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.

The system has two main sensors: an ultrasonic sensor to determine the water level and a vibration sensor to determine if the machine is operating. This has pros and cons. It seems like it would be cleaner and less error prone to directly attach into the washer’s electronics. However, using the sensors means the device could probably be made to work with any washer. Naturally, the brains are an Arduino along with a the Bolt IoT platform.

A web interface shows which of several machines are free. You can see a video about the system, below. We recently collected a lot of laundry projects, if that’s your thing. Plus, don’t forget the worst part of doing laundry: the folding.

20 thoughts on “Death, Taxes, And Laundry

  1. I can see this having application in a large laundromat. A large display showing available machines might be a convenience, as would having their phones tell them their load was done while they were about doing other things nearby.

    1. Indeed, a phone app that you can check to be sure there are free machines when you haul your clothes down there would be pretty nice. Plus being able to pay through the app too instead of having to get quarters.

    1. True.. but tapping your phone against an NFC tag and then walking away knowing that your phone will beep at you when it is done.. or better yet… a minute before that would be even better!

      I’d include a QR code and even an alphanumeric code too just to make sure everyone feels loved. I’m thinking that only the NFC tag would be truly convenient though.

      1. The new washers/driers in my apartment has a display showing how much time is left. They also use smart cards for payment, so going NFC isn’t that far fetch. QR code stickers might not work too well as the time can change depending on the cycle you select.

        I actually use a stop watch on the old machines. I like to pick up my clothes right after the drier stops so that they are still nice and warm when I hang them up on cloth hangers. Using timers let you compensate for the travel time that this Rube Goldberg machine won’t help you.

  2. The machine in my apartment complex has a bell that goes “ding!” rather loudly when it’s done. This should be easy enough to detect.

    I’ve seen other (more modern?) machines that have a buzzer – that should also be easy enough to detect.

  3. I am thinking to use a cheap ultrasonic sensor to measure the water level in a tank. My concern is about the long time moisture in the tank could make fail the sensor. This application seems similar. What about the long term use?-

    1. many ultrasonic sensors are made for that exact purpose, barring any external mechanical wear they should hold for years, be sure to get one made for internal tank placement though.

  4. Doesn’t do a thing for thieves of your laundry. They pick and choose. There is nobody there, no security. I played a bad guy in an advert for a big laundromat where a girl is startled when I pop in the basement apartment laundry room.

  5. Why does everyone go to all this trouble and expense. My hack took 20 minutes,

    Washers and dryers typically use shift in shift out chips to read the switches and light the panel LED’s.

    I used one $5 Chip with a couple interrupts and wifi, connect the chip to the part of the shift register that shifts out, then just read the data as it comes in and pass that out the wifi. I was even able to steal 5Volts off the control panel.

    The only challenging part was mapping each shifting bit to a specific light, for that i took some photos of the board and followed the traces. A little trial and error could have worked as well.

    Or wait… the most challenging part was waiting until my wife was out of the house long enough so she wouldn’t see me taking apart our new washer and dryer (that took a few weeks).

    Worked great, and i can see everything every setting on the washer/dryer.

    1. “My hack took 20 minutes” … “the most challenging part was waiting until my wife was out of the house long enough so she wouldn’t see me taking apart our new washer and dryer (that took a few weeks).”

      She goes out for longer than 20 minutes only every few weeks? You’re giving off a bit of a Josef Fritzl vibe here man!

  6. Use a power meter. On an old timer washer, it will be off when not in use, then adding water, agitation via motor, spinning, rinse, spinning and then the buzzer. By looking for the change in power between run and idle/off to go, the alert could be triggered and it would work on any machine and be even easier to add, plug a modified killawatt into the wall and the washer into that.

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