Using IFTTT With Smart Buttons

Although voice assistants like Alexa and Siri seem to get the most attention when it comes to controlling your smart home, in reality, there are a lot of times when all you really need to do is press a button. While it may feel like a decidedly “low tech” solution compared to calling out “Good night” to Alexa when going to bed, the “cool” solution isn’t always the “practical” solution.

Let’s face it, most of us have been trained to operate light switches since we were old enough to walk, so it’s not surprising that for many people, it’s still more intuitive to walk into a room and reach for a switch than it is to call out a voice commmand or reach for your smartphone. This is going to be especially true if you have less tech-savvy folks living in your home. Fortunately, a number of smart home accessory companies understand this, which has led to the development of “Smart Buttons” that can be used to control a wide variety of home automation accessories. Some of these offer direct accessory support for a limited number of popular vendor platforms like Philips Hue lighting and the August Smart Lock, or tie into ecosystems like Apple’s HomeKit. However, this is another area in which IFTTT is still the greatest unifying force, especially since Amazon Alexa and Google Home don’t yet provide any support for smart buttons.

Logitech POP

There are actually a few different smart buttons supported by IFTTT, but to keep things simple, we’re going to focus on Logitech’s POP, a bridge-based solution that provides easy setup and solid IFTTT integration.

Logitech’s POP buttons communicate with your Wi-Fi network via a bridge that can plug into any wall socket; unlike bridges from companies like Hue or Lutron, the POP bridge works over Wi-Fi, so it doesn’t need to be placed near your router. The buttons themselves can be placed on a flat surface like a table, or mounted on a wall, and they feature a single big round target area that can be programmed to perform different actions based on a short press, long press, or double press.

Setting up Logitech POP for IFTTT

Getting Logitech’s POP buttons up and running with IFTTT requires some extra steps compared to most IFTTT-enabled accessories. Logitech treats IFTTT as an accessory, on the same level as a Philips Hue light or an August lock, so in addition to adding the Logitech POP service on the IFTTT website, you’ll also need to go into the Logitech POP app and assign “IFTTT” as the accessory for each of the buttons that you want to use. Only the POP buttons that are specifically assigned to control IFTTT will be available when setting up an IFTTT applet.

In fact, this actually goes even one step further. Since each button can be used in three different ways — short press, long press, double press — you’ll need to assign the IFTTT “accessory” to each of the modes that you want to use with IFTTT. A POP button will only be available to be used in a trigger (e.g. Long press) if that particular mode is assigned to control IFTTT in the POP app.

Triggers

As we’ve already mentioned, the Logitech POP buttons can respond to three different ways of being pressed, and hence there are three separate IFTTT triggers, which are pretty self-explanatory.

Delve into any of the triggers, however, and you’ll see that there is an additional option that allows you to choose between whether the trigger only responds to an “ON” press or “OFF” press of the POP button. In the standard configuration, each POP button acts as a toggle — a first press will send an “ON” trigger, a second press will send an “OFF” trigger, and so forth. This is useful if you’re setting up a POP button to act as a traditional switch, since you can create two separate applets that both reference the same button — one to turn your lights on and one to turn them back off again.

The catch here, however, is that since the POP button itself tracks its own state, it will get out of sync when you control your lights or other accessory using another method. For example, if you turned your lights OFF with the button, and then turn them back on using an Alexa command, the POP button will still send an ON trigger with the next press, meaning you’ll need to press it a second time to turn the lights back off. Ultimately, this method works best when you only use the POP button to control the connected accessories.

Setting a button for a single function

While the default POP button configuration sends alternating ON and OFF triggers, it’s possible to set a button to send the same trigger each time it’s pressed. This is done by enabling “Advanced Mode” in the Logitech POP app.

Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to choose whether the IFTTT “accessory” sends an ON or an OFF trigger, which it will do every time the button is pressed. This can be useful if you only want to use a button for initiating a scene, for instance. Alternatively, you could also simply set the button trigger to “Always” in IFTTT, causing the applet to run regardless of whether an ON or an OFF trigger is sent. While this probably works best for simple solutions that only use one IFTTT applet, we generally prefer the flexibility offered by the advanced mode, as it allows for more sophisticated setups where multiple applets can respond differently. We’ll take a look at some examples of these in part two of this article later this week.

Jesse Hollington

Jesse Hollington

Jesse Hollington is based in Toronto, Canada, where he lives with his daughter, Victoria. He is the author of iPod & iTunes Portable Genius, and works as a senior editor for iLounge.com. Prior to becoming a writer, Jesse ran his own information technology consulting practice and served as an officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force Reserve.

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