The early adopters in your life have been using a service called IFTTT to automate various aspects of their Web experiences over the last several years. The service stands for “if this, then that,” a phrase used by programmers to indicate that a specific action should happen after a certain trigger. For instance, if you post something to Instagram, the service will automatically e-mail a copy of the image to your mother, who will never figure out how to see those photos otherwise. Or if you change your Facebook profile photo, it will change your Twitter photo as well. (This is the service’s single most popular function.)
This week, the service jumped into the physical world, thanks to Web-connected bracelets, light bulbs and other devices. Now with a few minutes online and a Philips Hue light bulb, you can program an alert to have the lights turn on in your house at sunset each evening, or set them to flash every time you get an e-mail. (No one said these ideas would all be good ones.)
In addition to the Hue bulb, IFTTT began accommodating several other new devices in recent weeks, including the Jawbone UP, a bracelet that keeps track of your physical activity and sleep patterns, and the WeMo Motion, an Internet-connected motion sensor. These have already created all sorts of new shortcuts—which IFTTT calls recipes—including:
• If I don’t work out for two days, I get a picture of a fat dude in my inbox (recipe ID 92327);
• If WeMo detects motion in your home, turn on a radio (recipe ID 93960);
• Turn on the Christmas tree by tagging an Instagram photo #WeMoXmas (recipe ID 68844).
In a roundabout way, each additional device is a step toward that long-running fantasy in the electronics industry, the connected home. For years the idea was hampered by unbelievably complex and expensive systems. Now all it may take is a few modest devices and access to a free website.