For most of its brief existence, the modern smart home has offered a frustratingly fragmented user experience. A maze of competing, proprietary ecosystems has forced consumers to pick a “side” (be it Staples Connect, Lowes Iris, Quirky Wink, or Belkin WeMo) and sacrifice otherwise attractive products on the altar of compatibility.
Some see a potential solution in IFTTT (If This Then That), a free service that gives websites, apps, and devices a simple way to interact with one another.
Major brands—including Philips, Nest, and even Belkin and Quirky—have already made their products compatible with IFTTT. This week home security giant ADT announced that it’s developing an IFTTT "channel" for its Pulse home automation system.
At its most basic, IFTTT lets you create “recipes” with the tech you use every day as the ingredients. The recipes follow a simple template in which “triggers" set off associated "actions."
If, for example, you want to automatically back up all the photos you take with your smartphone, you can write this recipe: “If I take a photo, then upload that photo to Dropbox.” You could just as easily tell your Nest thermostat to switch to a precise temperature whenever you turn off your WeMo switch or Philips Hue light bulb.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg: Imagine what you could do with a smart home security system tied into IFTTT. To give you an idea, here are a few recipes ADT has developed for the beta version of its Pulse channel, which will likely launch next year.
- If a wearable changes from "sleep" to "awake," then disarm the ADT Pulse.
- If a phone alarm goes off at 6:45 a.m., then turn on the ADT Pulse-connected coffee machine.
- If a user texts "DogDoor", then unlock the ADT Pulse-connected back door.
- If the doorbell rings, then send a real-time video clip of the front door.
- If the sun sets, then turn on ADT Pulse–connected outdoor lights.
Of course, making Pulse compatible with IFTTT means adding lots of extra cloud connections, which opens it up to the threat of hacking. To state the obvious, that’s a huge concern for a system that’s all about security. To that end, ADT told CNET that it plans to move slowly and to ensure a higher standard of security.
While it’s not the first smart home company to add IFTTT compatibility, ADT Pulse will be the only security system integrated with the service. In theory, its presence could serve to lure other third-party gadgets like Dropcam and the Kwikset Kevo Smart Lock to create their own IFTTT channels.
The smart home wars are only just starting to heat up, but a partnership like this one could help shape the path home automation takes over the next few years. We can’t wait to see where it leads.