File this under: Because we can, or possibly a solution in search of a problem.
So, since I work at home, I often do laundry during the day. I also have a tendency to get wrapped up in whatever I’m working on, and completely forget to go switch out a load of laundry and start a new load. The result is that laundry often gets left in the washer for long periods of time, and finishing all the loads takes far longer than it should. Also, my washer and dryer are out in the garage. Even if I am paying attention, I still often waste time checking to see if the laundry is done yet (even setting a timer doesn’t solve this issue). (I know, #firstworldproblems). Since I also use my email inbox as a to-do list, Kevin concluded that the washer or dryer should just email me when it’s done. (Also, he had all the parts and just really wanted to do this).
Thus, this happened to the washer:
Voila. You know we’re pretty far down on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs when we’re working on reducing the cognitive overhead involved with doing laundry. The emails also go to my phone, which I often keep in my pocket. Now my pocket vibrates when the laundry is done.
Anyway, the washing machine was easiest to automate because it didn’t require any modification or wiring into it in any way. Kevin just taped a light sensor over the “door locked” light on the front of the washer, and combined it with a little raspberry pi action (a raspberry pi is an inexpensive, single board computer). When the light goes out, I get an email. That’s all there is to it. (Using an entire Raspberry Pi is hilariously overkill for just this simple task, but its what we had, and what permitted the minimal effort he actually wanted to spend on this project). He also added a green LED that turns on just like the covered up light for me so I could still see the light when I am physically in front of the washing machine. Usability is paramount, don’tcha know.
So there. Raspberry Pi washing machine push notification retrofit. There’s your geek out for the day.
Edit: 2013/11/19 – For more fun with automation, see also DOS’d by my washing machine.