of us here at Hackaday — and many Hackaday readers, judging by the comments — are a little suspicious about how much we really need everything attached to the Internet. However, a washing machine is probably not a bad idea: you use it often, you need to know when it is done, and you probably don’t want to just sit and watch it spin. Besides, the intended installation is in a hostel where there are multiple machines and many potential users.

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Hacklet 102 – Laundry Projects

Ah laundry day. The washing machine, the dryer, the ironing, and the folding. No one is a fan of doing laundry, but we (I hope) are all fans of having clean clothing. Hackers, makers, and engineers are always looking for ways to make a tedious task a bit easier, and laundry definitely is one of those tedious tasks. This week we’re checking out some of the best laundry projects on Hackaday.io!

laundrifyWe start with [Professor Fartsparkles] and Laundrify. Anyone who’s shared a washer and dryer with house or apartment mates will tell you how frustrating it can be. You bring your dirty laundry downstairs only to find the machines are in use. Wait too long, and someone has jumped in front of you. Laundrify fixes all that. Using a current sensor, Laundrify can tell if a machine is running. An ESP8266 monitors the current sensor and sends data up to the cloud – or in this case a Raspberry Pi. Users access this laundry as a service system by opening up a webpage on the Pi. The page includes icons showing the current status of each machine. If everything is in use, the users can join a queue to be notified when a machine is free.

 

borgmachineNext up is [Jose Ignacio Romero] with Borg Washing Machine. [Jose] came upon a washer that mechanically was perfect. Electrically was a different story. The biggest issue was the failing mechanical timer, which kept leaving him with soapy wet clothing. Washing machine timers boil down to mechanically timed multipole switches. They’re also expensive to replace. [Jose] did something better – he built an electronic controller to revitalize his washer. The processor is a PIC16F887. Most of the mains level switching is handled by relays. [Jose] programmed the new system using LDmicro, which is a ladder logic implementation for microcontrollers. For the uninitiated, ladder logic is a programming language often used on industrial Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) systems. The newly dubbed borg machine is now up and running better than ever.

 

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Next we have [Michiel Spithoven] with Hot fill washing machine. In North America, most washing machines connect to hot and cold water supplies. Hot water comes from the home’s water heater. This isn’t the case in The Netherlands, where machines are designed to use electricity to heat cold water. [Michiel] knew his home’s water heater was more efficient than the electric heater built into his machine. [Michiel]  hacked his machine green by building an automated mixing manifold using two solenoid valves and a bit of copper pipe. The valves are controlled by a PIC microprocessor which monitors the temperature of the water entering the machine. The PIC modulates the valves to keep the water at just the right temperature for [Michiel’s] selected cycle. [Michiel] has been tracking the efficiency of the new system, and already has saved him €97!

 

laundrespFinally we have [Mark Kuhlmann] with LaundrEsp. [Mark’s] washing machine has a nasty habit of going off-balance and shutting down. This leaves him with soggy clothing and lost time re-running the load. [Mark] wanted to fix the problem without directly modifying his machine, so he came up with LaundrEsp. When the machine is running normally, a “door locked” light is illuminated on the control panel. As soon as the washer shuts down – due to a normal cycle ending or a fault, the door unlocks and the light goes out. [Mark] taped a CdS light detecting resistor over the light and connected it to an ESP8266. A bit of programming with Thinger.io, and [Mark’s] machine now let’s him know when it needs attention.

If you want to see more laundry projects check out our brand new laundry project list! If I missed your project, don’t take me to the cleaners! Drop me a message on Hackaday.io, and I’ll have your project washed, folded, and added to the list in a jiffy. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

One Man’s Quest To Spend Less TIme In The Basement

[Lars] has a second floor apartment, and the washing machines and clothes dryers are in the basement. This means [Lars] has spent too much time walking down to the basement to collect his laundry, only to find out there is 15 minutes left in on the cycle. There are a few solutions to this: leave your load in the washer like an inconsiderate animal, buy a new, fancy washer and dryer with proprietary Internet of Things™ software, or hack together a washer and dryer monitoring solution. We all know what option [Lars] chose.

