If you are having problems connecting your Sonos to your Nest to your SmartThings, Nick Peers reveals how to bring devices from different manufacturers together with the help of IFTTT
As our guide to smart home protocols and standards reveals, it can be a challenge getting smart devices from different manufacturers to talk to each other. One of the best tools for bridging the gap between different standards like SmartThings and Works with Nest is a free service called IFTTT. Before you get too far into this article we suggest you have a quick read of our IFTTT guide to get you up to speed on the basics.
IFTTT: using the right channels
In a perfect world, both of the smart devices you wish to link will already have their own official channels on IFTTT, such as the IFTTT Hue channel or IFTTT Nest family of channels. If so, you won’t need to do much more than go to the IFTTT site and get what you need from there.
Each channel offers a series of recipes for doing specific things, e.g. ‘If it’s 6pm turn on the lights‘. A recipe comprises a series of triggers: ‘If it’s 6pm‘, and actions ‘Turn on the lights‘ or both that you can use for the basis of your own recipes. To see if your device has its own channel, search or browse for it at the IFTTT website. Focus on the ‘New and Noteworthy’, ‘Connected Home’ and ‘Security and Monitoring systems’ sections.
Popular brands and devices that have their own IFTTT channels include:
- Bang & Olufsen
- Logitech Harmony
- Philips Hue
- Belkin WeMo
Once you’ve found your channel, click it to view a list of example recipes and – more crucially – the triggers and actions available for that device. If you’re lucky, the hard work will have been done for you, and you’ll find a recipe’s already been built that does what you’re looking for: there are dozens of recipes for waking up to coffee, for example, as well as using your smart lights in a variety of different ways.
Add the relevant channels to your account by clicking the Connect button beneath it, which will give you access to those recipes, as well as all available triggers and actions. Note you’ll need to authorise the connection using your smart device account, which then automatically pairs the channel to your devices.
Example: connecting Nest and SmartThings together
The following example links your Nest Thermostat to your SmartThings SmartSense Multi sensor using IFTTT. First, connect both the Nest Thermostat and SmartThings channels to your account. Then browse to the My Recipes section in your browser and click ‘Create a Recipe’ (you can also set this up via the IF app on your smartphone – tap the pestle and mortar icon followed by + and then ‘Create a Recipe’).
The IFTTT website takes you through the process in a step-by-step manner. If you’re creating the recipe in your web browser, tap the ‘this’ word, then select SmartThings as your channel. You’ll now be prompted for a trigger. Choose ‘Opened’ if, say, you want the trigger to be the opening of a door or window to which your SmartSense is attached, or ‘Temperature drops below’ if you want the trigger to be linked to the temperature where the SmartSense is located.
You then select your sensor (listed as Multipurpose Sensor) from the ‘Which device?’ dropdown menu and – if using the ‘Temperature drops below’ trigger – set the temperature at which the trigger occurs. Once done, click ‘Create Trigger’.
Now click ‘that’ to select your action. Pick the Nest Thermostat option and choose ‘Set temperature’ to choose the desired temperature you want the thermostat to operate at. Again, choose your target device, then select the target temperature. Click Create Action and you’re done.
What happens now? The Nest Thermostat is basically controlled by what happens to your SmartThings sensor – you could trigger it to come on by opening a window, or by monitoring a cold room’s temperature independently of the Nest’s own thermostat, perfect if it’s particularly cold and you want the Nest to boost its warmth.
What if your device isn’t on IFTTT?
Some devices aren’t officially represented on IFTTT, but you can still find ways of connecting them through the service. Start by performing a general search for your device name, e.g. the Canary. Search for ‘Canary’, for example, and you’ll discover a number of recipes that trigger the security camera’s various modes (armed, disarmed and privacy). These recipes make use of the free Wink Smart Home app, so first look there to see if your device is supported. If it is, pair it with the app and then connect it to the Wink: Shortcuts channel, which will allow your Wink-enabled device to be controlled by other apps via IFTTT. Sadly, the channel is limited to providing actions only; no triggers are currently available.
Even if your device doesn’t show up through a regular search, don’t panic. Search for ‘Bose’, for example, and you’ll find no specific recipes referring to its SoundTouch speaker systems. However, many SoundTouch systems are compatible with SmartThings, so you’d simply set them up via the SmartThings channel instead – you could, for example, pair them with a motion sensor: if movement is detected while you’re away from home, the speakers come on automatically.
Still struggling? Remember not to be literal– want to hook up your Amazon Echo through IFTTT, for example? There’s no IFTTT Echo channel, but the channel you actually need is Alexa, the name of Amazon’s digital assistant.
What if you still can’t find what you need?
What happens if you can’t find any channel or standard that works with IFTTT? Don’t panic. IFTTT works with a wide range of services, including social networking, email and even specific parts of your smartphone such as its location service. If you can link your device to any of these, you may be able to get it to work through IFTTT – there are more steps to follow, but the rewards are worth it.
In the following example we’re going to hook up two devices – a Canary security camera with an Edimax Smart Plug (currently just £24.99 at Maplin). The EdiPlug has no IFTTT channel, but it can be configured to send various email notifications using Gmail, which we can use as our trigger using the IFTTT Gmail channel. This trigger can set off any action you like – in the example below, we’re using it to arm a Canary security camera when the plug is switched off via the EdiPlug app. Here’s what you’d need to do.
First, open the EdiPlug app on your phone. Tap Edit followed by > next to the plug you wish to configure. Select ‘Email notifications’, enter your Gmail address (you’ll be prompted to switch on support for less secure apps), then enable the ‘Switch action alarm’ button. Check your email for a test message. Now open the Wink app on your smartphone and create a shortcut to arm your Canary.
Now switch to IFTTT and create a new recipe. Tap ‘this’ and select the Gmail channel for your trigger, connecting if necessary. Now select ‘New email in inbox from search’ and enter the subject line of the email sent (‘Smart Plug Notification: <name> switched off’ in our example, with <name> the name you give your smart plug). Click ‘Create Trigger’.
Next, select ‘that’ and choose the Wink: Shortcuts channel. Select ‘Activate shortcut’, then choose the shortcut your created in the Wink app before clicking ‘Create Action’. Review your settings then give your recipe a suitably descriptive name and click ‘Create Recipe’.
Once this is done, test your recipe by powering down the device connected to your EdiPlug, then manually switch off the plug using the EdiPlug app. The email should appear in your inbox almost immediately, but there’ll be a pause of about a minute before the Canary automatically arms itself, indicating the recipe works. From here you could create another, complimentary recipe that disarms the Canary when you power on the EdiPlug.
Connecting Sonos via IFTTT
If you can’t figure out a way to link your smart device to IFTTT, remember that Google is your friend. Google ‘IFTTT Sonos’, for example, and you’ll discover this neat hack that uses IFTTT’s WordPress channel to communicate with your Sonos streaming device. Things may not always be particularly elegant, but they’re effective, and your relatively dumb smart devices just got a little smarter.