Internet of Things

IFTTT: The smart person's guide

IFTTT is one of the leading IoT solution platforms available. If you're interested in truly automating your life, you may be wondering how to use it. Here's what you need to know.

Think about all the little things you do with tech each day. Sending emails to tell coworkers a project was updated, turning your smart thermostat up and down before you leave home, or sending a text to tell someone you're headed out the door.

Those little interactions, and ones like them, have become a daily part of life for tech users, and all of us have a few that we wish we didn't have to deal with. For those little annoyances there's IFTTT.

With just a few taps of a smartphone screen you can automate those tasks away. Making a change to a project could trigger an automatic email, leaving work could turn up your thermostat, and other simple "if, then" tasks can happen without your needing to do a thing.

TechRepublic's smart person's guide about IFTTT is a quick introduction to this IoT platform, as well as a "living" guide that will be updated periodically as new features are added.

SEE: Check out all of TechRepublic's smart person's guides.

Executive summary

  • What is IFTTT? IFTTT is an internet-based service that allows users to create simple apps that activate when certain conditions are met. IFTTT stands for "if this, then that," which is exactly what its Applets are able to do.
  • Why does IFTTT matter? IFTTT can automate simple hardware and software tasks that typically have to be performed manually. It has the potential to greatly simplify life for people who heavily rely on technology and the Internet of Things in daily life.
  • Who does IFTTT affect? IFTTT affects anyone who uses IoT devices at home or on the road, as well as those who use tech to perform repetitive tasks.
  • When is IFTTT happening? IFTTT was first announced in December 2010 and has been evolving ever since.
  • How do I start using IFTTT? Users primarily interact with IFTTT through its mobile apps for iOS and Android. In order to use it you need the app and some basic knowledge of conditional programming.

What is IFTTT?

The simplest way to describe IFTTT is as a personal automation platform. Users create simple "Applets" that can execute simple "If This Then That" statements. Applets can be manually created, or you can choose from collections designed for vehicles, small business, weather, shopping, and the like.

Users interact with IFTTT mainly through its mobile app, but featured Applets can be turned on and off on the IFTTT website.

IFTTT doesn't only use Applets: It also has Services that are direct integrations with third-party devices and data, like Phillips Hue, Gmail, Twitter, Amazon Alexa, GE, and a bunch of other software platforms and IoT hardware.

In short, Applets are the "if, then" statements, and Services pull info from other sources in order to do something automatically.

Additional resources:

Why does IFTTT matter?

At the risk of sounding philosophical, IFTTT is an IoT and automation democratizer. It allows people with little to no programming knowledge to make use of cutting-edge technology that can make their life easier.

IFTTT's flexibility, which enables it to automate simple tasks and control a variety of IoT devices, makes it a great choice for personal and business use.

In the business world IFTTT can be used to abstract routine tasks to prevent mistakes, control office IoT devices, automate typical procedures, and do simple things for small businesses, marketers, and social media professionals.

In a nutshell, IFTTT matters because it can save you time and make the technology you use every day a seamless part of your life.

Additional resources

Who does IFTTT affect?

IFTTT primarily affects two categories of tech users: Those who are heavy IoT users, and those who rely on tech to perform lots of small tasks.

Applets are IFTTT's way of eliminating the need for a person to repost content to multiple social media platforms, scour the web for mentions in the news or on social media, manually compile an email analytics report, and perform most any simple job that breaks down to "if this, then that."

IoT-focused Services connect IoT devices with the real world variables that affect how they behave. Cold weather can automatically turn up the thermostat, an overly sunny day can trigger smart blinds to close, a bit of movement can email a snapshot from a webcam, and employee hours can even be tracked based on the location of their smartphones.

There aren't too many people who IFTTT can't affect—it's simply a matter of finding the Applets and Services that benefit you or creating one if it doesn't already exist.

Additional resources

When is IFTTT happening?

IFTTT was first announced in 2010, and in late 2011 it was launched as a web service. In less than a year over one million Applets and Services had been created, which prompted the release of an IFTTT mobile app on iOS in 2013 and Android a year later.

Since then IFTTT has continued to grow, adding new IoT integrations and partnerships along with a second platform called the Do Button, which allows users to create widgets for mobile devices that execute a simple task when tapped.

How can I start using IFTTT?

You don't need to have a smart home or IoT-wired office to start using IFTTT: All you need is a web browser or a smartphone and the desire to simplify how you interact with technology. You can sign up at the IFTTT website, where you can also enable Applets and Services.

Those wishing to take their IFTTT experience mobile can find it on the Apple App Store and Google Play. From there it's a few simple clicks or taps to an automated life.

Additional resources

Image: TechRepublic/Erin Carson

About Brandon Vigliarolo

Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.

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