Earlier this week we looked at basic notification services that can be used with the IFTTT (IF This Then That) automation service, going over all of the more straightforward “old-school” tools such as SMS, email, and even having IFTTT call your phone.
Of course, while we think it’s pretty cool that IFTTT can use even those more basic methods, today we’re going to dive a little bit deeper and talk about some of the more advanced services you can use to have IFTTT let you know what’s going on in your home. As we noted in our earlier article, while many smart home apps provide their own notification capabilities, they don’t always cover every situation, and of course not everybody in your household necessarily carries a compatible smartphone.
Right off the bat, we should mention that there’s IFTTT’s own iOS and Android app. It’s designed to be a full interface for managing your IFTTT service, but it can also display push notifications on your iPhone, iPad, or Android phone or tablet. This is handled through the Notification service in IFTTT.
A good example of where this comes in handy is with an Ecobee smart thermostat, which is one of the few smart home devices with an app that oddly doesn’t provide any kind of push notification capabilites of its own — yet it’s more than capable of firing off IFTTT triggers, as we outlined in a prior article. Since not everybody owns a smart humidifier, it may be handy to get a notification when the humidity in your home drops below a certain level so you can simply turn on your humidifier the old fashioned way.
There’s another bonus here as well; using the IFTTT app for your notifications can save you the trouble of setting up a separate recipe — also known as an applet — if you want to perform another automation task and also be notified at the same time. For example, let’s say you had a humidifer connected to a WeMo smart plug, but still wanted to know when the humidity drops so low that the humidifier comes on. Simply create the IFTTT automation routine as you normally would, and on the “Review and Finish” screen you should see a toggle at the bottom that says “Receive notifications when this Applet runs.” If this is switched on and you have the IFTTT app set up on your device, you’ll get a push notification every time that particular applet runs.
This is also really handy for testing new applets as well. The downside to using IFTTT’s own notifications, however, is that you’re limited to getting them on iOS and Android devices, meaning there are fewer situations where you may actually need them, since those are the two most common platforms for manufacturers’ own smart home apps.
There’s also an IFTTT service for the venerable messaging service, Skype, that can be used to post a notification right into a Skype conversation. While most users will find this of limited use on a mobile device (considering all of the other notification options available), it can be a really useful option for desktop users who live in the Skype app all day anyway.
For example, if you have a Chamberlain MyQ garage door opener, you can set up an applet that will send you a notification whenever your garage door is opened, which can be used if you want to know when another family member arrives home. The Skype service actually offers quite a few rich notification options, such as the ability to insert URLs and images; although these aren’t something that you’ll typically be able to take advantage of when using home automation services, the Chamberlain example shows how you could add a link to the web-based MyQ Dashboard for quick access to check your garage door status, and even close the door again from there. (One caveat here: Chamberlain charges a $1/month subscription fee for access to their IFTTT service — one of the few companies we’ve encountered to take this approach.)
Not dissimilar to using Skype, you can also tie IFTTT into the popular collaborative messaging service Slack, where it can not only notify you privately, but also post a message into a team channel if you prefer — useful if you have a family message board in Slack or if you’re using automation accessories in your office. For example, maybe you want your whole team to know when the temperature gets too hot so somebody can turn on the air conditioning.
Similar to Skype, the Slack service provides the ability to also put in links and URLs, and if you prefer not to post to a channel, you can just as easily send a message to a private group or an individual user — either yourself or anybody else on your Slack team.
Other Notification Services
As with most things IFTTT, this only scratches the surface of some of the cool things you can do by tying IFTTT into your home automation accessories, and there are a lot of other notification services available. While IFTTT includes many services like Boxcar and Pushbullet that are designed for iOS and Android — and are therefore less relevant for many users — there are a couple services that warrant mention, such as Pushalot, which is designed specifically for the Windows Phone, bringing intelligent notifications to a family of devices that are commonly left out of the party when it comes to home automation apps. If you’re fortunate enough to drive a BMW or Tesla, IFTTT even provides services that will allow you to display notifications right on your car’s dashboard. We’ll be exploring some of these other notification services in future articles as we continue to delve into everything that IFTTT can bring to the home automation experience.