In addition to a new site and a new look, what used to be referred to as recipes are now called applets. Brands with services on IFTTT were given special privileges for creating custom, multiservice applets. And the ability to share your personal applets was removed.
IFTTT also announced an upcoming, free tier called Maker for experienced users who wanted to do more with IFTTT applets. Yesterday, that Maker tier was finally released to the public. Here's what it entails and why, if you have a smart home, you will want to use it.
What is the IFTTT Maker tier?
For those unfamiliar with IFTTT, the name stands for if this, then that. It's an automation tool that specializes in bridging the gap between various online services and connected hardware.
For example, if you want to automatically tweet everything you post to Facebook, you can do that with IFTTT. You can also have IFTTT aggregate everything you save to Pocket into a single note in Evernote. Or a missed call on your Android phone can be added to your task list in Todoist. The possibilities seem nearly endless. The problem is, applets have always been limited to simple automations that adhere to a simple conditional statement: if this, then that.
The Maker tier changes that. It introduces filters and a very important conjunction, and, which makes multiple actions possible.
The addition of a filter makes it possible to make recipes that only run when certain conditions are true. For instance, you can have an applet turn on your smart lights, but only after 5:00pm. Or, given as an example in IFTTT's documentation, you can receive a push notification of a new article that hits an RSS feed after 8:00am and before 10:00pm. Outside those hours, the article will be saved to Feedly instead.
Fortunately, the other feature introduced in the Maker tier doesn't required any coding knowledge. It simply allows you to add several actions. So instead of each applet only doing one thing or needing to create multiple applets with the same trigger, you can create a single applet that does it all.
For example, before, to have all the images you upload to Instagram posted to Twitter and Facebook, you would need to separate applets. Now you can create a single applet that posts to both Twitter and Facebook.
The Maker tier is a smart home dream come true
The applications for such an applet abound. But one use case that sticks out is for the smart home. Specifically, commands for smart speakers.
One of the biggest frustrations with smart speakers is the need to issue separate command for each thing you want to do. Even Google Home's new shortcuts feature limits you to one action per command.
Want to turn the lights off in the bedroom and on in the living room? That takes two different commands. Want to turn off the lights, lower the thermostat and turn off the TV when you're headed to bed? That's three different commands. With the Maker tier, you can accomplish this by creating a single applet that performs all three actions.
Here are some examples of what you can do with mutli-action applets:
- Tell Alexa that it's movie time, and dim LIFX bulbs ($49.99 at Amazon.com), set the Ecobee temperature and start Netflix using Harmony
- Tell Google Home good night, LIFX and Philips Hue lights will turn off, SmartThings will toggle devices off, Nest will set to a specific temperate and Harmony will power down your entertainment center.
- Tell Google Home you're leaving to turn the lights off, open the garage door and enable the security camera.
Despite similar functionality being a highly requested feature, neither the Google Home nor Alexa speakers are currently capable of doing this on their own, which is unfortunate. Speaking three or four different commands to achieve something as simple as setting the mood for a movie night is hardly the futuristic smart home we've always dreamed of. Instead, it's a nuisance and sometimes just easier to whip out a phone to set the mood manually.
In fact, it's fixed one of my biggest gripes with smart home devices since introducing both the Google Home and Alexa speaker into my home. It makes both the Google Home and Alexa seem smarter than they actually are, and I have a feeling a lot of people will appreciate that.