How IFTTT can transform your life

If This, Then That (IFTTT) has become the ultimate automation service for small tasks between connected services. Here's how to leverage its power.

ifttt applet
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The Internet and social media have improved our lives, but there is a whole lot of nonsense attached with it. There is more information out there which anyone can process, and there are small tasks like uploading Instagram photos to Facebook or checking statuses that only take a short time but we never seem to have the opportunity to do.

But now an Internet-based service called IFTTT is making things easier for everyone. IFTTT (which stands for “If This, Then That") has been around since 2010 with its applets which automates many of these more mundane tasks. This can be combined with the growing popularity of the internet of things (IoT) to automate even more tasks than before, letting us gather more information and do things which we always skipped over because there was never enough time. The days of constantly logging into a wide range of disparate services to accomplish anything will come to an end.

The benefits of IFTTT

We often view programming as a challenging concept which needs real training and years of experience to do. But IFTTT at its core let users build and use small programs or applets to conduct small but important tasks for our day to day lives.

For example, Quartz reports that “tens of thousands of people” are now using an applet which sends them an automatic e-mail if President Trump signs a bill into law or notifies them when a bill may be coming up for a vote. The applet now has over 40,000 users and has nearly doubled its number of users compared to April 2016.

You could ask what the difference is between using this applet and signing up for a watchdog think-tank’s e-mail list which would notify you whenever Trump signed a bill. The answer is convenience. A watchdog list will likely not tell you about every single bill, which means signing up with multiple lists that can be confusing and redundant. Applets simplify the process.

A further example is how people also use applets to keep up with Trump’s tweets. I use Twitter a great deal, but I do not have the time to keep up with every tweet made by every person I follow. But there is an Applet which essentially compiles tweets into a single e-mail, making it easier to catch up.

Combining IFTTT with IoT

IFTTT is impressive in and of itself. But it can reach its true potential when combined with the devices which we know as the IoT.

One problem with the IoT is that with so many connected devices and apps that work with them, it can be challenging to use them all effectively. But there are applets which automate the process and can use smart devices for new purposes.

For example, the city of Louisville has built an applet for its citizens who own smart lightbulbs. The lightbulbs turn red when there is an air quality warning. It would be possible for any one citizen to go on the Louisville website daily and find out when the air quality is poor, but now anyone with just a light bulb and an app can be quickly and easily informed.

There are already hubs like the Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant which can connect with IoT devices and let you use them from a single spot. But Amazon and those companies are in a fierce competition to get third-party IoT device developers to use their software. This means that a device which uses Google Assistant cannot communicate with an Amazon Echo. But with IFTTT, you do not have to worry about that problem as you can install an applet for every kind of IoT device. In fact, IFTTT hopes to someday be the “connecting tissue” to the Internet of Things, or the operating system through which these devices operate.

Using IFTTT

IFTTT is all about convenience, and that extends to using it. All you need is a computer or smartphone. Just go the IFTTT website as linked above, sign up for an account, and then begin browsing through the Applets to find something which would fit on your device.

If you are unsure where to start, then Greenbot has a great guide on things to look for and groupings of applets to use. Remember that certain applets are configured for certain types of phones or for a computer, and think about what you want to use applets for. The great part about applets is that they can be used for all sorts of purposes, whether it is for work, in the home, or with wearables.

IFTTT and their applets can represent a radical change in how we use our mobile devices, computers, and the IoT. They can be the connecting tissue, where you can activate IoT devices and get more utility from social media as long you have an applet which anyone can install. Take the time to go through the applets and you will see how easy they are to use and install.

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