Safety and security-flavored 'If This Then That' recipes

If you have some time to kill, then you might want to play around with recipes. IFTTT is a service that connects two apps together via the power of the Internet. It's a way to control your personal Internet of Things. “If This Then That” is explained nicely in this image:

IFTTT channels

It’s super easy to create your recipe. You simply sign in, click on “create a recipe.” You then click on “this” to choose a trigger channel. If you have not yet activated that channel, then you will need to do so. After selecting the "this" trigger, select "that" action to connect two apps. There are 115 channels, but that number continues to climb. Create your own recipe or choose from shared recipes.

Let’s use “weather” as an example; select one of the following weather triggers: today or tomorrow’s weather report, current temperature or condition, if the temperature drops below or rises above, forecast, sunrise, sunset, wind speed, pollen count, humidity level or UV index.  Next you will click on “that” to complete the action.

The weather is a handy recipe, especially if you live in an area prone to severe weather like tornados, which could trigger Philips Hue to turn on as a steady red light. If it’s just rain, then the light could turn blue.  Another recipe works off hashtags, but I don’t advise choosing #hacked on Twitter to trigger Phillips Hue or any other light to blink; sometimes it blinks non-stop. This one makes the lights blink based on receiving Gmail from a specific address.

If you can’t see the purpose of spending big bucks for an internet-connected light like Philips bulb, Bloom or Strip, then you could have a NOAA National Weather Service alert sent to you as text or call.

Here are some of other cool IFTTT recipes, some acting a bit like a poor man’s security system. Of course the coolness factor depends upon what you are “into” and how much you like to share your private life with social networks; some folks are happy to tweet, Facebook post, or otherwise share GPS or exercise-related information, but that pushes too hard into privacy for me. These are either security-ish, wisdom or just plain fun.

Everyone might need this recipe as a backup escape plan. You are stuck listening to a person go on and on and on, but you could send a #helpme text message to trigger a phone call with a message something like:

Congratulations! You have successfully planned your escape! Right now your friend is in dire need of...well SOMETHING! And it's up to you to get there! Now! Hurry! Because it's not like you want to get away from someone else, it's just that you have to be somewhere else very soon. Now fly!

For Android, this recipe will “Let me know when I'm kicked off my home Wi-Fi so I don't burn through my data plan.”

You could choose to back up your iOS contacts or photos; but this recipe is hopefully a reminder that if you share a selfie, then it’s loose on the web and you no longer have control of it.

Take no selfies

Lost phone: Send IFTTT an email with the hashtag #lostphone to trigger a call to your smart phone; the call will use Liam Neeson’s quote from Taken to hopefully scare someone into returning your lost phone.

I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my phone go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you and I will kill you. 

Facebook recipe: Copy any photo I get tagged in to a special "Tagged" photo album with privacy settings of Only Me.

Facebook security: Sends you a text message when changes are made to your profile.

After eBay was hacked, a new recipe was created; it sends a message to your phone if someone uses your stolen password to log into your eBay account. While that’s cool, it seems wiser to just change your password.

If WeMo detects motion in your home, then it turns on a radio. It could be a TV or anything plugged into a WeMo Switch. SmartThings, via the Smart Home of Tomorrow, showed off something similar but it turned on Sonos to sound like a large barking guard dog.

SmartThings is also on IFTTT. Are you are a parent? Then you might like SmartThings recipes like “Tell me if my teenager is trying to sneak in past curfew;” or “call me if the liquor cabinet opens!”

There are several types of recipes to take a photo – or crank on an IP camera – if motion is detected and then upload it to Twitter, DropBox, Tumblr. If it’s an intruder then you have their face, but if it’s a visiting friend then hopefully they don’t object to being secretly photographed and uploaded to the cloud.

If you are not a fan of home automation, as each new Internet of Things device is potentially another security vulnerability, then IFTTT has other things too. For example, If Tales From Tech Support make you feel better, so long as you aren’t the one having to deal with the challenged user, then you might want to try this Reddit recipe: “Send me an email when there’s a new story by Airz23.” 

Here's the iOS app and here's the Android app. At any rate, if you haven't yet played around on IFTTT and you have a long weekend ahead, it might be something to try. Happy birthday, USA; and happy Independence Day, Americans!

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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