If you want to really take control of your smart home appliances, then you need to get to know IFTTT.
IFTTT – If This Then That – is a service that lets you connect different applications together, allowing you to trigger your smart home appliances with simple commands from your phone or smart watch, or from each other.
While many smart home appliances like Nest, Hive, Manything and Philips Hue come with mobile interfaces that let you trigger and queue certain commands, IFTTT lets you string multiple commands – ‘channels’ – together in ‘recipes’. We show you which IFTTT channels and recipes give you the most out of your smart home tech.
In our ‘What is IFTTT’ and Philips Hue features we explain recipes in detail, but in a nutshell, a ‘recipe’ is process whereby doing X triggers Y – sending a Tweet or email causes your smart thermostat to raise the temperature by a few degrees, or makes your smart lights come on at 6:00pm.
We’ve rounded up the best IFTTT channels for things which control smart home appliances – things like Nest, WeMo and Philips Hue – and channels which you can use to trigger processes – like date and time, the weather and your proximity to your home.
Best IFTTT Channels for smart home appliances
Manything is a service that lets you turn old iPhones and iPads into cheap CCTV cameras instead of selling them for a fraction of what you paid for them on eBay.
The idea is that you have your phone or tablet set up on a stand somewhere and plugged into the mains. Manything will record video footage which you can then access from a remote panel. Currently you can access daily reports – good for checking up on any new pets – and review up to 30 days of footage.
Nest Protect: https://ifttt.com/nest_protect
Smart smoke alarm Nest Protect can be configured to ping you a text if smoke or carbon monoxide levels are detected. Depending on the relationships you have with the people on your street, you can also set it up to have IFTTT text your neighbours too.
Philips Hue lights can be configured to flash in the same situation and you can also be sent emails reminding you of when you need to get a new battery for the smoke alarm.
If you find yourself in a dispute in a landlord about carbon monoxide levels in your home, then you might find this recipe, which adds CO data to a Google Spreadsheet every time the alarm goes off, handy.
Nest Thermostat: https://ifttt.com/nest_thermostat
While you can remotely toggle the temperature and get notifications with the Nest Mobile apps for iOS and Android, with IFTTT you can set up commands to have the temperature rise or fall in accordance with what’s going on outside.
You can also do things like tell Nest to switch the heating off and heating back on again with Google Calendar – if you’ve set holiday dates in a shared work calendar – and have your Philips Hue lights come on for those exact same dates, to create the illusion of someone being at home when you’re away.
Philips Hue: https://ifttt.com/hue
Philips’s multicoloured Hue smart bulbs and strip lights can be triggers to glow in all sorts of colours depending on the weather – blue if it’s raining, orange if it’s clear and, um, purple if it’s snowing.
More practically, you can use IFTTT to gradually brighten bulbs in your room if you want to wake up to a gentle, sunrise-style glow. You can also do this through through the Hue app, but if you’re going to set up other IFTTT triggers, you might as well do this as well.
If you or your flatmates are the kind of lazy gits who periodically forget to switch all the lights off before going to bed, you can use this IFTTT recipe to automatically turn off every light at a certain time.
As with Manything and Nest Thermostat, you can use IFTTT to trigger your smart cameras to record video when they detect motion or turn your heaters on or off at a certain time of day.
If you’re budget-conscious, you’ll be able to turn off appliances if they’re burning through too much money. Likewise, if you want to start keeping tabs on your energy usage and you’ve not got a smart meter, you can have IFTTT log to Google Spreadsheets for each WeMo Insight switch in your home.
If you festoon your house with Christmas lights every year, you can have them come on at a specific time of day should you want to spread the festive cheer the very second the sun goes down.
Best IFTTT Channels for communicating with smart home appliances
The SMS channel lets you control devices via text or have notifications sent to your phone.
You can also use IFTTT to be told when the US Centers for Disease Control reports on a zombie outbreak. While this technically isn’t a smart home feature, you’ll probably still want to use this so you can start boarding up the windows and getting your other defences in place.
For those who want to make a grand entrance – your phone’s location can be used to turn the lights on when you’re approaching home (with Philips Hue) or make your smart thermostat turn up the heat (Nest Thermostat).
Android Wear: https://ifttt.com/android_wear
If smart watches are more your thing and you want to feel a bit more like a Dick Tracy in your own home, then hit up the Android Wear channel. With this, you’ll be able to control the lights, turn on heaters and get things like smoke alarm alerts pushed to your wrist instead of your pocket.
Time & Date: https://ifttt.com/date_and_time
Although services like Nest come with timers built in, you can use the Time & Date channel to make your smart lights come on at certain times and set you reminders for things like watering the plants and getting your rent ready.
Using data provided by Yahoo! Weather, the Weather channel lets you queue up a series of actions based on things like wind speed, rain and temperature.
You can get text or email updates sent to your phone if it’s going to start bucketing it down at home and do things like have the lights automatically come on at sunset. There are even recipes that will send you a reminder of when you should take your umbrella with you – how good is that?
Yo has been laughed off as the most pointless thing ever. While on the surface it’s little more than an excellent office troll, you can also use the single action app to control specific functions in your home.
Imagine walking through the front door and being able to Yo your Philips Hue lights on, Yo your makeshift security system to record 15 seconds of video, or Yo your aircon unit on because it’s too hot in here, yo.