For those of you who haven’t heard of IFTTT — short for “IF This, Then That” — it’s a web-based automation platform that does a great job of tying a lot of different technologies together. You can use it for many things, ranging from tying together various cloud services (e.g. automatically saving a copy of photos you upload to Facebook into a service like Dropbox) right through to creating more sophisticated home automation routines.
As the acronym sort of implies, the idea behind IFTTT is pretty simple: You set up a triggering condition (“IF THIS”) and then choose an action to be performed when that condition happens (“THEN THAT”). However, what makes IFTTT especally powerful is that you can choose from almost 600 possible services to integrate with, ranging from the usual suspects such as Facebook, Dropbox, Google, to a wide range of cloud services, news agencies, and home automation systems that you may not even have known existed.
Today we’re going to look at setting up some routines — now called “Applets” — in IFTTT for one of the more well-known home lighting solutions out there, Philips Hue.
If you’re new to IFTTT, the first thing you’ll need to do is set up your own user account. Since IFTTT stores specific information on how to connect to your services and devices specially, you naturally need your own account to keep track of all of this info. The process is pretty straightforward, and you can sign up by using your e-mail address, or connecting via your Google or Facebook accounts.
Once you’ve got your IFTTT account set up, you’re ready to begin tying it into your services. Since we’re starting with Philips Hue, search out that particular service by clicking on the Search button at the top and simply typing in “Hue.”
This will likely show several options, but Philips Hue should be the first and most obvious one. Clicking on it will take you to that service’s home page, with a nice big “Connect” button that you can click to configure IFTTT to talk to your Hue bridge.
The process for this will vary a bit depending on the service being configured, but for Hue it simply requires that you provide your MeetHue user name and password so it can sign into your account. If you haven’t yet set up a MeetHue account, there’s also a button here that will take you to Philips’ web site so you can do so.
Once you’ve signed in, you’ll be asked to expressly grant permission to IFTTT so that it can access your lights, switches, and sensors. This is an all-or-nothing question — you can’t grant IFTTT access to only some of your lights — however it will only control those devices you explicitly create applets for.
Once you’ve configured the Hue service in IFTTT, you’ll be taken back to the service’s home page, which will show that you’re now connected and provide some applets from IFTTT’s library that have been created by other users, which can provide some interesting inspiration for what IFTTT can do.
You can easily choose any of these prebuilt applets, most of which have been created by other users, but for our purposes we’re going to go through creating one from scratch so that we can see how it’s done.
Creating your first Hue applet
Let’s start with a really simple recipe to have Hue turn on the lights in a room to a specific color at a specific date and time. While Hue supports some basic time-based routines natively, IFTTT can take this a step further with its Date & Time service that provides more options, such as triggering an event only on a specific day of the year.
To begin, click My Applets in the top menu bar, and then click the New Applet button found near the top of the screen, and you’ll be taken to the first step of creating a new applet — defining the “If This” trigger.
To proceed from here, click on the highlighted blue word “THIS” and you’ll be prompted to pick the service that you want to use as a trigger. Click Date & Time, which should appear near the top (if you can’t see it, you can also type in the search box to track it down.
Once you’ve selected a service, you’ll see a list of triggers supported by that service. In this case, the Date & Time service provides five different triggers. Of course, Hue can handle Every day at and Every day of the week at by itself, so if that was all that was here there’d be no benefit to using this with Hue, but a closer look reveals that even the simple Date & Time service provides more options here than Hue itself does.
So with Valentine’s Day approaching, let’s schedule something a little romantic for the evening. Choose Every year on and then fill in the fields for February 14 at 6:00 p.m. Once you’ve done that, click Create Trigger to proceed to the next step.
So at this point we’ve defined the “THIS” portion of our applet; we’ve told IFTTT that we want something to happen every year on February 14th, at 6:00 p.m. So now we need to tell IFTTT what it is that we want to happen at this time.
Click on the highlighted blue word “THAT” and it’s now time to choose another service for your action. This is where the Hue service that we configured earlier comes into play. Hue should be near the top if you’ve configured it, but as before you can just type into the search box to filter the list. Click on the Hue icon and you’ll see a list of possible actions that IFTTT can perform with your Hue devices.
Since this is a Valentine’s Day plan, let’s set the lights in our bedroom to an appropriate shade. Scroll down and choose Change color.
This particular action lets you specify which lights to control by room — clicking the drop-down lets you choose from a list of the rooms you’ve defined in your Hue app — and the color you want to set those lights to, expressed either as a common color name, or a CSS hex color value. Once you’ve entered whatever values you like here, click the Create Action button and you’ll be taken to a final summary screen describing your new applet.
Click the Finish button at the bottom to save your applet and put it into play.
Of course, turning on lights at a specific day and time is only scratching the surface of what IFTTT is actually capable of, and the sample applets alone will show a good number of possibilities. For example, you can have your Hue lights turn on to a certain color when there’s news about your favorite sports team, have your porch light turn on when the pizza delivery guy is on the way or when your front door is unlocked, or automatically brighten up the lights in your living room on a rainy day.
[Click here for IFTTT Recipes For Philips Hue, Part 2.]
With the number of services that IFTTT supports, the possibilities are extensive, and now that we’ve got the basics of IFTTT down we’ll be delving deeper into some more advanced applet ideas in future articles.