Make Life Easier With Simple Automation Tricks Using IFTTT

Who Doesn’t Love Getting Work Done a Without Lifting a Finger?

I do and I’m willing to bet that other close members of my family do too!  But there’s one specific family member  that I have in mind for today’s tip. I’ll let that person figure out exactly who I’m referring too :-)  So, while this handy ‘Tip of the Day’ is really intended to be for that one special person, because I know that sharing is central to who they are I decided that they’d appreciate my sharing this with our larger ‘family & friends universe’ which, by default means sharing it with the whole world too!

IFTTT can notify me when it will rain.

IFTTT can notify me when it will rain.

One Simple Way Everyone Can Automate:

Use IFTTT

What’s IFTTT?

IFTTT Icon

IFTTT Icon

IFTTT is an acronym which stands for:

IF This Then That

Here’s how Wikipedia defines IFTTTT:

IFTTT is a free web-based service that allows users to create chains of simple conditional statements, called “recipes“, which are triggered based on changes to other web services such as Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. IFTTT is an abbreviation of “If This Then That”.

An example “recipe” might consist of sending an e-mail message if the IFTTT user tweets using a certain hashtag. Or, if the user is tagged by someone on Facebook, then that photo will be added to the user’s cloud-based photo archive.

Don’t be fooled by the above definition…it’s really much simpler than it looks.  There are a few essential ingredients which Wikipedia explains under Features.  Below is Wikipedia’s discussion of the main concepts IFTTT employs:

  • Channels are the “basic building blocks of IFTTT”, they mainly describe a series of data from a certain web service such as YouTube or eBay. It can also describe some actions controlled with certain APIs like SMS. Sometimes, it can represent information in terms of weather or stocks. There are particular triggers and actions in each channel.

  • Triggers are the “this” part of a recipe. They are the items that “trigger” the action. For example, from an RSS feed, you can receive a notification based on a keyword or phrase.

  • Actions are the “that” part of a recipe. They are the output that results from the input of the trigger.

  • Recipes are the predicates made from Triggers and Actions. For example, if you like any picture in Instagram (trigger), the photo will be sent to your Dropbox account (action).

  • Ingredients are basic data made available from a trigger. For example, the data that are available from the email trigger include subject, body, attachment, received date, and the sender’s address.

For those of you who’s eye’s have already begun to glaze over and are at risk of dozing off right about now (I’m guessing that might be happening purely because that was my first response too!)…don’t worry…

Using IFTTT is Much Easier Than Reading It’s Definition!

That’s because there are a lot of tech-gifted geniuses out there who’ve figured out all the techie stuff for us. They, along with the IFTTT engine, have gone to all the trouble of making their IFTTT tricks very simple for us normal-folk.

Getting Started With IFTTT

Using IFTTT is as simple as creating an account here.  Then connecting up a few of your web-based accounts such as Gmail, Evernote, Twitter or Facebook, by signing into your accounts while on your account page at the IFTTT website.

Then, searching for cool things to do with it.  Those cool things are actually the recipes.  The web-based services themselves are called channels.  So the best way to find things is to search by channel.

Let’s say you have a Gmail account.  You can search the Gmail channel to see all the recipes that other people have created for it.  Once you find one you like, you just select it by either tapping or clicking on it, and IFTTT will automatically guide you through a few simple steps to get it working for you.  When your done you’re presented with a Done message along with a Recipe ID #.

Notification when I've successfully 'created' or connected an IFTTT recipe

Notification when I’ve successfully ‘created’ or connected an IFTTT recipe

But really, you don’t even need to record that number or do anything else…because it’s all so simple.  The only thing that you’ll need to remember to do is to record your user account sign-on information…basically your email account name and your user password.

Some of the Things You Can Do With IFTTT

How I’m Using IFTTT With Twitter

I love using IFTTT to keep track of things for me in Evernote.  One way I do that is with Twitter. Because I’m relatively new to Twitter, I wanted to keep a sort of log of my activities there.  I was hoping that by doing this, it would make Twitter easier for me to understand and faster to ‘get up to speed’ with.

