In the past several articles in our IFTTT series we’ve taken a look at how the automation service can be used with triggers from various home devices to tie things together, but there’s actually another capability hidden within IFTTT that’s worth a closer look — the ability to trigger actions manually through the IFTTT mobile apps for iOS and Android.
While at first glance this may seem redundant — most home automation devices provide their own apps — the key benefit of IFTTT is that you can adjust several settings with the tap of a single button on your device’s home screen or today screen, or even on an Apple Watch. Think of it like a “macro” for home automation.
To facilitate this, IFTTT provides the “Button Widget” hidden within its services. It’s a simple animal, with no parameters whatsoever — you simply select it as your trigger, and then continue on to choose the actions you’d like to perform in the same way as you would with any other IFTTT applet.
Once you’ve set up at your widgets, you can find them by going into the <em>Settings</em> section of the IFTTT app on your mobile device, where you can assign them as a one-tap button to places such as your Today View or Apple Watch, or even create a home screen icon on your iPhone. Widgets will run with a single tap, and most don’t even require that you unlock your device first.
If you’re an Apple Watch user, you can even add the IFTTT app to a complication on your watch face, allowing you to activate IFTTT actions with only a couple of taps on your wrist.
Turn up the thermostat for two hours
As we noted earlier, the real power behind IFTTT widgets is that they can set up a predefined action with a single tap, making it much faster than fiddling with a device’s own app to do things like adjust your thermostat. In this example, let’s say that when you want to warm up the house, you normally set your Ecobee thermostat to the same temperature and ask it to hold for two hours.
An IFTTT widget can do this with a single tap, while Ecobee’s own app requires at least three or four interactions, and that’s not counting opening the app itself. It’s also worth adding that in this case IFTTT provides a capability that not even Apple’s HomeKit framework allows for — setting the thermostat to hold for a specified amount of time.
Turn on the air conditioning
On the other end of the temperature spectrum, it’s nice to be able to quickly turn on your air conditioner on a warm day without having to search for the remote or fiddle with an app.
This widget ties into Sensibo’s IFTTT service, and lets you adjust mode, temperature, and fan speed all with a single tap.
Color loop your Hue lights
This one is just a bit more fun, but it allows you to set the lights in a given room to color loop with only a single tap.
Not only is this kind of cool, but as we noted in our second article on IFTTT and Hue, this is a feature that you can’t even activate with Philips’ own Hue app, and yet with IFTTT you can do it with a single tap on a widget.
Put on your favourite Sonos playlist
We shared a useful tip earlier this week on using Lutron’s IFTTT service to start a playlist on your Sonos system, and of course this can just as easily be done with an IFTTT widget, allowing you to pull up your favorite playlist with a single tap — and it allows you to adjust your lighting while you’re at it.
Match your Hue lights to a photo
This last one actually uses another IFTTT app widget that we haven’t discussed yet — the Camera Widget. This is set up in the same way as the Button Widget, except that it will open your device’s camera to take a photo when you tap on it. The photo you take is shared via a public URL that can then be passed on as an ingredient to another IFTTT service.
One cool application of this is to quickly adjust your Hue lights to match the colors of a photo you take with your camera. Tap the widget button, take a photo of just about anything, and watch the color of your Hue lights adjust within a second or two. It’s really quite magical.
IFTTT’s Widgets are one of the hidden gems of the service, especially for home automation users with more complicated setups. As the examples we’ve looked at have shown, IFTTT makes it easy to quickly activate predefined settings for all sorts of home devices with a single tap. We’re all creatures of habit and routine, so if you really sit back and think about the adjustments you normally make to things like thermostats, air conditioners, and lighting, you’ll probably quickly realize how much easier IFTTT widgets can make your life.