Today, IFTTT announces the addition of an iOS Location channel to its ‘Internet glue’ service. The channel will allow users to specify an ‘area’ that will allow them to trigger actions and recipes based on when they enter or leave that area.
Think, for instance, of setting up an IFTTT recipe that allows you to send a DM automatically to your loved one when you arrive at at a travel destination. Or one that allows you to zip a circle around your neighborhood and alert you when one of your friends checks in on Foursquare nearby.
I spoke with IFTTT CEO Linden Tibbets and Director of Mobile Devin Foley about the updates to the app. Foley mentions that he set up a ‘dance party’ recipe to trigger his Phillips Hue lights to color cycle when he gets close to his house, a fun way to let his son know that dad is home. Tibbets notes a recent wedding that he attended where he set up an area alert that pulled in all public Instagram photos shot during the event and dropped them into his Dropbox — creating a photographic archive of the event that he could then share with the group.
The new location channel can be built on directly, or can be accessed via the Instagram, Facebook, Foursquare or Twitter channels. These are the initial offerings, but location will be built into more channels as time goes on. You can create an area of interest with a clever zoom-able interface that improves on Apple’s geo-fencing tool in my opinion. You can then choose to make the recipe trigger on entrance, on exit or both from that area.
This initial location release is all about these definable ‘areas’, rather than pinpoint locations, though that could come in the future.
Obviously, location is one of the big pillars of iOS signals. Along with the previously announced Photos, Contacts and Reminders channels, you can now trigger and complete recipes based on many core iOS services. IFTTT is essentially an easy to use programming guide that lets you do things with your phone that Apple will likely never enable, or that companies with a vested interest in protecting their graph will never allow.
There are a few other updates in this release of IFTTT as well. You can now tap the heart icon on any Recipe page to add it to your favorites. Other users will be able to see this list of favorites to see which recipes you like. You can set up your profile in the app as well as on the web and share recipes on mobile too. These updates are designed, says Tibbets, to foster a sense of community inside IFTTT, and to encourage people to create and share recipes. If you’re seeing feedback from other users that are getting value out of your recipes, you’re more likely to want to create more.
IFTTT has also launched a new search feature that allows you to find Channels by name, which is good because the list is getting pretty extensive and it’s getting tougher to find just the one you need in a big scrollable list.
In other good news, IFTTT is also finally ready to talk about an Android version of its app. Basically, just to say that work on it is officially underway. They’re not giving any ETAs but at least we know it’s on its way now.
One other thing that IFTTT is working on, but not ready to announce is the platform that we talked about when Twitter triggers came back to the service in August. This will allow apps and services to construct their own channels, instead of IFTTT making them all themselves. It’s a super smart idea, because it lets outsiders build the building blocks that are then in turn used to build recipes. So we’ll keep our eyes peeled for that to arrive as well.
IFTTT also tells us that it’s got someone dedicated to building out its hardware channels, which have multiplied to encompass the Jawbone Up, a bunch of Wemo hardware and, of course, the Phillips Hue. The way in which IFTTT could serve as the glue to connect things like Hue, Lockitron, Nest, Wemo and other personal choices into a true connected home is intriguing. Tibbets notes that people tend to purchase these kinds of devices by taste, rather than by holistic system — so making a way to connect and control them all seems like a good thing.
IFTTT is a service that allows users to define a trigger (a new RSS feed item, a new Instagram photo) and an action (tweet it for me, put it in my Dropbox) to form a recipe that can be used and shared. Tibbets says that they’re “building a general tool that you get value out of when you use it with, other services,” and I think that’s an apt description. Being a neutral third party places IFTTT in an interesting and potentially very powerful position that could let it be a communication layer that sits between the various siloes of data and services hoarded by the major Internet companies.