IFTTT bringing your services together

IFTTT may be the DIY tool you are looking for to bring your smart home together. As the Internet of Things continues to grow and we end up with more and more smart devices and personal assistant apps, there is an increasing desire for everything to work together.  One solution has been gaining traction the last couple years, IFTTT.

Those of you who consider yourself DIY types, comfortable working with Apps, and figuring out things yourself, will likely really like IFTTT.  For the rest of the folks that want to automate, but prefer to leave all the fancy setting up to folks who do it for a living, know that IFTTT is one bag of solutions that many installers may use to get your smart home to be more capable.

What is IFTTT?

IFTTT is a cloud based service, whose sole purpose is to help the items in your life work better together.  There is a huge amount of support for home automation products, but there is so much more also. I should add, it is pronounced like “gift” with out the g. I have been spewing out the letters for years, who knew? IFTTT has support for upwards of 400 devices and services.  You can find ready made applets ( these used to be called recipes) on their site. These applets are what you create to automate tasks. Each applet is a combination of two services. They are very easy to create. The first step is to choose the “If This”  app.  Which designates what will cause the applet to trigger. You then select the “Than That” app and choose an action to take place.

Creating your first IFTTT applet.

Getting started is easy. You can visit the IFTTT  website, or download the app for your Android or iOS device.  Then you  can create applets to automate tasks and make things happen.  One Applet that I have created takes advantage of IFTTT being compatible  with  Wink smart hub shortcuts.  I wanted to automate the light on my front porch.  When you install the app on your phone, you have all kinds of ways to trigger events.  You can use Locations, txt messages, emails and so many other things.

 I used the location feature to create a simple applet that turns my front porch light on when I get close.  Setting it up was easy. In the IFTTT app, I selected the plus sign to enter the Applet creator, then select Android Location as the IF portion of the applet. I was able to configure and select an area on a map. In lots of smart home geekery, this is often called geofencing. Where you use your device’s GPS location to trigger events.

To finish the applet, I tapped the plus sign by the That portion. Then selected Wink shortcuts. I was prompted to enter my Wink

account information, which connected IFTTT to my Wink smart hub shortcuts.  Once connected IFTTT was able to turn on my front porch light when my phone entered the setup trigger area in the applet.  I did find that when using the newly created applet, I had to configure a large area, which caused my porch light to turn on when I was just in the neighborhood.  Not the biggest of problems. I initially tried a more specific area. The IFTTT app, would prompt me and inform me that for more reliable functionality I should choose a larger region.  It would then restart the selection

The front porch light Applet, which I named Welcome Home,  worked well. There were a few occasions when there was so much delay, I was in the house before it turned on. I don’t really believe that should reflect on IFTTT by any means, it’s just the way of the cloud.  If the connection to my phone was weak and slow, it would carry on down the chain.

I use my phone for a lot of things, GPS, music, email, games and anything else that pops up.  Often times I put it in power saving mode to maintain some battery. Power saving mode on a Samsung is great. However it does disable the GPS which defeats this applet from working.  When you turn power saving mode off, it doesn’t turn your GPS back on. With no GPS enabled, the Welcome Home applet, doesn’t know where you are.  The result, no lights turning on when I got home.  Again, thats not on IFTTT, it was my fault. It should be noted when connecting services and using your phone to trigger events. There are lots of other things that can affect the outcome. 

 Take a look at the screen shots below and you can see the steps and how easy it was to create this applet.  I also included another favorite of mine. An applet that sends me an email every time there is a technology breakthrough article in the New York Times.  This one was already created, I just had to turn it on and select my notification method. 

The Power of IFTTT is not just for home automation, while it does have the ability to connect a huge array of devices. It can also connect and automate so many other things.  While exploring the site , I noticed an applet that allows you to text your phone to turn the ringer up to 100% incase you lose it.  That would sure be helpful. I don’t know about you, but I keep mine on vibrate most of the time. When those rare moments arise, that would be a welcomed tool to find it.

Some of the other applets you see on the front page are

  • Update your Android wallpaper with new NASA photos
  • Back up Photos you’re tagged in on Facebook to an iOS album
  • Mute your android phone when you arrive at work
  • Tell Alexa to find your phone
  • Sync all your iOS contacts to a Google spreadsheet
  • Tweet your Instagrams as native photos on twitter
Creating a weather alert in IFTTT is simple, and there are so many options.

Creating a weather alert is simple, and there are so many options.

Another IFTTT Applet that I enjoy is a weather alert I created.  I will receive an email from weather underground if there is snow in the next days forecast.  This has worked fantastic. I have been using it for a few years now.  I do enjoy getting an email when we have the chance for snow. The great part is that I set it up, and forgot about it. Then as winter rolls in I start getting emails about snow!  Living in the NW it has been very helpful this winter. We have had a lot of snow roll in. Which is not usual in my neighborhood. So its great to get notified.

 Again, it was simple to setup. I chose weather as the IF portion, choosing the Weather Underground as the service.  Configured it for snow in tomorrow’s forecast.  Then selected email notification as the That portion of the applet.

There are a ridiculous amount of applets you can create with IFTTT.  You can use it to log the songs you listen to on Spotify to Goolge sheets, automatically generating a list of songs that have been played. There is support for YouTube, Google Home, LinkedIn, Survey Monkey and so many other services. So many different ways to interact.  

There are applets that allow Google Home to control skydrop, Blink and other home devices. Really highlighting the power of IFTTT. While those devices are not specifically supported by Google Home at this time, IFTTT bridges that gap. Allowing you to make them part of your smart home system. 

A home integrator might choose to use IFTTT as a work around to provide a home

automation function that is not supported by the hardware manufacturers directly.  This could be a multitude of things. Blinking your lights when your doorbell rings, or changing the color.   You could set up home automation tasks to trigger off of fitness devices like Fitbit or Android wear.

One might use IFTTT to log events that occur in your home, so you have a running log of who has entered and when.  How often a light is turned off or on. There are so many possibilities. You could use IFTTT applets to add your trips to the gym to a google sheet. Keeping track of your workouts.  I could go on and on about all the possibilities. I do recommend you check out IFTTT.  Two things I guarantee., You will find some useful tools. You will find some others you just enjoy.

Smarter Home