Connected Washing Machines
We think these washing machines are a waste of money and here we explain why that is
If you are a reader of this site you will know that we are not fans of connected appliances and, we have some very good reasons for this dating back to almost when the site was started over ten years prior to this article. Things haven’t changed all that much.
What has changed is that more and more manufacturers seem to be jumping on the “Internet Of Things” bandwagon and adding net connectivity to a plethora of products.
One of the big ones is your humble washing machine.
For those considering shelling out a boatload of cash on one of these machines we’d like to point out some things for you to consider before you part with your money.
One important thing to think about that we keep banging on about being, are connected appliances a solution to problems we don't have?
New Same Old
The first issue that we have with this new breed of online washing machine is that they are normally just a rehash of an existing product line. Sure, it may be funked up a bit and will certainly have a new control system in it, perhaps even some extra whizz bang and LED lights on it but, in essence, it’s the same old thing in a fancy wrapper.
That would be fine, were it not for the mammoth price hike.
You can buy a small print server to allow any printer to be connected to your local network for less that a hundred pounds so, you have to ask, why is a connected washing machine several hundred pounds more expensive that one that isn’t connected?
When you compare the current crop of connected washing machines to their more “dumb” counterparts, for us, the additional cost makes little sense.
Download Extra Programs
One thing that made us chuckle was the ability to download new programs.
Most people use two or maybe three programs (mainly as most people don’t use their washing machine fully as they perhaps ought to) so why on Earth would anyone want to download new programs?
The program set is governed by the Home Laundry Council codes to correspond to the wash labels on your clothes and other laundry, they don’t change very often at all.
We would rank this “feature” as possibly one of the most useless we’ve ever seen.
Status Of Your Washing Machine
If you are fascinated with the progress of your washing machine, you are one of those rare people that like to sit and watch it tumble and spin through a whole program rather than going and doing something more interesting and productive then this may hold some value to you.
If not, like most people we expect, then it’s probably not going to be of much use.
Of course the notification that the cycle is complete may be of use to some people but, is it worth all those hundreds of pounds?
There’s An App For That
The latest of course is to allow the use of an App, usually using iOS or Android, to be able to remote control your washing machine.
This is pretty pointless as you still need to manually load the laundry into it, correctly, to set the program on the app if you so choose. Why bother if you need to pile clothes into it anyway, you’re right there?
You often see that these apps are used for diagnostics as well but these tend to be fairly rudimentary and not really of much help to you. What it does allow the machine to do is to contact the mothership and report the error so the first you may know of this is when you gat a call to sell you an insurance policy or to arrange for the engineer visit.
It may be that you don’t care about the privacy implications of a manufacturer being able to tell how much you use your washing machine, how many times the filter is blocked, what programs you use and so on but, we’d wager a number of people might just have a problem with this.
The kicker is, you paid extra to have that information collected about you!
Network Engineer Or Appliance Engineer
Now is the time that we’d love to trot out the Ghostbusters theme tune alone with, “Who ya gonna call..”
If you get an error with the connection to the internet or, your machine suddenly goes invisible on your LAN then just who is it that you need to attend? Is the the appliance repair guy or, is it an IT problem?
The IT guy will sort out the LAN et all but there’s no way he’s (or she’s) going to start poking about inside your washing machine because, they won’t have the first clue about it.
The appliance repair guy meanwhile, can check your washing machine and see if it’s all working but, he’s not going to resolve any issues with your local network, apps, phone or tablet, internet connection and so forth.
Call the wrong one and there’s a good chance you’ll get a bill for “no fault found”.
You’ve Been Hacked
Appliance manufacturers are not exactly doing well these days, they don’t have huge margins and they’re looking for ways to change that and one of these is obviously to use more advanced technologies such as this new breed of connected appliances.
Problem is, they’re largely not technology companies. And, even those that are appear to have people in the appliance units that are somewhat disconnected from the units that are.
This is a problem.
Already we have seen some high profile hacks being made to connected products allowing them to be controlled remotely or used as mail servers for spam. That could give you a problem.
The tech savvy among us will think, “Yeah, but they can patch it up with software when compromised” and to a degree that is true. Consider however how well most updates go and as you have a limited hardware set to work with that you have zero possibility of upgrading (at a sensible cost of course) then it would only be a matter of time until any workaround is rendered useless if the hacker is determined.
If such a breach allows the hacker a back door into your network… well, that’s not good, not good at all.
This technology, in this industry, is not proven and has already seen successful malicious attacks being made and to date we’ve seen little from the manufacturers to address this.
Washing Machine Ordering Stuff Automatically
We have recently seen examples where, like the Berg idea, your machine will automatically reorder consumables. Detergent and softener really.
Okay, so that’s great and on the new Miele machines for example, it uses pods or capsules of detergent and softener so you don’t have to think about it.
On some levels, for some people this is probably a very good thing.
Yes, here it is… but…
Do you really want to have your machine in control of this or do you want to be in control of it?
Do you want to just have stuff sent to you and to be charged for it?
Given the concerns over security and privacy discussed above we’d be awfully concerned about that and just stop right there however, there’s more.
If you have a dedicated supply of consumables that you can only really get from the manufacturer then what’s to stop them from charging you whatever they feel like? How much will that cost you? Is it to be like printer inks and, we all know how expensive that can prove to be?
You could say, we have concerns and we think you should as well.
So far the guys haven’t seen many of these machines in the field, we expect that’s down to poor sales given the high cost of these sorts of washing machine presently and (thankfully) not enough people daft enough to pay for them.
So for the time being, much of this is speculation based on what little we do know.
We know that these machines require a lot of time to repair and we also know that many appliance repair guys are just simply terrified of them. That terror is just a by product on unfamiliarity with them but nonetheless, they ‘re not going to be beating a path to your door to fix it.
When they do arrive they’re like to have to work their way through a chunky service manual and a dose of menus to test it and find out what the problem is.
This takes time. Time costs money.
If they need to swap out electronic parts and the machine is outside of the warranty, expect to have a very large bill landed on you. Replacement touchscreens and such are going to be horrifically expensive.
If you do decide to completely ignore everything we’ve said and buy a connected washing machine anyway then at least insure it. Although we expect that’ll cost you dearly as well.
More Money Not Much Else
In short, ten years or so on we still cannot find any reason to recommend a connected washing machine but, we can find plenty of reasons to tell people to stay away from them.
We do not see this changing anytime soon.