How safe is IFTTT

This is how IFTTT works: More cleverness for the smart home

The name is awkward, but maybe that's why it sticks so well: “If This Then That” translates as “If this happens, then do it”. This means that actions are triggered on events that IFTTT receives. You can be notified when a certain website writes about a certain topic, when rain is expected and much more. But that's only the tip of the iceberg and represents the skills IFTTT has been known for for many years. In the meantime, however, the service can do a lot more because it can also communicate with hardware via the Internet. You can query thermostats, control heating, switch lights and much more. And behind this is by no means just the active user base, rather it is not infrequently the manufacturers themselves who provide the connection to IFTTT and thus ensure that their products can be integrated into automated processes with comparatively little effort. The founders of IFTTT called their service “digital adhesive tape”, which can be used to connect events and actions on the Internet.

At the latest when you deposit your access data for Dropbox & Co. at IFTTT, security concerns arise. The developers themselves go into detail at on which information is stored and passed on and how. Let's sum it up like this: Over the years, IFTTT has proven itself to be extremely trustworthy.

Some terminology

Unfortunately, IFTTT is completely in English, including the few terms whose meaning you have to internalize. Services are understood to be the services that can be used either as a trigger or as an action. Some services such as websites can only be used as a trigger, some only for actions such as notifications, and many for both. The unifying description of trigger and action, in a sense the program, is what IFTTT calls an applet.

Easy entry

Now what has been said so far sounds as if IFTTT is terribly complicated and you actually have to be a programmer to be able to do anything with it. But the opposite is usually the case, because IFTTT offers an enormous number of predefined applets that are well sorted and that can be browsed through.

First of all, you need an account with IFTTT. This can be created either via the website or via the app for iOS devices. In theory, you can get by without the app, but in practice it makes life on the iPhone and iPad a little easier. And the iOS with its data sources and notification options is very well integrated into IFTTT.

It would be a good idea to first take a look at the applets available. IFTTT groups these according to keywords, some of which you can see quickly that you don't necessarily have to take them seriously - for example with the applets for space. There you can find applets, for example, that trigger a notification when an astronaut enters space. For such information, IFTTT taps the NASA server.

A little rummaging also quickly brings out more useful applets: For example, you can be notified in the “Weather” area if there is a threat of rain tomorrow or an excessively high UV index. If you click on one of these applets, you get a more detailed description and the author. A simple swipe over the "Turn on" field activates the applet.

If you start with IFTTT, you should experiment with the simple applets first and activate some of them. An overview of the activated applets is available at any time under “My Applets”. There they can also be deactivated at any time or deleted from your own list. Under “Activity” you can also see when which applet asked for something or did something. Here, too, a tip is enough to see more details. Under “Search” you can also search for applets if you can guess their description - which is usually written in English.


Of course, some services require that you log in as a user. If an applet needs access to cloud storage such as Dropbox or to hardware controls such as for the Hue lamps from Philips, IFTTT logically needs to be given this access data so that the applets can log in. This may be seen as a security problem, of course, but many applets require you to enter this sensitive information - so far, IFTTT has proven to be very trustworthy.

Own applets

However, it does not require any programming work to develop your own applets. The scheme is always the same: In the sentence “If This Then That” you only have to select the trigger (“This”) and the action (“That”). This is usually done with a few clicks and possibly a little search for the right service.

A new program can be created using the plus sign in the applets area. This is simply “if this then that”, and you just have to select the trigger and the action with a tip on each. So you first choose a trigger and first have to find a suitable service for it. The search function helps, but the choice remains enormous. If you have selected a service, a menu appears with the possible triggers. If you have not used the service before and you have to register there, you can do this right away. Incidentally, the trigger can also be a simple push of a button that is triggered manually.

The action can only be specified after the trigger. Here, too, you choose the service and then the specific action. Many actions and triggers have to be defined more precisely, for example the content of e-mails can be specified, but IFTTT often makes good suggestions that you don't necessarily have to change if you don't mind the English language.

If so, then already

Experience has shown that IFTTT users go through several phases: At the beginning they are overwhelmed by the many possibilities, then they notice that they cannot implement what they are currently imagining. But that doesn't change the fact that among the predefined applets there are quite a few that are useful and with which things and services can be automated,

who just didn't want to work together without outside help. The formulation, If This Then That is actually a digital adhesive tape, is at least as consistent today as it was in the past.

Workshop: Install IFTTT

Workshop: using ready-made applets

Workshop: addressing the hardware

Workshop: Develop your own applets