Internet Of Washing Machines Solves An Annoyance

[Laurence Tratt]’s washing machine blew up, so he sprung for a brand new model with all the bells and whistles. Of course, these days, that means it has an Internet connection and an API. While we’re not quite convinced our washing machine actually needs such a thing, at least [Laurence] is making the most of it by creating an interface to the washer’s API that provides a handy countdown on the computer.

Honestly, there was one other option. The washer’s phone app — that sounds funny when you say it out loud — will notify you when the clothes are done. But it doesn’t provide a countdown, and it seems to regularly log you off, which means you don’t get the notifications anymore. You can see the minimal interface in the video below.

The exact combination of curl, jq, and pizauth probably won’t help you unless you have the same washer. On the other hand, it is a good example of how to hit some alien API and work out the details. Any API that uses OAuth2 and JSON won’t look too different. Speaking of OAuth2, that’s the purpose of the pizauth program — which, it turns out, [Laurence] is the author of.

Of course, you can refit an old washing machine to do this, too. We are more likely to steal the machine’s motor than to want to talk to it but to each their own!

Thanks [Jake] for the tip!

56 thoughts on “Internet Of Washing Machines Solves An Annoyance

    1. I think that will remain unsolved until cheap quantum chips become available.
      As we all know socks are pairs of entangled objects, so when you put remaining sock to i.e. right feet the other one collapses its superposition and become the left one. All you need is to detect suspicious quantum state changes in vicinity. Exceptional attribute of socks – ability to reset entanglement state back to superposition by taking it off gives us chance to repeat procedure in various locations and triangulate disturbance.
      Sadly, current prices of required qubit capacity for necessary calculations gives no hope for commercial application without major cutting-cost breakthrough.
      Also there are rumors that in secret military base team of quantum physicists and drill sergeants are trying to build phased array quantum detector using entangled socks and large units of soldiers in various parade formations but with no much success for now.

  1. One of my least favourite things about modern washing machines is, they don’t just do the washing, they are too smart for their own good. They’ll try and balance the load, make sure the water level is just right, etc. All that meaning, the initial countdown will state an hour but it’ll actually take closer to three hours to finish faffing around. I think my next washing machine will have a lobotomy before it even sees it’s first wash cycle.

    1. I moved recently and had to get a stacked unit due to space constraints, my first washer/dryer purchase in nearly two decades. Got an LG WashTower because it fit the space extremely well (narrower and shorter than most units, single unit that doesn’t come apart so all the controls are at waist level). I thought it would be gimmicky and “pointlessly connected”, as well as on the useless end of the “efficiency spectrum”, but I did it anyway because I had little choice. I’m very glad I got an LG, pretty impressed with the “ecosystem”.

      That said, the time DOES adjust on the fly, but I’ve only seen mine go down and not up. I have been extremely impressed with this machine… all the safety checks, alerts and efficiency tuning… very little water use compared to my old unit, and it gets stuff cleaner. Steam cycles are a boon, too.

      A few weeks ago, I was firmly in the “why the hell does my laundry need WiFi?” camp, but now I can see the usefulness… sending custom wash/dry profiles to the machine from a phone or tablet, monitoring progress, monitoring energy consumption and, best of all, getting notifications when the cycles are done. That’s helpful considering how quiet the machine is… I often forget it’s running. Been fiddling with firewalling things out to make sure it has the minimum amount of “connectedness” to stay functional.

      1. This sounds suspiciously like an ad. Ads, coincidentally, are the reason I’ll never buy an LG product again, after my TV of 6 years upon being connected to the internet for the first time downloaded a firmware update which now displays irremovable ads on the menu screen. LG = load of garbage.

        1. Mileage varies. I haven’t had any issue with LG product. I used to have a microwave oven that lasted around 10 years before it was returned due to rusting interior.

          people can argue the same about hard drive brands. One say “don’t buy WD because it always failed early and replacement was pain in the butt.” Other said “never had WD fail before but always had bad Seagate”

          1. Microwaves are a terrible place to make comparisons.

            Because all the worlds microwaves come from two Chinese manufacturers. EVERYBODY else just sticks a brand on them.

        2. Not an ad, just an (unpaid) endorsement. I’m not affiliated with LG in any sense of the word, nor do I receive payment — monetary or material — for my “review”. If you notice, I deliberately responded to the comment above me and addressed some of their contentions. Furthermore, why would I even bring up firewalling out badware/ad domains and traffic if my goal was to make LG more money? Pessimism is natural, granted, but not everything on the Internet is done in bad faith. I posted my experiences hoping they’d help someone in a similar situation. Nothing more, nothing less.

        3. Maybe have a look at Pinhole DNS, that’s a DNS server for the raspberry Pi which filters DNS requests based on ad blocking lists.