Connecting a Pi to the Internet and serving up a few bits of data is a solved problem. The hard part is deciding which bits to serve. Washers and dryers all have a few things in common: they both use power, they both move and shake, they make noise, and their interfaces change during the wash cycle. [Lars] wanted a device that could be used with washers and dryers, and could be used with other machines in the future. He first experimented with a microphone, capturing the low rumble of a washer sloshing about and a dryer tumbling a load of laundry. It turns out an accelerometer works just as well, and with a sensor securely fastened to a washer or dryer, [Lars] can get a pretty good idea if it’s running or not.

With a reliable way to tell if a washer or dryer is still running, [Lars] only had to put this information on his smartphone. He ended up using PushBullet, and quickly had an app on his phone that told him if his laundry was done.


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Washing machines that do it without electricity

Those of us living in the first world take clean clothes for granted. Throw them in the washing machine, transfer to the dryer after 45 minutes, and you won’t smell for another two weeks or so. But for people living in areas without electricity, clean clothes are a huge amount of work. Hand washing a family’s clothes is estimated at 6 hours per day, three to five days per week. Here’s a post that looks at some of the different human-powered washing machines out there.

We’ve built our own human-powered machine before using a five-gallon bucket with a hole in the lit to receive the handle of a toilet plunger which acts as an agitator. But that pales in comparison to some of the machines seen here. The concept we like the most is shown above. It’s an MIT project being used at an orphanage in Peru. The bicycle lets you easily power the spinning basket inside of the drum. The rear derailleur has been mounted on the axle so that the rider has a wider range of gears when spinning heavy loads. Take a look at the post linked above to see all of the offering, but we’ve also embedded video of two of them after the break.

If you were looking for a washing-machine powered bike instead of a bike-powered washing machine you’ll want to head on over to this post.

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Signal sniffing some laundry pay cards

It seems that [Limpkin] was up to no good this weekend. He decided to snoop around inside a smart-card laundry machine. He posted about his larceny  adventure and shared the details about how card security works with this machine.

We’re shocked that the control hardware is not under lock and key. Two screws are all that secures the panel to which this PCB is mounted. We know that machines using coins have a key lock, but perhaps there isn’t much need for that if there’s no currency to steal. [Limpkin] made a pass-through connector for the ribbon cable coming in from the card reader. That’s the rainbow cable you can see above and it’s being fed to his logic sniffer. He used the ‘card detect’ signal as a trigger and captured enough data to take back to his lair for analysis. Using what he found and a Bus Pirate to test the smart card he laid bare all the data that’s being sent and received by the controller.

LAN-connected washing machine lets you know when your clothes are done

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[Micha’s] washing machine is equipped with a rather inaccurate timer, so it is always difficult to estimate when the load will be finished. Since it is located in his basement, he hated having to check on the machine continually to know when his clothes were done. Instead of hauling up and down the stairs over and over, he decided to hack in an “end of cycle” notifier of his own.

The washer has an LED that lights when it is finally done doing its thing, so [Micha] removed the LED and soldered in two wires, which he then connected to his Arduino. When the washer is finished and the LED should be lit, the Arduino senses that the input has been pulled low, signaling the end of the cycle. The Arduino was hooked into his home network via an Ethernet shield, enabling him to monitor the process from the comfort of the nearest web browser.

It’s a clever implementation, and it sure saves him a lot of time trudging up and down the stairs. Nice job!

Face-slapping security gaff in stored-value cards

The laundry machines at [Hans Viksler’s] apartment were converted over from coin operation to stored value cards. We’ve all dealt with these cards before and [Hans] thought it would be fun to do a little sniffing around at how this particular company implements them. We’ve covered how to read these cards and there have been several stories regarding how to bypass the security that they use.

But [Hans] wasn’t interested in stealing value, just in seeing how things work. So he stuck the card in his reader and after looking around a bit he figured out that they use the Atmel AT88SC0404C chip. He downloaded the datasheet and started combing through the features and commands. The cards have a four-wrong-password lockout policy. He calculated that it would take an average of over two million cards to brute force the chip’s stored password. But further study showed that this is a moot point. He fed the default password from the datasheet to his card and it worked.

We know it takes quite a bit of knowledge for the average [Joe] to manipulate these cards at home, but changing the default password is literally the very least the company could have done to protect their system.