Sunday, 28 September 2014

adding heat to If This Then That

Like many, for quite a while I've used Hazel to keep my Mac systems tidy.

It's "automation for the rest of us", with a rules engine to do things like tidy the desktop and file things away without having to do anything.

I regard it as a sort of magic nowadays and occasionally have to remember to switch it off when I deliberately want to make a mess.

The cloud equivalent of Hazel type rules, which doesn't yet get much coverage, but which can become a twitter-like phenomenon, is IFTTT.

"If This Then That" can be used for all kinds of event triggering.

Although it has the makings of a 'Rise of the Machines' scenario, I'm kinda relying on Asimov's first law (A robot may not injure a human being etc...) as protection through my experiments. This is mainly through the application of 'Keep it Simple' with the IFTTT recipes I've added. And yes, I'm familiar with HAL 9000.

Although hardly Jedi mind tricks my basic examples of automation include a "probably a rainy day" notification first thing in the morning (to pop up on the iPhone). I know, I could look at the sky or listen to the radio, but a small notification to the iPhone seems a reasonable test.

The wheely bins don't have RFID, so the best I can do is to have an automated reminder on a Tuesday evening. I've just hooked up the home thermostat to send occasional alerts. Currently there's no Garmin or Strava channel, although I've noticed they can both be set up as RSS channels.

Because it can work with many types of channel triggers (things like location sensitivity) and also with many applications, there's also potential to trigger an event such as reminders based upon location (e.g. office/supermarket/train station).

The 'approaching home in the car' scenario is one that I'll want to explore further, as will be the obvious applicability of short notifications to smart watch technologies.

For me it will be mainly 'silent running' because I'm unwilling to let IFTTT have access to broadcasters like twitter in case of the potential for unexpected side-effects.

Nonetheless it is already providing some intriguing potential.

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