I have recently discovered the power of IFTTT (If This Then That). IFTTT allows anyone to easily automate tasks, by connecting a growing list of popular web applications and cloud services. At time of writing, IFTTT has 328 services in it’s arsenal, such as Dropbox, Facebook, Gmail and WordPress.
IFTTT is not limited to web services either. An increasing number of hardware devices are being created with web connectivity in mind and will integrate with IFTTT out of the box. Honeywell, Phillips, Belkin, Samsung and LG, are making light bulbs which can change to the color of your smartphone wallpaper, and coffee pots that turn on when your Fitbit detects you’re awake. The IOT (Internet of Things) is here and IFTTT is one of the driving forces behind it. It can even be used to turn on the central heating when your car enters the garage and change your Facebook status to say “I’m Home”.
Recipes, Channels, Actions, Triggers and Ingredients
Not long ago, automation would have required a skilled programmer or even someone with knowledge of robotics. Not anymore. The heavy lifting of facilitating communication between the various services has been taken care of by the nice people at IFTTT.
IFTTT simplifies automation by using recipes. Each recipe consists of; a channel to act as the trigger; another to complete an action; and ingredients to pass information from one channel to another.
I might create a recipe using the EBay channel, which is triggered whenever a new product containing the search term “Kenner AT-AT” is listed. The recipe could send me a notification via Push Bullet.
IFTTT also allows users to publish and share their recipes. This is one of IFTTT’s greatest strengths.
Imagine if the average person was provided the list of services IFTTT connects, and told they could connect them to automate any task they liked, but not given any examples. It’s likely that they wouldn’t even scratch the surface of what was possible. Yes, hardcore users would no doubt come up with their own fantastic uses for the service, but they’d probably share their recipes in forums and message boards, where the mainstream users wouldn’t bother to look. The service would be relegated to the geek domain, as a tool which requires patience and a deep understanding of it’s potential.
This is not the case with IFTTT. As a user browses the available channels, examples of existing recipes which relate to the channel are provided. Users are free to use any of the published recipes for themselves. In fact, given the number of recipes available, a user may never have to create a recipe of their own.
The IFTTT website even categorises recipes into helpful groups of recipes like, for small business, for marketers, for the home, even for weddings.
One can browse the list of community contributed recipes and come up with new ideas for how to use the service for even more tasks. To say the possibilities are endless might be a stretch, but there are certainly a lot more uses for IFTTT than I imagined when I first signed up.
When a user does decide to create their own recipe, they will find the process so simple, that even my father could create one. The workflow is beautifully simplified and separated into seven steps.
At time of writing, I’ve already created one or more blog posts on how to create specific IFTTT recipes. I often wonder if the process was pointless, since a recipe can probably be created in less time than it would take to read the post.
This post is part of an IFTTT experiment of my own. I’ve created a recipe with IFTTT’s WordPress and Twitter channels. If it works as I expect, this post should be tweeted on my twitter feed at @DanielRidd.
Check out the results in Part 2