Some of my most recently added IFTTT recipes

Some of my most recently added IFTTT recipes

While my use of IFTTT and Twitter didn’t initially work out the way I’d intended…a much more helpful and important use for IFTTT emerged.  Since I began using IFTTT at the beginning of my Twitter experience…connecting the 2 has proven to be extremely valuable for me.

Just a few days after I joined Twitter I discovered IFTTT.  I had a little extra time that day and I was intrigued by the claims made by IFTTT users.  So I found and then went through the few simple steps IFTTT guided me through to make this action happen:

Everytime I Tweet Something IFTTT Puts My Tweet Into a Note in Evernote

This actually occurs once a day…which is good for keeping my Evernote account from getting filled up with single notes.  In fact, the new Tweets are actually appended to an existing note which changes, or rather, begins with a new note each month.  This is great because as I’ve become more proficient with Twitter I’ve not found a good way of going very far back into time…it’s a similar phenomenon in Facebook too.  To go back in time in my own profile, in both cases I need to scroll and scroll…sometimes for a very long time…just to find some much older information that I can find almost instantaneously by employing an Evernote search.

If You Happen to Use Evernote and Any Social Network Like Twitter or Facebook … Using IFTTT Can Really Help You To Find Your Older Posts Quickly

Other Ways to Use IFTTT

Just by visiting IFTTT’s main website, you’ll automatically be shown lots and lot’s of interesting recipes, or rather, many cool ways you can use the IFTTT service.

Here are some of my newest ways of using the IFTTT service:

Some cool Twitter - Evernote Recipes

Some cool Twitter – Evernote Recipes

IFTTT Apps

I haven’t really explored using IFTTT’S app until today.  The thing that motivated me to download and sign into the app was a new recipe I signed up for that will notify me whenever NASA’s Space Station will be immediately over my house.  I discovered that just going through the steps to set this up didn’t necessarily mean that this new action was working.

IFTTT ios app

IFTTT ios app

I decided to test out my new recipes by visiting my recipe page.  Once there, IFTTT listed all of my recipes and it let me do different things with them.  One thing you can do is to test a recipe.  I tested the Space Shuttle one and found it FAILED!  It was hard to miss IFTTT’s warning in red!

The main reason that I chose to test that specific one was because I was curious about how I would actually be notified.  Would it be via an email or text message?  Looking at the advanced information for the recipe didn’t shed any additional light on the matter for me…because I’m not really a coder.  So I decided to download the IFTTT ios app and sign into it.  Sure enough, I discovered that’s the vehicle it will use to notify me!

IFTTT Recipe to be notified when the NASA Space Station passes over my house

IFTTT Recipe to be notified when the NASA Space Station passes over my house

The link I provided above is for the IFTTT ios app.  Here’s a link to IFTTT’s Android app too.

I also discovered that it might be possible for me to use IFTTT’S app to create my own recipes…which is something I’ve really stayed away from up until now.  The possibility though of being able to easily code my own IFTTT actions is pretty exciting!

IFTTT Can Do Much More Than Just Connecting Simple Web Based Service’s & Making Those Better for Users

IFTTT & IoT | The Internet of Things is the Key to Home Automation

While I’ve only just begun to learn about all the cool ways you can automate your home and make your life simpler…it’s a topic that’s exploding on Twitter…which is a great place to keep up-to-date about IoT happenings.

What Can You Do Easily With Home Automation Right Now?

A few really simple things you can do with home automation right now  include:

  • You can buy an Internet bridge and a few Phillip’s Hue, Cree, GE or LIFX light bulbs that can change colors to suit your mood or music, or go on at specific times…like maybe when you arrive home or walk into a room.  The technology is quite entrenched now and PC Magazine’s article does a good job of describing the best alternatives for this.  All it takes to set this up is a small bridge device made the manufacturer of the light bulb you choose and then a few light bulbs that you screw into your existing lamps or ceiling fixtures.
Phillip's Hue Bridge and Lightbulbs

Phillip’s Hue Bridge and Lightbulbs

  • You can take control of of home heating and cooling functions by buying a Nest or Honeywell smart thermostat and swapping it out with you existing ones. While I haven’t used Nest yet, when we had some furnace work done recently we needed a new thermostat so our heating cooling guy put in a smart one made by Honeywell.  It lets me check the weather before I get dressed each day or change the settings when we go on vacation remotely if we forget as we’re racing out the door to catch a flight.

