Last week we wrote about using Google’s Home Routines, and provided some insight into each of the routines that are available. While Routines are a cool new feature that we’re sure will be welcomed as a great start by many Google Home enthusiasts, they remain pretty limited at this point — you’re confined to only six built-in routines, you can only customized lights, smartplugs, and thermostats, and you can only turn lights on or off — not dim them or change colors.
While we’re confident that Google will continue to expand Routines with more features as time goes by, the good news is that there are ways you can use IFTTT to work around some of the limitations in Google’s current implementation. As we’ve already seen, Google Assistant offers its own IFTTT service, but this is a weak replacement for Routines on the other side of the coin — Google’s Routines offer control for multiple devices at once, but only for a limited subset of your devices and device capabilities, while the Google Assistant service for IFTTT only lets you create a single phrase to control one device at a time.
Fortunately, there are some clever ways in which we can combine both services to extend Routines to do a bit more, such as enabling more advanced lighting controls and being able to deal with other accessories that are outside the scope of Google’s current Routines implementation.
Step 1: Find An Appropriate Device Supported By Google Home That Has IFTTT Triggers
The trick here is to use a device that Routines does support to trigger IFTTT actions, so that when a Google Routine turns that particular device on or off, IFTTT can then detect that state change and run additional applets based on that.
Unfortunately, this may not be as simple as you’d expect at first glance. Firstly, most lighting systems only offer IFTTT Actions, so you can’t, for example, use the turning on of a Hue light bulb as a trigger in IFTTT. Fortunately, there are a couple of accessories that will work for this purpose, with one of the easiest being Belkin’s Wemo smart plugs and switches — in fact, almost any of Belkin’s Wemo devices can be used as IFTTT triggers, which we think is pretty great.
The second problem, of course, is that IFTTT will fire off your applets every time that device is turned on or off — regardless of whether you’re doing it as part of a Google Home Routine — so you’ll only realistically be able to use a device that you don’t otherwise regularly turn on or off separately from your Google Home Routine. Of course, if you have an extra Wemo smart plug or similar IFTTT and Google Home supported device laying around, you can also simply plug that into a wall outlet somehere to use as a “dummy” trigger — you don’t actually have to plug anything into it to use it for this purpose.
Step 2: Add That Device To The Appropriate Google Home Routine
So once you’ve got a supported device in mind — we’ll use a WeMo smart plug for our examples — the next thing to do is ensure that it’s set up as part of the Google Home Routine that you want to use.
This is relatively straightforward, and we’ve explained it in our previous articles, but basically just make sure it’s selected and has either “Turn on” or “Turn off” as the action, based on what you actually want to do with the device and the trigger you want to use.
Step 3: Set Up One Or More IFTTT Applets
Once you have Google Home properly controlling your WeMo or other IFTTT-enabled device, you can then set up whatever applets you want to trigger when the state of that device changes. For example, if you wanted to set your Hue lights to a specific scene — something that Google Home Routines can’t do directly — you could use a simple applet that triggers a Hue scene whenever your WeMo Smart Plug is turned on.
Each IFTTT applet can only control one target device, but you can easily set up multiple applets, using your WeMo Smart Plug as a trigger for each, and IFTTT will happily run all of them for you whenever your device is turned on as part of your Google Home Routine.
This can be extended even farther, in fact, into performing actions with your devices that Google Home can’t even do directly but IFTTT can, such as starting a color loop on your Hue lights, or controlling home appliances that don’t even include Google Home support. In part two, we’ll take a closer look at some practical ideas for using Google Home Routines and IFTTT together.