If this, then that, then this, then...
If This Then That, or IFTTT, is one of the most useful websites you may have never heard of.
It's a tool that knits together the complex web of apps and services you use every day, enabling them to interact automatically in new and useful ways to make your life easier – and make you feel like a tech god.
All you have to do is sign up, grant IFTTT access to your various user accounts, and before you know it your Instagram photos are being automatically backed up to Dropbox, your Spotify plays are being logged on a Google Drive spreadsheet, and any one of millions of other possible combinations of apps (known as recipes) is helping make your life more efficient.
The company has released two apps, 'IF' and 'DO'. The first is for creating 'conditional triggers', such as the automatic copying of your Instagram photos to your Dropbox, as described above. The latter is all about actions that you trigger from the home (or 'Today') screen of your phone using a widget.
Perhaps where IFTTT is most useful, though, is as the glue that binds together your Internet of Things (IoT) devices. As our home appliances and other gadgets become increasingly connected, making them work together is what IFTTT can do best – so here's our pick of the 10 most useful recipes.
Don't live in darkness
Each service or gizmo you can connect to IFTTT is known as a channel, and for each channel there are associated actions.
For example, there's a Weather channel with triggers that'll kick into action if it matches the weather conditions you specify.
A great idea is to combine this with the Belkin Wemo Bulb channel, for controlling your Belkin smart lightbulbs, and which contains a bunch of actions that can be connected with triggers – for example switching the lights on or off, or even blinking them.
So what does all this mean? No more brooding in the dark! Simply use the IFTTT weather channel to trigger your lights to come on at sunset. This will also work with Philips Hue lights, which are supported by their own IFTTT channel.
Honey, I'm home!
In the old days, when you got home safely you'd give your concerned friend or relative 'three rings' to let them know – but IFTTT offers a 21st century update, and one that's completely automated.
Simply use the Location channel to trigger a message or email every time you get close to home – once you cross the geofence it'll fire off a text message and give everyone peace of mind. Just remember to turn it off if you fancy going 'off-grid' once in a while – or if your Mum rings you up to tell you that she doesn't really care about you that much, stop with the messages...
Remember to hang out the washing
If you're teched-up enough to have the latest IoT kitchen gadgets, even your washing machine or dishwasher may be able to respond to the whims of a tap on your smartphone.
By pairing your Samsung, LG, or General Electric appliances with your smart lights (say, WeMo or Hue), you can have the lights blink whenever a wash cycle is complete, giving you a subtle reminder to put the washing out to dry – no more cries of exasperation when you wake up and realise you forgot.
Then you can take a long, hard look at yourself, and wonder what happened to you to make something like this become so important.
If you have a WeMo coffee maker, why not ensure that you always have a coffee waiting for you in the morning, whatever time you wake up?
No need to stick to a strict alarm clock either – just hook up the channel with your Fitbit channel, so that whenever you roll out of bed and a new sleep is logged on Fitbit, it kicks the coffee machine into action. It'll even work with your snooze button.
Just make sure you leave a mug in the coffee maker when you go to bed at night… otherwise you could wake up to a mess.
Computer! Prepare for exit!
Amazon's Alexa is a voice-control speaker that sits patiently in your home, always listening and ready to provide you with whatever you need. And, brilliantly, Amazon had the foresight to enable it to hook up with IFTTT, so you can build your own custom triggers that work with just the sound of your voice.
What would be clever, for example, would be to use Alexa to essentially power-down your house when you go out, just by uttering the words "shut down". You could hook up Alexa with several recipes to switch off your lights, turn down the thermostat and switch off the TV at the mains, so less energy is wasted as soon as you yell 'LATERS, FOOL!'
Power back up with Do
IFTTT isn't just about 'If', it's also about proactive commands. Using the 'Do' app from the company, you can set stuff to trigger on the press of a button – a button that can be placed on the home screen of an Android phone, or the Today screen of an iPhone.
Using this you can essentially use IFTTT to boot up your house, in a similar way to the power-down trigger above. Hook up a 'Do' button to your thermostat, lights and plugs, and you can have your home up and running within seconds when you step through the door.
Save water when it rains
In a move that could cause some grandparents to have a minor coronary, even garden sprinklers are connected now – and if you have a GreenIQ Smart Garden Hub you can use IFTTT to make your smart sprinkler even smarter.
For example, link the sprinkler to the Weather channel and you can have it switch off if rain is detected. Just create a weather trigger – for example, 'rain predicted' – and hook this up to the Green IQ channel to switch off your sprinkler when it's not needed.
What might be more fun would be to hook GreenIQ up with the Amazon Alexa channel – if you have Amazon's Siri-alike home voice assistant you can use your booming voice to summon the weather gods to bring much-needed rains to your land.
Deter burglars with light
Both Belkin and D-Link make motion detectors that are compatible with IFTTT, and you can hook these up to your Wi-Fi lights to make them switch on when movement is detected.
Not only will this hopefully spook any burglars (who wouldn't be unsettled if the lights came on in the middle of the night?), but if you have home security cameras rolling it will mean the bad guys are better illuminated and easier to identify.
Email alert for intruders
Speaking of burglars, if you have a Nest or Netatmo camera you can have IFTTT automatically email you if intruders are detected. Heck, you could even automatically tweet an alert, so that your nearest friend can go over and check your house is okay.
Like everything on IFTTT, setting this up is straightforward. Simply activate the Nest channel by logging in with your Nest credentials, and hook it up to the email channel.
Turn on the heating from your smartwatch
Nobody likes getting out of bed and into a freezing cold house – but if you have IFTTT, you won't have to. If you have an Android smartwatch you can use the Android Wear channel to fire-up the heating via your Nest, Tado, Honeywell or Netatmo thermostat in an instant.
If you've got the hardware, set it up now, even though it's the summer – you'll thank us in November.
If you have a Pebble smartwatch you can do the same thing, albeit after jumping through a couple of extra hoops.
If you download an app called This Button from the Pebble App Store, and add the Maker channel, you can manually set up an API key that will enable the app to work with IFTTT.
Then, with a touch of the button on your wrist you can warm up your whole house. Brilliant.