We’ve all been hearing a lot about the Internet of Things (IoT), and many of us have our reservations. Sure, the appeal of the Nest is undeniable. Your thermostat is connected to the internet, so it can get your location from your phone, and warm up the house for you when you are heading home. However, once you start talking about IoT refrigerators and stoves, people start rolling their eyes. We really don’t need to maintain a remote connection to all of our kitchen appliances. Then again, maybe what we really need is for our IoT devices to be able to talk to each other. That is where IFTTT comes in.
If This Then That (IFTTT) is an online service which allows you to set up interactions between apps. An event in one app acts as a “trigger” in IFTTT, which then performs an action in a second app. These are called “recipes” in IFTTT. For example, you could use a recipe so that when you “favorite” a Gmail, it will get copied to Evernote. Or when you have a calendar reminder pop up, IFTTT could post it into a Slack channel. Many of these apps do already offer a great number of direct integrations with other services, but IFTTT fills some of the gaps.
Whether it’s direct integrations, or IFTTT, the concept is that it can be really helpful when your productivity apps and services start talking to each other. The same concept applies, even moreso, to the IoT. IFTTT offers a number of IoT specific recipes, including the following:
- Turn off your lights when your Nest is set to away
- Lower your music when someone rings your doorbell
- Receive an email if your plants’ soil is dry
- Move your home security camera if your smoke alarm goes off
- Get a text message when your dryer cycle is finished
- Set your temperature in Nest when you tell Alexa
- Open the garage when you start your car
The original pitch for the IoT was that the “things” are all made more powerful by connecting them to the internet, so that you can monitor and control them remotely. However, once they start talking to each other, they really start to make life convenient. It’s one thing if I can check an app on my phone which is connected to my kitchen timer, so I don’t burn my dinner. It is another thing if the IoT flickers the lights in my home office when my kitchen timer goes off, so I really don’t burn my dinner. It’s one thing if my smoke alarm sends a notification to my phone, but it’s another thing if it turns off the stove and aims my home security cam at the area in question.
IFTTT is looking to increase the number of devices that they can hook into on the IoT. Every added device can greatly increase the number of potential recipes for IFTTT users. One IFTTT connection in particular, to a service called Particle, could be the key to a great many new IoT devices. Particle is a platform which connects devices to the internet, effectively turning just about anything, into an internet “thing”. With the combination of Particle and IFTTT, you can really create some cool recipes, such as these:
- Light up a picture frame in your house, when that same picture is “liked” on Instagram
- Turn on your rice cooker, and get a text when it’s done
- Post a message in Slack when the front door to your office opens
- Press a button in your kitchen to send messages to your family that dinner is ready
- Post on Twitter that you are having a party when the decibel level in your house is noisy enough
The first wave of recipes are what you would expect, for the most part tying devices to various services that notify you about their status. If you are always in Slack, you can have your devices send you alerts in Slack. I think these, more obvious, recipes are great, but I am looking forward to seeing more devices talking to each other over the IoT. It’s great if you can talk to your self driving car and tell it to come pick you up. It’s even better if your car is talking to every streetlight, traffic camera, and other car in the city so that it can find the fastest route.