Have You Heard of IFTTT? Here’s What to Know

If This Then That, or IFTTT for short, puts the internet to work for you. We gave it a try and found some useful features for smart homes.

The “internet of things” is real. Each American home has, on average, 25 internet-connected devices: a thermostat, smart televisions and speakers, a connected garage door opener and more. On our phones we each have an average of 35 mobile apps.

But are our apps and devices connected to one another? With If This Then That, or IFTTT, they can be, delivering benefits you’ve probably hoped for.

What Is IFTTT?

If This Then That, or IFTTT for short, puts the internet to work for you. With this home automation tool, you define the “this” trigger and the “that” action to connect devices and make things happen.

You can trigger your robot mower to park itself anytime it rains. You can turn the entryway light on when your smart door lock opens. You can use voice commands to power a room full of electronics and lights. While many smart home products already feature voice commands and automation built-in, IFTTT lets you connect devices that wouldn’t otherwise work together.

The combination of an IFTTT trigger and an action is called an applet. You can discover useful applets via the IFTTT website or cell phone app. Anyone can create an applet if the devices they want to trigger are connected to the internet and recognize IFTTT. I created one to trigger my Aura Air purifier to email me if particulates in the air reach a certain unhealthy level.

I found many other interesting applets on the site. Some were created by individual users, and many by companies that hope I’ll find the applets handy and expand the use of their products. I found one that enables my smart garage door opener (Chamberlain, with the MyQ smart application) to close by 10 p.m. if I forget. Applets like this are a big part of how IFTTT makes money.

Ring, the smart doorbell company owned by Amazon, pays IFTTT a fee to host numerous applets. So does Husqvarna for its Automower robotic lawn mowers, Philips Hue for its smart lighting products and many more.

I initially signed up for a free IFTTT account. With that I created three applets, like the one my air purifier, and got unlimited use of any applets already created. I’ve since upgraded to a Pro account for $4 per month, and if my smart-home device library grows, I’ll need it. I can always cancel later. My Pro account also lets me use “queries,” but more on that later.

IFTTT Applets and Triggers

Discovering facts is part of the fun. I learned that the city of Louisville — via its “Smart Louisville” initiative — became the first city in the nation to partner with IFTTT. It created a trigger that citizens can use to create their own applets. Here are other interesting ones:

  • Get notified when the Inter-national Space Station passes over your house, but only if the skies are clear and it’s dark.
  • Email the song title when you save a track on Spotify.
  • Have a lamp or two blink on and off when it starts to rain.
  • Get an email or text notification if the pollen count is high.
  • When your Android phone battery is getting low, turn off Bluetooth.
  • You can also create industry-specific and news-focused actions. Things like:
  • Get an email when a company files a 10-Q with the SEC.
  • Get a text message when the State Department issues a travel alert.
  • Get notified when the USDA posts a new food recall due to allergens.
  • And this: Order Domino’s when the National Science Foundation declares we’ve discovered aliens. Because, you know, aliens.

IFTTT enables many trigger-action combos for use with smart-home hubs like Amazon Alexa and Google Home Assistant. Helpful, indeed, but IFTTT isn’t flawless. I found broken applets and a less-than-ideal search function. I enjoyed the novelty of discovering intriguing ideas that aren’t useful to me, but I spent way too much time doing so!

IFTTT gets even more interesting when you add a query, which is basically another “if this” trigger. Here’s an example from IFTTT’s own help site:

  1. Trigger: If the temperature rises above a certain threshold, then…
  2. Query: Current electricity price…
  3. Filter code: Check to see if the electricity price is above a certain threshold; if false, run action, then…
  4. Action: Turn on the AC

Queries help make your home and smart devices even smarter. If it saves you time and/or money, then you’re the smart one. See, I created an IFTTT right there.

Glenn Hansen
A magazine editor and writer by trade, Glenn gained experience in home repair when he bought his first old home while working side jobs in construction to supplement his starving-writer salary. He has built several furniture projects from the pages of Family Handyman magazine and worked through countless fix-it-up projects at home to save a few bucks.