IFTTT…What it is, and why you should be using it.

Smartphones have come a long way since their beginning. The first Android phone (HTC Dream or T-Mobile G-1) came out in September 2008 with the iPhone coming out a year prior. Up until this point, we had Blackberry, Palm, and Windows phones to choose from if you felt the need to have a smartphone in your life. Luckily for us, technology changed and has only grown ever since.

For some though, technology isn’t advancing fast enough. When we get a new handset, we often times feel limited once we’ve done a lot of the customizing that comes with the initial set up. This is where IFTTT comes in to play.

IFTTT stands for “If This, Then That.” In a nutshell, its an app we can use to make other apps do things that we want, that our devices normally wouldn’t do. Now before we continue, I want to reassure that this is in no way going to harm your device, void your warranty, nor does it require any expert level of software knowledge. It’s simply an app you download in the Play Store and run on your phone.

Think back to math class. “If/Then” statements were used to solve mathematical proofs. If you were like me, math wasn’t really your strong point, let me put it into everyday terms; IF I drink an entire pot of coffee in one sitting, THEN I can probably say I will spend a decent amount of time in the bathroom later. Or, for instance, IF I like the 4th Floor Tech Facebook page, Then I will always be up to date on ways to make my life easier through technology. (Did you see what I did there?). The way it is worded on their own website is: “IFTTT is the free way to get all your apps and devices talking to each other. Not everything on the internet plays nice, so we’re on a mission to build a more connected world.” So what does that mean for you?

Using this app you can do a plethora of things to make your life way cooler than it already is, and even impress your friends. For example, I have my Phillips Hue lights set to blink red and blue when my Uber shows up to my house. When my battery on my phone drops below 10% my lights will turn red and turn their brightness to 100% for 3 minutes or until my phone is plugged into a charger. Other applets I have seen used are when you disconnect from your WiFi at work past a certain time, it will text your spouse and let them know you are leaving work. You can have your Bluetooth turn off when you arrive home. IFTTT also has an applet that will turn your ringtone to 100% for a specified caller so you never miss a call from your boss, the school nurse, or that doctor you’re waiting to get an important call from. It can also help you keep a log of your work hours by adding an event to your Google Calendar every time you connect to your works WiFi and logging when you disconnect to keep track of your work hours for you.

This is an important time to note that only companies that partnered with IFTTT to make their services available can be altered using this app. This means that if Pizza Hut publishes a new coupon, there is no way you can use IFTTT to get a notification of any sort. (Dominos has an application on their though). So how do we actually do this?

First things first, download the app or visit their website. Signing up is extremely simple and there is no credit card sign up because everything is free. Once set up, you can start exploring the premade apps. You can search for specific things you want to utilize like Uber, Weather Underground, Beeminder, eBay, and Evernote. Since IFTTT has been around since 2011, there is a good chance that the apps you use have already had specific applets designed for it.

Once you have found one you like, it’s as easy as sliding the toggle switch from “off” to “on”

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Once you have turned it on, you can close the app and let it do its job. Nothing more is required of you. To disable one of the applets you have turned on, it’s as easy as navigating back to the applet and sliding the toggle switch to the “off” position.

What if what you want to do isn’t already listed as an available applet though? Don’t worry, it’s incredibly easy to make your own. The first thing you need to do is identify what you want to be your “trigger” and what action you want to trigger to enable. For example, I want to be able to say “Lights” to toggle the lights in my bedroom instead of “turn my bedroom lights on/off.” Here is step by step how to create your own applet in IFTTT.

The first thing you’re going to do is navigate to the far right tab called “My Applets” and tap the “+” at the top right corner

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Once you get there, you will be brought to a screen that looks like this:

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From here, you will tap the “+this.” This will be what we use as a trigger. Keep in mind that a trigger can be anything from your battery being low, to an alarm going off, or a verbal command using an Amazon Echo or Google Home. For this example, we will be using the Google Assistant, which is enabled on my Google Homes and my phone.

Once you tap that, it will bring you to a screen that has every trigger service that the app has to offer. You can scroll through or use the search bar at the top to find the trigger you want. For this example, I searched “assistant” to get the one I wanted.

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Once I tap on the Google Assitant trigger, it’s going to take me to the page that will allow me to actually set my trigger phrase. For this applet, we will select “say a simple phrase”

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From here, we are going to tap “say a simple phrase” which will bring us to the page where we will actually give it the commands we want. You will have three options to type the phrase you want to speak and then you can type what you want the Google Home to say in response to your command. This is where you can have a little bit of fun. For example, I have an applet set up to when I say “Pretend I’m in an airplane, it will turn all of my lights red and dim them to 20% brightness to simulate being in the back of a military aircraft during a nighttime operation with my Google Home to say “Roger” once the command is executed. From here, you can also change the language to accommodate for anyone that may not speak English in your home.

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For this Applet, I’ve just chosen to say the phrase “lights” and I chose to have my Google Assistant to respond with “You got it!” as a response to let me know the command has been executed. Once finished, tap the check mark in the upper right-hand corner. This will bring you back to the screen to create your action. You’re halfway done!

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Once you’re back to this screen, you are going to tap on the “+that” to create our action we want to be taken once our phrase is said. This will bring you back to the screen that looks identical to the one from earlier when we were picking our trigger. This time, once again, you can either use the search bar to find the application you want to use or scroll through them to find it. (Scrolling through this is a great way to discover new apps that you can use later on with applets.) For this purpose, I typed in “Hue” and selected the Phillips Hue Select Action page.

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We will be selecting the option to “Toggle lights on/off.” This will bring you a screen that asks what lights you want to Toggle. On this screen, you only get one option to choose which lights you want, so be sure to set up a group of lights in the Phillips Hue app if you don’t want to turn them all off, or want them turned off in groups. For example, I have four lights in each corner of my room set up as “front” and “back.” This allows me to turn off the front lights when I’m watching TV so I’m not blinded by the bulbs. (I have it set up for me to say “Lights…Camera…” and my Google Home responds with “action” to turn off the front lights. I can also say “Front lights” to toggle them off or on.) For this applet, I’m going to select “All Lights” and tap the check mark in the upper right-hand corner.

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The next screen will bring you to your applet preview. From here you can edit the title, choose to receive a notification when this applet is utilized. In this example, this wouldn’t really be practical, however, if you made one, for instance, that would text your spouse when your phone is on 5% battery, that would be handy to be notified that the text was sent.

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If you’re happy with the way everything turned out, just tap “finish” and you should get a pop up on your screen saying your applet is finished. It’s that easy folks.

This is just one of millions of applets that can be designed using IFTTT. Let us know in the comments what you are using or if you have any questions about what you can create.

 

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