Technology is converging towards the goal of simplifying everything by connecting any tool with every other tool through the internet. This phenomenon, called the Internet of Things (IoT), promises convenience and a vision for the ultimate life automation tool . The objects in our daily life are getting this additional digital layer . However, in this increasingly connected present, average humans have no clue how to optimize and programmatically leverage the tools they use. Most people view the internet as a source of news, information, entertainment, etc. , but it’s always been more than that. Unfortunately, the majority do not have the knowledge or understanding to do the automation and optimization they need for themselves even though the means exist (it’s just too complex to manipulate without domain specific knowledge). Still, the internet can be harnessed to control anything connected to its network. How?
By using APIs to create programmable shortcuts for established tools.
An API (application program interface) is a code based communication tool that lets a service effortlessly share data and control actions under pre-defined parameters . While APIs have been around for a long time, they gained recent buzz (~2005) because popular sites like Facebook and Google launched more easily consumable and public APIs.
Using an API is complex, but fortunately, IFTTT revolutionizes the process. Its users touch no code but can suddenly program their entire life. Forbes explains, “IFTTT takes [workflows] to a whole new level. Both for businesses and individuals. Both for software and hardware. It is a workflow system for the cloud. And it, and other services like it, will become the backbone of the next wave of Internet of Things technologies” .
IFTTT, pronounced gift without the g , allows you to communicate sans code with your devices by creating “recipes’ composed of two main parts: a trigger and a subsequent action. The way to think about it is: “If this trigger happens, then do this action.”
IFTTT lowers the barriers to entry for individuals to have the power to control the tools and devices in their lives. Without learning to code, becoming a programmer, or manipulating complex APIs, anyone can control the automation of their life. CEO Linden Tibbets describes, “We continue to build IFTTT for the folks who are non-technical, who want to get more out of the services and the devices that they use every day” .
Currently, IFTTT is free and simple to use, adding to this mission to let ANYONE (if they have internet access) have power over the Internet of Things.
However, in order to deliver on that promise, IFTTT partners with many of the world’s best brands and services, like Facebook, Spotify, Google and more . Without them, the immediate benefit of IFTTT would be masked; as described in the NYTimes, “IFTTT and its partners are hedging their bets on a different philosophy, where interconnected devices are ultimately good not only for consumers, but also for the companies” . The impact of this can be best seen with Amazon’s Echo and Alexa.
Amazon Echo is a smart speaker that responds to the name Alexa, and it is operationally being built on top of IFTTT’s platform. CEO Tibbets describes how IFTTT leverages their “recipe” concept to have special keywords as triggers for Alexa: “So, you can tell Alexa to turn off your lights, open the garage door, post a tweet, and you can do that all through a recipe. I think that’s incredible to make Alexa relevant to not only smart home devices, like Nest, but also other productivity apps and services” . As a user, you can create as many new recipes as you want, but the real benefit is that you can choose from existing recipes from other IFTTT users.
For IFTTT, I believe that the next step is now to leverage AI and machine learning concepts to understand how users are creating and writing these recipes and use that data to intelligently build new, even more useful tools. Automatically generating recipes based on intelligently analyzed data will open up new doors that the current system has not yet leveraged.
With that, we can take digital assistants like Alexa to the personal assistant level with more tailored and personalized software.
IFTTT leverages current digitized technology and is uniquely positioned to create the envisioned PA of the future. All that they are lacking is the unlocked potential of AI. The future of this company is exciting, and I can’t wait to see what they do next!
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