SmartDry’s laundry sensor useful to be cloud-bricked next month

Enlarge / The SmartDry laundry sensor was widely regarded as a useful smart home gadget that saved money and time. When its owners’ servers go dark at the end of September, users face a useless device or a notable DIY journey.

Getty Images

SmartDry was a smart home product that did something useful: tell you when your clothes in your dryer were actually dry.

A small pack mounted inside nearly any dryer drum could prevent clothes from shrinking, save you energy costs (at least $60 per year, the marketing claimed), and even warn you about clogged vents causing high heat—or, much worse, gas buildup. A second-generation version could even turn off your gas dryer automatically. Reviewers greatly preferred it to their own dryers’ unpredictable dryness sensors.

The problem is that SmartDry alerted you to dry clothing by connecting to your home’s Wi-Fi; the device sent a message to parent company Connected Life’s servers and then relayed that message to your smartphone. But Connected Life Labs is closing, discontinuing SmartDry, and shutting down its servers on September 30. After that, “cloud services will cease operations and the product apps will no longer be supported.”

In other words, SmartDry will become a tiny brick inside your dryer unless you’re willing to procure a little ESP32 development board, load some code onto it, plug it in near your dryer, and set up your own alerts in your Home Assistant server . If you had a first-generation SmartDry, this would actually be a slight improvement, as those devices used Espressif ESP32 chips with a forever vulnerability.

Smart home devices bricked by cloud closures aren’t new, but SmartDry was a particularly useful, low-key device made by a firm that didn’t seem to be expanding too fast. Connected Life was originally a three-person team prototyping units in New Jersey, and the device remained made in the US. A co-founder told Reviewed in late 2021 that a version for the washing machine was being tested and was expected to see release in summer 2022.

Lisa Goldstein, who is deaf, wrote for Reviewed in December 2021 that SmartDry saved her multiple trips to and from the basement, as she had no other signal that her clothes were ready. Wirecutter’s Rachel Cericola wrote a blog post on how SmartDry “transformed how I do laundry.” Josh Hendrickson at ReviewGeek wrote that SmartDry routinely pinged him about dry clothes 10–15 minutes before the timer was up. “On nearly every occasion, the sensor got it right,” he wrote.

SmartDry's second-generation kit included a plug that could automatically turn off gas dryers.
Enlarge / SmartDry’s second-generation kit included a plug that could automatically turn off gas dryers.

Connected Life

Cloud server dependence is a recurring problem with smart home devices. Smart home company Insteon seemed to vanish without warning in April. Insteon later blamed the pandemic and supply chain shortages. In June, a group of dedicated customers purchased Insteon and revived its services. Most of the time, shutdowns are more routine, like when a service is cut after an acquisition, or a large company loses interest in its smart home experiment.

Projects like Home Assistant, HomeSeer, and Hubitat aim to provide locally managed fallbacks for these failing projects, but they’re often powered by volunteers gathering in forums or repositories, sniffing packets, and working with esoteric hardware.

A more robust fix to failing companies could be the Matter interoperability standard and the Thread mesh networking technology behind it, due to arrive sometime in fall 2022. Instead of relying on individual Wi-Fi connections, a smart device could latch onto the network created by other nearby smart devices and would theoretically be more accessible to other hubs and apps.

We’ve attempted to reach Connected Life Labs and will update this post if we receive comment.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.