Innovation

IoT control in the palm of your hand: does Stringify or IFTTT do it better?

Workflow apps are getting popular. Two of the biggest-Stringify and IFTTT-specialize in interfacing with IoT devices. Is either a better choice?

Image: IFTTT/Stringify

The Internet of Things is growing—fast. There's more and more hardware out there connecting directly to the web. IoT has work and home applications, and if you've tried integrating devices into your life you've probably realized something: it's a mess of proprietary apps.

Thankfully there's another growing trend that simplifies IoT: workflow apps. Two in particular embrace IoT devices: Stringify and IFTTT. They can both integrate your smart devices into your life seamlessly, but in very different ways. Is there any reason to choose one over the other?

IFTTT: Simple statements, minimalist philosophy.

"IFTTT started with one core idea," Anne Mercogliano, VP of Marketing at IFTTT, said. "We wanted to create a programming language that was so easy anyone could use it." There aren't too many ideas in programming as simple as "if this, then that," so IFTTT built its entire system around it.

It's also where IFTTT gets its name and minimalist philosophy. "Most people are starting with one device and growing their ecosystem from there," Mercogliano said. Learning about the Internet of Things and workflow apps doesn't get easier than telling the app to do something when a condition is met.

IFTTT offers two apps: IF, which is programmed and runs without any input, and DO, which allows you to create one-touch buttons for your homescreen. You can program them to do similar things to IF Recipies, but you have to interact with it by tapping the button. Today we're focusing on complete workflow automation, so we'll be talking about IF.

SEE: Five ways to determine who should lead your IoT initiatives (Tech Pro Research)

Say, for example, the outside temperature hits 90°F: IF will tell your smart thermostat to adjust the temperature of your house. Or perhaps you want to turn the lights on before you get home—just set up a Recipe that turns them on when your GPS coordinates indicate you're getting close. You could even have it fire up a coffee pot when you're headed to the office.

Making your own Recipe is simple, and most anyone who can use a mobile device can create their own mini programs. You simply choose the input condition, decide when it's met, and then assign the output action. The app is easy to use with very minimal learning curve.

IF already does a lot more than work with IoT devices: it interfaces with over 300 different apps to do tons of different things. "IoT doesn't just mean machines to us," Mercogliano said. "Apps are transforming everything we do into services."

Mercogliano cited Tesco as one example. You can configure Recipes to order burgers if the forecast shows good weather for the weekend—or even order beer if your favorite team wins a game.

IF's future isn't just about hardware: it's about automating all those little things in life you forget to do. The learning curve is minimal, and the cost is even better: it's free. Get it now on Android and iOS.

Stringify: A power player for the ultra-connected

Mike Yurochko, cofounder and CEO of Stringify, thinks a truly connected life is more complex than just ifs and thens. The Stringify app, which launched on iOS seven months ago, allows users to create flows that can use multiple triggers and actions.

"The Internet of Things is going to grow, and when it does things are going to get more and more complicated," Yurochko said. "We're trying to accommodate the long-term growth of IoT by allowing more customization and context in our app."

Stringify's flows are similar to IFTTT's Recipes, but you can add a few extra commands before getting an output. Say you want to change the tone of your Hue lights in the evening. You can tell Stringify to do that—but with the added qualification that you have to be home.

SEE: AT&T launches $99 IoT Starter Kit to push innovation to market faster (TechRepublic)

Or say you want to keep a teen driver safe. If your car is equipped with an Automatic adapter you could configure it to alert you when your vehicle is speeding and you're not in it. That's some great peace of mind for parents of teenagers.

"IoT can solve a lot of everyday problems," Yurochko said. "We see potential for IoT to make health, safety, security, and even family management much simpler." Stringify is positioning itself to take advantage of the growing Internet of Things by connecting them all together. Flows have the ability to connect more devices around you, truly automating away the nuances of life that take up your time.

Like IF, Stringify interfaces with services and software as well as IoT. In just seven months it's added in excess of 500 programs and more than 60 IoT integrations. Setting up a flow is a bit more complicated than an IF Recipe, but that's only because there are a lot more options. Playing around with just a few made using the app feel comfortable.

You can download Stringify for iOS. It's currently in beta for Android with release scheduled for September.

Is there a best choice?

Deciding between the two might seem difficult, but think back to the core philosophy behind each app and you'll find an easy answer.

IF offers simple one to one commands that are ideal for those easing into the world of IoT, or those who don't know much about programming. Stringify, on the other hand, is designed with IoT power users in mind. If you want to completely automate the office or home you'll find powerful workflows in it that IF simply isn't designed to do.

There's no best choice, and choosing to try either one isn't going to lock you out from the other. You may find that both serve distinct and important roles in your IoT world, which makes sense: they want to do very different things despite the similar veneer.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Automating IoT tasks can be done by anyone thanks to IF and Stringify. Both leverage APIs to make all the nuts and bolts of programming invisible. Just tell the app what you want it to do and watch it happen.
  2. If you're new to IoT, plan on just using a few devices, want to use simple if/then statements, or like the idea of automating away your day-to-day minutia IF is worth checking out.
  3. IoT power users who want to completely automate their homes or offices with multiple devices and complicated workflows will find a lot of value in Stringify.

Also see

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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