I like to think of those 2 functions as easy beginner’s steps to learning all about the Internet of Things and going on to more advanced steps.  One additional way to test the waters is with Amazon’s new Echo Device…which I was thrilled to receive as a Mother’s Day present!  Here’s a link to that…but it’s important to know that I’m a brand new Amazon Associate…which means that if you were to actually buy the Echo via my link in a 24 hour period from when you first used my link…I’d earn a 4% commission on it…although Amazon would pay me that and it wouldn’t impact your price or anything.  But, my immediate family members should not buy an Echo that way…because you’re on our family’s account and I’d get into big trouble with Amazon!  Plus that…we already have it :-)

What Exactly Is Amazon Echo?

Well, as I mentioned above, I’m pretty new to Echo myself so I’m just testing the waters.  But so far, here’s my take on the Echo.  It’s a pretty cool, yet discreet device that sit’s on our bookshelf and it’s where Alexa resides.

My New Amazon Echo

My new Amazon Echo

Alexa is a lot like Siri…but she’s pretty different too.  I first learned of ‘her’ after I published a YouTube video about how Siri scared me sometimes by talking when I had no idea ‘she’ was even listening!  I shared my new video on Facebook. A friend commented on my post that he and his family were often startled in the same way by Alexa…which of course led me to immediately Google ‘Alexa’ and read up on the Echo…and ultimately dropping some thinly veiled hints to my husband and kids that the Echo would be a great Mother’s Day gift…and a little different from the more typical flower bouquets!

So, we’ve only used Alexa for a few months, and I’ve not really even scraped the surface of what ‘she’ can do.  But so far she’s pretty good at:

  • telling us the weather forecast
  • playing any music our hearts might desire that’s free for Amazon Prime members
  • keeping my shopping list of Amazon things…and really more lists but I haven’t quite sorted this out completely yet.
  • finding out what movies are playing around us and the times
  • and bringing us up-to-date on current news headlines (which is great for me because I don’t read newspapers and Twitter is my main source of news.)

Alexa should also be able to conduct any kind of Internet search for us…using Bing, which, as it turns out, is also the search engine that Siri’s programmed to use!  I never knew that, but when I thought about it I realized that Google is Android…so probably Google isn’t motivated to let Siri and Alexa upstage OK Google searches!  Sadly, our internet searches using Alexa haven’t been great so far…unless we search for one of the things she’s already been trained to search for like asking how much the earth weighs.  So here’s one obvious disadvantage of being an early adopter…but according to this short Wired article, Alexa should be able to do much more!

How IFTTT Can Help With Home Automation & IoT

IFTTT can help you to easily automate you home using a companion service and app that the IFTTT developer’s also created called Do. There are companion apps for Do for Android and for ios.  I’ve not yet used the Do service or app, so I can’t speak knowledgeably about it…but you can read a lot more about both IFTTT and Do, and how they work in Pocket Lint’s great article here.  And trust me when I tell you that the little bit in which I’ve dabbled in the home automation arena so far has really ‘knocked my socks off!’  It’s an exciting subject with a huge host of already widely used applications!

Do Button ios app by IFTTT

Do Button ios app by IFTTT

If you’re interested, here’s a link to a great PDF Verizon published recently that gives a good overview of IoT’s current state of affairs.

Last, I’d like to share this current article about the obstacles the IoT Industry is still facing, along with some educated guesses about outcomes.

Feel free to leave me any comments below:

About vsajewel

Hi...I'm the author of 2 main blogs on WordPress.com. vsatips...which is about tech tips for mobile devices like cellphones & tablets. vsatrends, my 2nd blog, is focused more on lifestyle trends...especially those with a strong design element. I also host a YouThe channel which includes aspects of both websites.
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