Today I want to talk about a powerful service / app called IFTTT, which, as the graphic suggests, stands for If This, Then That. This strange name conveys what the service does. “If this”, meaning if this happens in one service I use or some device I use, “then that”, meaning then do this to my device or to some other service. Think of it like piping activity or output from one service into another.
Confused? Don’t worry if you are. That’s why I’m writing this post. Probably the best way to frame this is to give some examples.
The Trigger in the IFTTT recipe we create can be something happens on your phone for instance. For example if you have the app on your Android phone or iPhone you can monitor input from the GPS. So the IF This would be “If the GPS enters this area” where this area could be your office. Now we need the Action and let’s for this example stick with your phone and make the Then That would be “Mute my Phone”.
Do you see what that recipe above will do. When you reach your office your phone will automatically go on mute.
Let’s look at another example. Because IFTTT isn’t just limited to devices, but also services (like Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, Instagram, Nest, Hue, Dropbox, Craigslist etc. etc) we can have an example like “If the GPS enters this area Then Email My Wife” In this case the Trigger is the GPS arriving at work and the Action is using Gmail to send someone an email.
It’s the breadth of services available to connect that truly make this a unique and valuable tool. Want to know when it’s going to rain? That is the Trigger. The action could be a text to you phone (SMS service), or flash your lights at home (the Hue service) or a post to your Facebook page. Temperature drops below a certain level outside (Trigger) then adjust your Nest thermostat (Action). Someone tags you in an Instagram photo (Trigger) save it to your Dropbox (Action). Temperature on your Nest thermostat falls below freezing (Trigger) send me a text message (SMS). How about on your iPhone if you are running the IFTTT app and select New Photo taken in an area, let’s say when you are on vacation, (Trigger) upload automatically to Facebook (Action).
You get the idea, I hope. It is hard to understand until you start playing with the service a bit. Explore. Check out the recipes that other people have created for ideas of your own. It really becomes a powerful workflow, macro-like, service that begins to connect disparate services together. And things will only continue to get more powerful as new services become available for you to leverage. You can access the service via the web, but the mobile apps are excellent too, providing a simple visual interface that allows you to connect services/devices together based on simple Triggers and Actions.
If you have any great recipe ideas that are particularly useful, feel free to share in the comments below.