In our last article in our IFTTT series we looked at how the IFTTT app for iOS and Android devices could be used to create one-button “macros” that could be used to run simple home automation routines manually. Expanding on that idea, it’s worth noting that IFTTT can also tie into some of the popular voice assistant services, such as Google Assistant, allowing you to create your own custom phrases that can be used to trigger any IFTTT action.
With all of the home automation accessories that tie into IFTTT, this opens up a number of possibilities that go well beyond Google Home’s own feature set. For one thing, not every accessory has direct support for the Google Home ecosystem, but even for those that do, IFTTT adds the useful ability to set up custom phrases that trigger more complex routines — similar to the flexibility offered by IFTTT’s Button Widgets that we covered last week.
The Google Assistant IFTTT service includes four different triggers, which are all variations on the same idea: creating phrases that you speak to Google Assistant. The triggers differ only in that some offer the ability to include a variable number, variable word, or both. Numbers and words can be passed as ingredients to be used with other supported IFTTT actions.
Set a thermostat comfort profile for a fixed time
While Ecobee can tie into Google Assistant directly, as we discussed, IFTTT offers a bit more flexibility both in defining a custom phrase as well as in setting advanced features. For example, if you often come home at random times during the day when your thermostat is otherwise set to “Away” mode, you can create an IFTTT applet that will automatically set your Ecobee to “Home” for two hours whenever you utter the appropraite phrase.
Unfortunately, this highlights one limitation inherent in some third-party IFTTT services — the lack of support for ingredients. For example, since the Ecobee service uses a drop-down to set the number of hours, there’s no way to use one of the more advanced Google Assistant triggers to specify the number of hours in your phrase — the Ecobee service simply doesn’t allow you to use variable ingredients.
Dim the lights
The good news, however, is that this limitation is a function of each specific vendor’s IFTTT services, not IFTTT itself. For instance, Philips has obviously been a bit more forward-thinking, using a simple numeric entry field to set your light level.
As a result, you can create a Google Assistant applet to set your Hue lights to any arbitrary value. To do this, you use the Say a phrase with a number Google Assistant trigger, and then just put a # symbol where you would normally speak the number. This will be passed as a “NumberField” ingredient to your next action.
Set the color of your lights
The same method can also be used to add variable text to your phrases, such as setting the color of your Hue lights. Just select the appropriate trigger and use a dollar sign to indicate where you’ll speak the text ingredient, and then insert it into the color field in the Hue action as “TextField.”
The Google Assistant IFTTT service also allows for a trigger that lets you specify both a number and text, although since you can only have one action per trigger, there’s no way to use this with Hue to set both intensity and color at the same time — the Hue service simply doesn’t have a single action that adjusts both settings.
Tell your slow cooker to keep your food warm
Another practical example of using variable numbers as ingredients is setting your slow cooker to keep your food warm for a specified number of minutes, which can be handy if you’re going to be getting home later than you might expect.
Again, the key component here is that WeMo’s IFTTT service allows for a freeform number to be entered for the cook time, so you can put in the “NumberField” ingredient.
Tell your Netatmo camera you’re leaving
You can also effectively create simplified “scenes” with Google Assistant, using more generic phrases like “I’m leaving” to trigger actions appropraite to your departure.
This relatively simple example tells your Netatmo Welcome camera that the house is empty, and therefore any new faces it detects should be interpreted to mean that people are returning home.
Not every home automation accessory ties into Google Home — and even those that do may offer more limited capabilities — so these are two areas where the IFTTT Google Assistant service can be very useful. Even leaving that aside, however, it’s also a great way to simply build more customized phrases you can use if you don’t like the way that individual vendors want you speaking to their products.