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Smart home 101: Making incompatible devices work together

There are so many smart home devices these days and so many manufacturers making them all. The competition has led to the invention of some great tech and cool features, but it’s also led to a rift in compatibility.

For example, you might want a Google smart plug but you have an Echo speaker. Those devices aren’t inherently compatible, though big tech companies are starting to create universal standards in smart tech. Tap or click here to see how big tech wants to make all your smart home devices work together.

While we wait for new compatibility standards, services like IFTTT have gained popularity. IFTTT enables smart devices to communicate despite manufacturer divisions. But that’s not all it does.

What is IFTTT?

IFTTT, or If This, Then That, is a web service that helps you connect all of your apps and devices. It can help you do things like back up your Instagram photos to Dropbox despite the fact these two apps don’t normally work together.

The same is true for smart devices. By setting up “Applets,” or instructional commands, you can build a bridge between devices with no built-in compatibility.

Hundreds of free Applets already exist to help you get your smart devices synced up. They can do things like turn on your lights when you get home or open your garage door no matter where you are.

You can also develop and customize your own Applets, and other IFTTT users can use them too. Once you connect your smart devices and smart hub to IFTTT, the possibilities are nearly endless.

Want to see what else IFTTT can do? Tap or click here.

How to install and use IFTTT

To start communications between your incompatible smart devices, you need to set up a free account with IFTTT. Then, you just search for and install Applets then connect your smart devices.

To install Applets:

  1. Log in to IFTTT on its website, or log in to the IFTTT app.
  2. Browse the site or app for Applets that interest you. Try searching for smart devices you own or check out the “Getting started collection” on the IFTTT website.
  3. When you find an Applet that interests you, click or tap on it.
  4. Choose “Connect” or use the “Turn On” button on the Applet page.
  5. You will be asked for permission to access the related apps or devices associated with the Applet. Click “Ok” to allow IFTTT to access these apps and devices.
  6. IFTTT will now ask you to authorize its access via your accounts with these services. Click the “Authorize” or “Authorize Me” buttons when they’re offered, or log in to the app or device, and then click “Authorize” to allow IFTTT the access it needs to run the Applet.
    • You only need to authorize once, unless you turn off access, in which case you’ll have to set it up again.
  7. The Applet will now be available under the “My Applets” page and you’ll be able to turn it off again there later if you want to.

To use an Applet, just set a timer or interact with your tech. For example, if you’ve connected your Philips Hue smart lights to turn on when someone rings your doorbell or when you arrive home, your lights will automatically turn on once your doorbell rings or your smartphone detects your arrival.

IFTTT has some really fun Applets to play with, and you can make your own if you’ve got a little technical know-how. You can start creating Applets by going to the IFTTT.com Create page or if you’re using the app, tap “Get more” and the very first option reads, “Make your own Applets from scratch.”

Similar services for bringing your smart tech together

IFTTT isn’t the only service out there making it easier to connect your smart home. One of these other services is SimpleCommands.

SimpleCommands is specifically designed for smart devices. It allows you to keep track of all your IoT gadgets in one place. You can also make custom trigger words and actions to execute customized tasks.

For example, you could create a chain where you say, “Good night house” and your lights and smart plugs all turn off. You could also have your smart locks and security cameras activate with that phrase as well.

Here’s a quick rundown on SimpleCommands’ capabilities:

For offices with smart devices, RICOH Smart Device Connector allows printers, computers, phones and scanners to connect more easily to one another. Printing is faster with the app, as is sending files to different devices.

Watch this brief introductory video to get a feel for it:

Zapier is a service that helps apps connect much like IFTTT does. You can set up custom Google Assistant functions with it but Alexa and other smart hubs are awaiting development.

Here’s what you can expect so far:

Whatever service you use, the important thing is your smart devices work together to make your life easier. Not sure how to start your smart home? Tap or click here to know what smart devices to get for your home first.

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