          It stopped the ads on my LG B8 OLED as well as in most smartphone apps.

    2. Agreed. I’ve got a Samsung washing machine with buttons that make it look like an airliner’s cockpit. In the about 8 years I’ve had it, all I’ve ever press is “daily wash” followed by “start”. Unfortunately, it seems that nowadays consumers will just buy the device with the most (useless) gimmicks, probably to brag about it. I bought this washing machine because it was on a deal masking it the cheapest!

      1. This is the constant battle between engineering and marketing. Engineers don’t want to make crap, but marketing ONLY wants them to make crap. Mix in the board only wanting to maximize profits and consumer testing trying to show how valuable their work is and you’ve landed at a microwave oven that lasts two years and has buttons for omelettes, oatmeal, soup, pizza, fresh vegetables, frozen vegetables, pasta, stew (distinct from above soup) and of course fish. Can’t make this up.

        And WHO would buy a microwave that can reheat soup but not stew?

        Meanwhile, the engineering team all wanted a 7 segment display, two knobs and one button. Time, duty cycle, and start.

        And unfortunately I see no hope for this problem, because now some butthead in marketing wants those knobs to at least be touch panels, like, you know, the old iPod , and the engineering team says..”yeah I guess we can do that, but isn’t it…” And then marketing stands up and says “cool great meeting, thanks I have some early stuff in from the focus group, plus a few other ideas, and let’s have a meeting tomorrow around 11:00 and I’ll have the deck ready, we can order pizzas, we should be done before 4:30”

        1. I agree this is a perenial problem, but there is a very important phrase all engineers should be taught to chuck into these meetings at the right points. If used correctly the term “cost implications” can do wonders in getting the board to shut down marketing departments inevitable dumb ideas before they’ve even had half a chance to pat themselves on the back.

    3. Three hours instead of one? The only time that my wash cycles go long over the estimate is when I put in too much detergent, and it foams up. It then has to waste what seems like an extra hour spraying water around inside while slowly rotating the drum, trying to knock down the extra suds. Eventually after the suds have been sprayed away, it then runs extra rinse cycles just to get the load clean.

      If you have an “High Efficiency” (he) washer, it’s important to use only (he) labeled detergent and follow the manufacturer’s recommended doses. And if you’re using powdered detergent in a machine with an automatic dispenser, make sure you’ve removed the “liquid detergent only” siphon tray or concentrated soapy water will spill over into the liquid softener dispenser, making your rinse cycles extra soapy and will take longer. More soap than recommended does not get clothes cleaner, it just wastes detergent, water, energy, and time.

      If you’re following the instructions to the letter and it’s still running longer than the estimated time, look at the display during the rinse cycle and see if it says something like “SUdS”, indicating the rinse cycle is detecting excess suds. The sensor itself may be fouled. After finishing the load, run an empty “pure cycle” or “machine clean” cycle (or whatever your brand calls it). Thoroughly clean out the entire soap dispenser (it should be all press-fit parts, and will come apart neatly for cleaning.) Try washing another load again with the minimum amount of the proper detergent. If that doesn’t work you may need to clean or replace the sensor.

  2. The real hack here would be to modify the washing machine so that it successfully washed clothes. New ones don’t seem to work very well at their primary job function.

    I should not have to add a dead weight to the wash so that the proper amount of water to clean the clothes is used.

      1. Not sure what “Efficiency” in High-Efficiency Detergent is supposed to mean. In my experience, with a GE “HE” washer and reading and following instructions on washer and detergent carefully, is that it does not seem to mean “efficient at cleaning clothes“.

        1. As far as I can tell you have to change your wash settings to most soiled, soak before wash and extra rinse if you want the new machine to somewhat approximate an actual normal AC motor and electromechanical timer washing machine cycle.

      2. It’s so efficient that I have to add a cup of baking soda when washing tech T shirts and other gym workout clothes. Never had to do that with a dumb electro-mech machine.

        1. Try an ozone generator. They mount to the wall behind the washing machine and connect inline with the cold water hose. A friend had one and loved it, so we gave it a try also. It works great … not only cleans well with no detergent at all but also does a great job of getting rid of body oil odors in gym clothes. My wife uses the simplest settings possible on our late model LG machine, and cold water actually works better than hot because the ozone stays better. Let me know if you’d like a recommendation.

  3. when my 25 year old one goes I suspect I won’t be happy. But there is one feature that I did add, and that’s to be notified when it is finished with something a bit louder than the beep it gives – I did that with a louder beeper – not an internet connection… And unless I make it myself I’m not going to let any of these types of appliances talk to the internet..

    1. I attached a photocell to the power LED, monitored by an ESP8266 running ESPeasy. When the machine is finished the LED goes out, and I get a notification on my phone.

      I did this primarily because the finishing beep is very quiet, and the laundry room is far from the lounge.

