IFTTT Platform: Connect Several Apps on Your Phone

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The extensive interconnectedness of our world should be overwhelming… but we tend not to notice. It has become par for the course to be able to take a photo on your phone, have it automatically uploaded to Dropbox, and access it from your laptop in a few moments.

What we do notice, however, is when we want to connect things that aren’t connected. Let’s say you come across a YouTube video that you want to check out sometime, but you never check your Watch Later list, you check Pocket regularly… It should be possible in this day and age to connect these things together, right?

Sure, you can learn programming and hack these two applications (though you might end up being prosecuted for that)… You can wait until the designers of such apps or websites make it possible to integrate these things (good luck with that!)… Or you can use IFTTT.

IFTTT

What is IFTTT?

IFTTT (pronounced “ift”, rhymes with “gift”) is a platform designed by Linden Tibbets and Jesse Tane, launched in 2010. The name derives from the basic structure of the conditional statement used in natural and programming languages: “If this, then that”, which is basically what it does.

It allows you to create an interaction (called an “applet”) where an event (called a “trigger”) in an app, website, platform, or device (which IFTTT calls “services”) evokes a response (called an “action”) in another unconnected service. So, if this “trigger” happens, then that “action” follows.

IFTTT

Never heard of it?

Sad to say, you’re a little late to that party!

As of January 2019, IFTTT has 11 million users and 54 million applets connecting 550 services, running at a rate of 1 billion applets a month.

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So how does it work?

IFTTT allows you to create interactions in the form of applets. You choose from one of 550 partnered services, and choose a trigger in that service. Then you choose a target service, and choose an action to take place when the trigger occurs. All of these choices are from dropdowns.

IFTTT

So, let’s say you have a Fitbit fitness tracker that you use to track your sleep. You also have Phillips Hue light bulbs in your bedroom. You want to have them light up only when you’ve hit your sleep target regardless of what time it is. This is where IFTTT shines!

  • Select Fitbit as your trigger service and set the trigger to “Sleep duration above” and enter the number of hours.
  • Select Phillips Hue as your action service and set the action to “Turn on lights”, and enter the specific lights you wish to turn on (your bedroom lights).
  • Voila! A light alarm!

IFTTT has the benefit of not necessarily being 1:1, though. Through IFTTT, you can set one trigger to cause multiple actions in several services. You can also add a JavaScript filter to add cases to your conditional. So, you can have a single Facebook message containing the word “bark” blink the lights in your living room, turn on your washer, and start your coffeemaker (Why you’d want to do that is up to you).

In addition to being able to create your own applet, you can likewise search the applets others have created. Since other people might have had your very same need, it’s likely an applet carrying out your required function already exists. You can search directly for an applet, or browse all applets created for a certain service.

YOUTUBE

An interesting feature that IFTTT offers is the ability to suggest. You can suggest services that are not yet included, you can suggest triggers for the services already there, or you can suggest actions.

What are the services, triggers and actions that are available on IFTTT?

IFTTT Triggers

That is no easy question to answer, due to the vast selection. IFTTT has categorized its services into more than 30 categories, examples of which are mentioned below, along with a service in that category, and a trigger and action for each service.

CategoryServiceTriggerAction
AppliancesGE Appliances DishwasherDishwasher cycle is overStart dishwasher program
BlindsLink ShadesN/AOpen Shades
BloggingWordPressA new post is madePublish a post
BookmarkingPocketNew item is addedSave for Later
Calendars and schedulingGoogle CalendarRespond to an event inviteCreate an event
Cloud StorageDropboxNew photo in your folderAppend to a text file

Other categories and services include:

  • Communication: Line
  • Email: Gmail
  • Environmental control: Hive Window or Door Sensor
  • Health and fitness : Withings
  • Lighting: WeMo Lighting
  • Location services: Location
  • Mobile devices: Android Device
  • Notes: OneNote
  • Power monitoring & management: Home + Control / Legrand - BTicino
  • Security & monitoring systems: Guardzilla
  • Smart hubs: Samsung SmartThings
  • Social networks: Pinterest
  • Travel & transit: Uber
  • Voice assistants: Alexa
  • Weather: Weather Underground

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What are some of the things I can do with IFTTT?

The possibilities really are endless, but here are some suggestions:

  • When you receive a call on your phone, have the time and length of the call recorded in a Google spreadsheet. If this is a work phone, this data can be shared from Google docs at the end of every month to the data analytics team in your firm.
  • Turning on WiFi whenever you arrive at home through location (though Android Oreo and Pie can do this), and turning it off when you leave.
  • If a fitness tracker reads a dangerously low heart rate, call your doctor, friend, spouse, or an ambulance (or all four) and broadcast your location.
  • Have all morning Google calendar events calibrate your phone alarm, so you’re not rudely awakened too early on your day off.

How much do I have to pay to use IFTTT?

This is one of the best things about IFTTT… It’s free! Some services pay a fee to integrate with IFTTT (like BMW), but the app is free for users.

Is there anything else like IFTTT?

zapier

Zapier provides a similar solution to IFTTT. It allows the creation of 2-step applets (called “Zaps”) for free, with the creation of multistep Zaps and certain services being restricted to subscribed users. Subscription is $20 for individuals, and $250 for teams. Zapier supports more than 1000 services.

microsoft

Microsoft – not to be outdone – has its own platform called Flow. Its perspective is slightly different, though, as it focuses more on business and productivity apps. It currently only supports 239 services, and is free for 750 applet runs (called “Flows”) a month, with a few services restricted for subscribers. Subscription plans are at $5 and $15 a month, providing 4500 or 15000 Flows respectively.

Other options include Tasker for Android, Wappwolf Automator for Dropbox, Automate.io as an alternative to Zapier, Workflow for Apple products and services, and Huginn which requires some programming background to run.

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The potential power of IFTTT

The interesting thing is that the action in one platform could serve as a trigger in another creating a chain of apps and services. This can be used to bridge the gaps in supported services across platforms. So, technically you can have the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supported by IFTTT send an email message via Gmail whenever there’s a new food safety update, the email would create a Google contact through Flow, which could elicit the creation of a contact in Agile CRM through Zapier. Each of these apps is exclusive to that platform, with Google apps acting as a bridge, being common to all.

It truly is a small world we live in.

 


 

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