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  • Writer's pictureFrederick Dopfel

How Should I Automate Hand Washing?

Updated: Oct 12, 2023

During the pandemic, there was a massive education campaign from governments and companies on proper hand washing techniques. One result of this massive effort is a curious product: The Amazon Smart Soap Dispenser. This Wi-Fi-connected automatic soap dispenser is designed to pair with an Amazon Echo to provide a 20 second hand-washing countdown using a jingle on the echo and matching countdown lights on the dispenser itself. The biggest selling point for me was that it could report soap levels (so I could reorder soap well in advance), could dispense variable amounts of soap depending on where the hand is placed, and (most importantly) charges via USB, and therefore does not require changing batteries. As an added bonus, it could connect to the internet, and therefore be part of my smart home automation.

I wasn’t sure how I would automate these soap dispensers, but was confident that, like with every other smart appliance in my house, I could gain some benefit by having it connected, even if it was only some interesting data. The soap dispensers connect to the routers directly via Wi-Fi (each has their own unique IP address), however the app also encourages the user to pair it to an Amazon Echo (it is unclear why this is necessary). Amazon does not directly expose the soap dispenser to other apps, but using routines I can push the data to my HomeAssistant Automation system.

  1. Create a helper “switch” entity in HomeAssistant and expose it to voice assistants under “advanced settings”

  2. Create a routine in the Amazon Alexa app that turns the switch “on” when “motion is detected on Soap Dispenser”

  3. Create an automation in HomeAssistant triggered when the “Soap Dispenser Activated” switch goes on. The automation can trigger whatever other scripts you like, but should also turn the switch off after a short delay (I set mine to 5 seconds)

The only question now is: What should I automate? At the very least, I now have a method by which I can record and measure how much I am washing my hands at home, but I believe there is potential for something fun here. One option is to use other motion sensors in the bathroom (perhaps paired with a toilet flush sensor) to publicly shame guests if they DON’T wash their hands.

However, for now, I prefer positive reinforcement, with the Google Home speaker in the guest bathroom saying “Thank you for washing your hands” when the automation is triggered. Maybe I’ll have it reward people with a cheesy joke generated by ChatGPT as well. I would appreciate any suggestions or ideas for other automations.

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