IFTTT flexes its muscle with new SmartThings channel

The already undeniably cool Web service just got that much cooler. Here's what you need to know.

Ry Crist Senior Editor / Reviews - Labs
Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
Expertise Smart home technology and wireless connectivity Credentials
  • 10 years product testing experience with the CNET Home team
Ry Crist
4 min read
With a SmartThings switch and IFTTT, you'll be able to control and automate anything with a plug on it. SmartThings

The case for IFTTT as a site worth watching just got a little bit stronger, as it's announced a powerful new SmartThings channel that should help cement its place as a major player in home automation.

This isn't the first time that we've seen IFTTT, short for "If This, Then That," expand into home automation. IFTTT was originally designed to sync up apps, social networks, and Web services by allowing users to create "recipes" where an action on one would trigger a corresponding action on the other. A post on Instagram could automatically trigger a new Tumblr entry, for instance. Before long, though, IFTTT had added new channels for smart products like the Philips Hue light bulb and the Belkin WeMo Switch + Motion, creeping out of virtual space and into users' homes.

Now, with SmartThings' wide lineup of automatable sensors joining the party, the possibilities for smartening up the home using IFTTT are only going to grow. Through the SmartThings channel, you'll be able to work with the following triggers (the "if this" part of a recipe):

Switched on/Switched off
SmartThings' variety of plug-and-play switches will allow you to turn lights and appliances on and off remotely, or set them to turn on and off automatically at a preset time. With IFTTT in the picture, you can attach a corresponding action to the switch, so that every time it's turned on or off, something else happens as well. Maybe you want to create a spreadsheet in Google Drive that lists how many times the lights are being turned on and off, or maybe you want a tweet to go out on your behalf whenever you turn on a specific appliance.

Conversely, you can use a SmartThings switch as an "action" (the "then that" part of the recipe). A common usage of this might be to turn a light or appliance on whenever a supported sensor detects motion.

With IFTTT and a SmartThings hub, you'll be able to automate compatible smart locks, like the Schlage Camelot Touchscreen Deadbolt. Colin West McDonald/CNET

If you've got a SmartThings-compatible door lock, such as the Camelot Touchscreen Deadbolt from Schlage, you'll be able to use it as a trigger on IFTTT now, too. Programming a text alert whenever the door gets unlocked is a great way to tell when the kids have gotten home from school. Another option would be to set a specific appliance, like an air conditioner, to turn on as soon as you get home.

If you want, you can also set your door lock as the action in the IFTTT recipe, and use another trigger to cause it to lock or unlock.

By attaching one of SmartThings' sensors to a door or window, you can detect whenever it gets opened or closed. By using IFTTT, you can add a response to such an occurrence. The most obvious example would be an alert -- IFTTT can text you, or better still, robo-call you with a user-defined message. If you program this call to be sent to your home phone, you've essentially created an alarm that will sound in the middle of the night if someone breaks in through a window with a sensor attached to it.

Any new motion
IFTTT will also let you put SmartThings' motion detectors to work in your recipes. Just by walking into a room, you'll be able to trigger an IFTTT response of your choosing. We've already seen this with the WeMo, and it's an incredibly helpful tool, with practically limitless uses.

The SmartSense Presence sensor tracks when you arrive or leave your home -- invaluable home automation info. SmartThings

Presence detected/Presence no longer detected
Here's where things get really interesting. With one of SmartThings' presence sensors dangling from your keychain, the SmartThings hub will be able to detect whenever you're in the vicinity -- perfect for automatically letting the system know when you're home, and perhaps more importantly, when you've left. Syncing the presence sensors up with IFTTT creates a world of exciting new possibilities. You'll never again have to worry about leaving the air conditioner on while you're away from home, for instance -- just set it to automatically turn off whenever your presence is no longer detected. Or, if you have an escape artist for a pet, you could clip the presence sensor to its collar in order to get an alert if it ever climbs over your backyard fence and gets loose while you're at work.

SmartThings recipes are already flying fast on IFTTT's site and free app. Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

By adding a SmartThings channel, IFTTT opens a huge new set of options for its users, giving them greater power over door locks, open/closed contact sensors, and other kinds of notification systems. The explosion of new ideas for recipes is already happening. Along with more-practical ideas, users have suggested everything from protecting their liquor cabinets to tracking how often the toilet seat gets lifted. Absurdities aside, IFTTT fans and budding home automators now have an added incentive to give SmartThings products a try.

How To - How to get creative using the IFTTT App
Watch this: How to get creative using the IFTTT App