What is IoT and IFTTT?
IoT is a term used to refer to a network of devices that communicate with each other using the internet. IFTTT is an app which uses applets (small applications which only carry out one specific task) to allow devices to communicate with each other using the rule: “If This” device is used, “Then That” device will do something. So for example, if your IFTTT alarm goes off, then your IFTTT watch will vibrate to alert you.
An App full of Applets
The IFTTT app has numerous ‘applets’ that automate repetitive tasks on social media, other web tools and, increasingly, internet-connected devices. These applets are organised into categories on an online store within the app, which is similar to the iTunes or Google Play stores that you access on your smartphone, tablet or PC. Categories include calendar and other scheduling applets, clocks, displays (such as having the day’s weather forecast appear on your phone first thing each morning), communications and appliances (one example would be that if you have a smart fridge and the door gets left open, then it will send you a text message).
The app has a useful search box to help you find that perfect applet to make your digital life easier. Enter a popular brand name like YouTube and you’ll get a list of applets that streamline tasks related to YouTube. For example, there’s an applet that sends you a weekly email listing new videos from your favourite YouTube channel (the applet links your email and YouTube accounts and IFTTT will need access to both accounts).
Join the Dots
Smart devices don’t have to work in isolation – they can be made to work with other devices (from a totally different brand) – this is gaining momentum as more and more manufacturers are making their smart devices work with IFTTT.
RING Talks to HUE
To test this out, we looked at how a RING Wi-Fi Doorbell could flash Philips HUE smart lighting using IFTTT. The IFTTT app has applets for both devices and one of them works like this: If a caller presses the RING Doorbell (If This) – then flash the Philips HUE lightbulbs (Then That). During testing, I pressed the button on the doorbell but there was no flashing light straight away. Still waiting one minute later – eureka! It works, but the time delay is a snag. We found the time delay varied each time from about 30 seconds to as much as 1 minute 30 seconds - a caller at the door may well have gone away by the time the lights flash.
This seems to be a common problem. Nevertheless, big names are nailing IFTTT to their brand, including Oticon Opn hearing aids. There’s an applet that will play a spoken notification in an Oticon Opn hearing aid when a caller presses the RING Wi-Fi doorbell. We have yet to try this out, but there’s a chance it could have the same delay issues. Even so, there are plenty of other applets for Oticon Opn hearing aids that are not so time critical, such as battery status notifications.
IFTTT works well and is a useful tool to streamline repetitive tasks, but (for now at least) it’s not so good for tasks where an immediate notification is needed.
IFTTT is free to use and works with both Android and iOS. To try it out, download the IFTTT app from app stores or visit the IFTTT website.
Finally life is still smart without IFTTT
Internet connected devices still do a lot of smart things without IFTTT. The RING doorbell can provide a notification on your phone or tablet when there’s someone at the door (using the RING app). And you can switch the HUE lightbulbs on or off, dim them and even change their colour remotely from the HUE app on your phone (your phone will need internet access, either via Wi-Fi or mobile networks). I had great fun switching on the hall light in my south London home from 50 miles away in Brighton (it’s the simple pleasures in life!).