Enabling Richer Home Automation Through IFTTT Smart-Home Engine
Home automation companies like HomeSeer enable multiple triggers and actions for IFTTT, the otherwise limited if/then engine for smart home devices. Plus: IFTT update in the pro channel.
IFTTT (If This Then That) is a nice little cloud-based if/then engine that allows users to write simple home automation rules (“recipes”) for popular smart devices like Philips Hue, Lutron, Nest, Belkin Wemo and SmartThings. The platform also supports online services such as Twitter, Facebook and SMS messaging.
Consumers can configure recipes that incorporate disparate products from different manufacturers, all communicating cloud-to-cloud with the IFTTT engine.
For example: IF someone tweets @juliejacobson, THEN flash my Philips Hue light.
It’s nice because there are currently 170 mostly-popular products and services, or “channels,” to choose from, but the engine is quite basic.
“IFTTT is pretty cool but also a bit limited since recipes can only include one trigger and one action,” says Mark Colegrove, director of sales for HomeSeer, a provider of DIY home automation systems.
That’s why they don’t call it IFTATTTAT (if this and this, then that and that).
But when used with a multi-purpose hub or service like Wink, SmartThings or HomeSeer, then richer conditionals can be created.
With its new channel on IFTTT, for example, HomeSeer has implemented a workaround for the one-to-one limitation, exposing “virtual devices” as triggers, and “event lists” as actions.
Let’s say you want to use IFTTT to control a Philips Hue bulb (or Wemo lamp module, Nest thermostat, etc.), but you want the trigger to be 30 minutes before sunset on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays if the house is occupied.
In HomeSeer, you simply create a virtual device that represents that trigger, and then you create a HomeSeer event that turns that virtual device on 30 minutes before sunset on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays if the house is occupied.
Now, all you need to do is add that virtual device as a trigger for your IFTTT recipe.
As another example, let’s say you want to turn on the TV, dim the room lights and have the HomeSeer system announce, “The Patriots are now playing” when the game commences.
For this, you would use the ESPN IFTTT channel’s “New Game Start” trigger and set the action to run the advanced HomeSeer event.
Finally, here’s an interesting application using Smappee, a device that snaps onto the power mains and, using intelligent cloud-based algorithms, determines which major appliances and CE devices are in the home, and when they are used. While the product and app are ostensibly for monitoring and controlling energy consumption in the home, the information conveyed by the service can be used to trigger events via IFTTT.
Using HomeSeer, you could create recipes that trigger when specific appliances turn on and off, and then run HomeSeer events to alert you when the washer or dryer are done … or the microwave shuts off … or the water pump has been running too long….
These types of scenarios could be created through HomeSeer alone, but HomeSeer does not natively support all of those third-party products and services.
“From our prospective,” says Colegrove, “the service is great since it connects us with an ever expanding list of apps and services for which there are, in many cases, no native HomeSeer drivers.”
Growing Use of IFTT Among Home Control Providers
Beyond the mass-market devices like Wemo and Hue, purveyors of richer home-control systems like HomeSeer are joining the IFTTT community lately.
Recently, Lutron joined the community with its Smart Bridge hub and DIY Lutron Caseta wireless lighting controls.
ADT also has announced a forthcoming IFTTT channel for its Pulse security and home automation system, but it hasn’t launched yet.
The company last year said it was Beta-testing some IFTT recipes such as: IF a wearable changes from “sleep” to “awake,” THEN disarm the ADT Pulse security system.
Likewise, Telular, which makes cellular radios and communications modules for security and home automation systems, plans to launch IFTTT integration for a new solution called HomeControl Flex from its subsidiary Telguard.
The first iteration of Flex will expose only ARM and DISARM services to IFTTT, but Telguard plans to enable richer integration in the future.
Speaking about Flex at the International Security Conference (ISC) West last month, Telguard marketing director Pamela Benke said about 10% of security dealers who visited the booth had at least heard of IFTTT.
“Once dealers understand it, they’re super-excited about it,” she says.
One “super-excited” company is California Security Pro, an independent authorized ADT dealer. After ADT announced IFTTT integration last year, CSP blogger Taniqua Johnson-Pino rushed to set up an IFTTT account and began learning the platform.
“I see where people will really see the benefit of integrating ADT Pulse with what they already have, especially where there are limitations like audio,” she says.
She anticipates the ADT/IFTTT integration “will feed into a lot of niches, like exercise gurus who use Fitbit.”
Sample HomeSeer IFTTT Recipes
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Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at email@example.com
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