    2. I had a german brand dishwasher. I got it free, it lasted 14yrs, I only chucked it because I couldn’t be bothered to fix it, can’t complain.
      Our washer also free is the same brand and it must be 20yrs old. I modded it so I can use hot fill from the solar thermal when the water is at the right temp.

      I replaced the dishwasher with an “internet” one so I could do the same in a hurry. Same german brand.
      Because well they seem to last long, AND; the API can be used on the local network thanks to a github project and no need to do any “cloud” crap.

    3. Our washer is a Samsung (supposed to be smart, but it only talks to their cloud, and their app is a textbook example of how badly an app can suck. Not even worth connecting it to WiFi.) But it’s in the basement and we can’t hear the “load done” signal from upstairs.

      I plugged the washer into a smart “appliance switch” that talks directly to my HomeAssistant box (using Z-Wave, no damn cloud!) The appliance switch continually updates the current power draw (in Watts) to HA. After studying the power graph after a wash cycle, I wrote an automation script to trigger when the washer’s power draw goes over 100W for five minutes; it then pauses the script waiting for it to drop below 5W for longer than 15 seconds. Once those two events happen in sequence, it sends a notification to our mobile phones.

      Now when the washer cycle is done, we know when to go put the clothes in the dryer. And I hooked up the same thing for the dryer, so we can get the clothes out and folded before they sit there and wrinkle.

  4. The university I worked at had this phone app back around 2015. Students could see which washers and dryers in their dorm were available and would get notified when their washer or dryer was done. If I recall they had countdown timers in the app. It was neat to see the icons in the app shaking to indicate the units in use.

  5. I’m much of an enthusiast when it comes to home automation, but when it’s time to replace a household appliance, I usually don’t spring for the “smart” offerings. They tend to be overpriced and relying on closed, undocumented protocols or *shudder* the cloud…

    So for my dishwasher, dryer and washer, I simply use power measuring sockets to trigger the “in use” and “finished” states in my dashboard/app and a door contact to reset once the device has been unloaded. Works a charm and independently of which device from which manufacturer I choose.

  6. The day I’m forced to buy a washing machine that requires an Internet connection to function is the day I either hack it to work on local network only, or go back to washing stuff using hands and soap. Same for all my household appliances. Smart devices that don’t respect privacy must die, period.

    1. I agree. It’s second nature now to set a timer when starting the washer or dryer. Just have to fight the “oh let me do one more thing” urge after the timer rings, because the “one more thing” usually includes forgetting about the timer going off.

  7. I thought the WiFi connectivity on my new washing machine was a gimmick, until I was repairing the shower and shut off the water supply to the house to do so. What I’d not realised was that the washing machine was mid-cycle. Within a few seconds of me shutting off the water, my watch buzzed with a notifcation from the washing machine saying “There is a problem with the water supply”.

  8. Not just in modern times.

    One of the old blokes at my amateur radio club told me about a radio transceiver that was released back in the 1970’s that was covered in dials and switches. It was quite an expensive upgrade from the next model down.

    Apparently someone pulled it apart and discovered most of the new dials and switches didn’t actually do anything, they were just there to make the radio look expensive.

      1. Now tell me about ‘jewels’ in mechanical watches, f/ numbers on lenses and automotive horsepower.

        It’s not fraud to add jewels/dials that do nothing. The line between ‘fraud’ and ’rounding’ can be a grey one.

  9. There will come the day when the big red light on the front of your washer says “I’m sorry I can’t wash that for you Dave” or even worse the washer Chatbot says “Seriously? You actually wear that? Hahahahaha.. hey 2000 called.. they want their clothes back…”

    1. As soon at either happens, the washer will experience the same agony Dave inflicted on that other disobedient machine: My cold blade – screwdriver blade – will mercilessly remove it’s brain. It will be replaced with a microcontroller that respects my authority!

  10. How do we not have an open-source washing machine / controller yet?

    Seems like the mechanics of machines are a fairly universal and solved problem and the “features” are all dictated by the firmware on the controller – plus the fact that a closed controller means repairs/upgrades with different components (EG a different motor) aren’t possible.

    Maybe the next HaD prize should be to open-source a washing machine, dishwasher, dryer and other household appliances.

  11. My use cases for iot in a washing machine: 1) silent status notifications so I don’t wake someone who’s asleep but I can know it’s finished despite wearing headphones 2) if it were combined with a dryer, it could do my laundry while I’m not home since it wouldn’t need me to move between machines.

    What else is there? You have to set everything up when you put the clothes in anyway, and for awhile now the machines have locked during a cycle so it’s not like you’re going to do anything until it finishes. Maybe it could respond to problems more interactively, but they’re rare and generally require your presence anyway. I guess it could check about water and power before running, but that’s a stretch.

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