Earlier this week, we took an introductory look at IFTTT and the basics of what could be done using Philips Hue, but as we noted in that article, setting lights at a specific date and time is only barely scratching the surface of what IFTTT is capable of doing for your home automation routines.
So today, we’re going to dive a little deeper into some creative ideas for using IFTTT with Philips Hue to create useful applets that can do cool things with your lights based on some of IFTTT’s more sophisticated triggers.
We’re going to jump right in and assume that you have a working familiarity with IFTTT — if not feel free to take a look back at our introductory article for the basics.
To start off, it’s important to mention that the Philips Hue service is an action service, and doesn’t provide any triggers. While this makes perfect sense in light (no pun intended) of Hue’s primary focus, it does mean that you won’t be able to use Hue’s switches and motion sensors to trigger IFTTT actions. Instead, IFTTT applets for Hue require that you use other third-party services as triggers to make Hue do things.
IFTTT’s Hue service provides ten possible actions, ranging from the obvious and very basic ones such as Turn off lights, Turn on lights, Dim lights, Blink lights and Toggle lights on/off which are all pretty much self-explanatory, and can each be applied to whole rooms or individual lights.
Provided you’ve updated to the 2016 version of the Hue app for iOS or Android, you can also use the Set a scene in a room action to set all of the lights in a Hue room to any one of your scenes. This action only supports selecting whole rooms, and not individual lights.
Finally, there are four slightly more interesting actions for users who have color bulbs: Change color simply changes your lights to a set color, that you supply either by common color name (e.g. “red”) or by a CSS hex color value (e.g. “#ff0000”). As the name implies, Change to random color changes the selected lights or room to a color chosen at random, Change color from image allows you to set your Hue lights to match the dominant colors in an image that you specify by web URL — keep in mind, however, that the image URL must be publicly accessible, so you likely won’t get away with using a Facebook link. Finally, Turn on color loop activates a slow, predefined color loop effect, which is particularly useful as this is something that you can’t do with Philips’ own Hue app.
So armed with the knowledge of what IFTTT’s Hue service can do for us, let’s take a look at some practical applets that we can put together using just a few of IFTTT’s possible triggers.
Turn on the lights when your front door is unlocked
If you’re using an August Smart Lock, you can use IFTTT’s August service as a trigger to turn on the lights whenever your front door is unlocked. Once you’ve configured the August service in IFTTT, you can add it to the “IF THIS” section, choose “Lock unlocked” as the trigger, and specify which of your August Door Locks should be used for the applet. Then simply choose the appropriate Hue action for what you want to do with your lights.
Of course, there’s also an August trigger for when your door is locked, so you could also use this one for something like turning off your porch light when you’re locking the door. Two more advanced triggers also allow you to only have actions fire off when the door is unlocked or unlocked by a specific person, but keep in mind these will only work if you’re using the August app to lock or unlock the door, as opposed to the general lock/unlock triggers which fire off even if you turn the August lock manually.
Adjust the lights when there’s an in-game update about your favourite team
IFTTT’s ESPN service is just one of a whole collection of triggers that can use online news, weather, and sports services to trigger actions, and in this case you can have it fire something off when there’s an in-game update for your favorite team, such as turning your living room lights blue if your favorite team scores.
The ESPN service supports all of the big leagues, including the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and MLS, but also includes the WNBA, College Football, Men’s and Women’s College Basketball, and several others. Triggers can be set for breaking news in general or by league or team, as well as the start, updates, and final scores for games for the teams you specify.
Brighten up your living room on a rainy day
IFTTT’s Weather Underground service lets you create triggers based on a number of different weather conditions, including not only temperature and precipitation, but also forecasts, sunrise and sunset, wind speed, pollen count, humidity, and UV index.
So if you want to automatically brighten up your living room on a rainy day, you can create an IFTTT applet that will use Weather Underground’s Current condition changes to trigger, select “Rain” as the condition, and then go on to configure your Hue action to set your lighting colours to something cheerful, such as a “Tropical twilight” scene.
Turn the lights red when an urgent e-mail arrives
IFTTT provides services for both Gmail and Office 365 Mail, which provide triggers to fire off actions when a new message is received from a specific address, or contains a specific subject line.
IFTTT also provides a generic e-mail service that you can forward e-mail messages into, so if your e-mail provider allows you to create server-side forwarding rules, you can still integrate with IFTTT even if you’re not a Gmail or Office 365 user.
Blink the lights when your commute is affected
If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the three areas that have tied their public transit systems into IFTTT — Chicago, New Jersey, or Toronto — you can create IFTTT applets that will fire off to blink your lights whenever a service alert affects any of your specified routes.
In the case of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) for example, you simply type in the route number and name to create the trigger and then proceed to configure the Hue actions accordingly. If you want to cover multiple routes, simply create additional applets as needed.
Turn on the porch light when your pizza is on the way
While this is a rather cool idea, you’ll have to order your pizza from Dominos, as they’re the only pizza delivery service that provides an IFTTT service. (Whether that makes up for their pizza is something we’ll leave for our readers to ponder.)
The Dominos service lets you create triggers based on the stages of Dominos’ online order tracker, so in this case, you can select “Out for Delivery” as the trigger, and then use a Hue action to turn on the porch lights. Sadly, it seems that the IFTTT’s Dominos service only works in the U.S., even though the order tracker is also available in Canada (where their pizza is arguably much better).
Blink the lights when you’re tagged in a Facebook photo
We could argue that this one isn’t necessarily the most practical application for IFTTT, but considering how many social media junkies are out there, we thought we’d throw it in anyway.
IFTTT has a Facebook service, which among a plethora of other triggers, includes You are tagged in a photo. As the name implies, it will automatically fire off every time one of your friends tags you in a photo. So, if you’re the sort of person who just has to stay on top of these things, you can create an IFTTT applet that will blink your Hue lights to alert you when this happens, ensuring that you never miss that all-important memory.
Even these examples are just a shallow dive into the sort of things IFTTT can do, but hopefully they’ll give you some ideas for getting started. We’ll be taking a closer look at some of the other triggers and actions in future articles, so stay tuned for more.