IFTTT isn't your only app-based gateway to a connected, automated smart home setup. For users looking at chaining together more than a couple of platforms at once that aren't natively compatible, Stringify could well be the answer.
With more, er, strings to its bow than IFTTT, Stringify offers extra functionalities and freedoms that its bigger-named rival (you can even throw IFTTT into the mix, in fact). And it's a name you'll be hearing more and more of, with cable company Comcast beginning to put its own stamp on the service, having purchased Stringify back in 2017.
Essential reading: The best IFTTT recipes
For those new to the Stringify game, the premise is simple: You set up a trigger from a 'Thing' ‚Äď the initial action that kicks things off ‚Äď and then assign Thing actions to follow after in the Flow. Yep, Flow. There'll be no talk of recipes or applets here. These Flows can include multiple parameters to trigger an action or have multiple actions triggered.
This is particularly useful if you want to string together a bunch of connected tech platforms and then add extra dimensions, such as time periods or temperatures, to the mix. Plenty of the big names ‚Äď Nest, Lifx, Hue, Alexa, Ring, Netatmo and more ‚Äď are on board, too. It's essentially a smart home hub without the need for any hardware.
Anyway, below we'll give you a primer on what the new-look Stringify means moving forward, followed by a quick guide to getting set up and our pick of the best Stringify Flows.
The Comcast effect
Initially, we weren't sure just how Comcast would look to use Stringify's smarts to its advantage. However, after a reboot of the app in April 2018, we now have a much clearer idea.
Essentially, Comcast is betting on the TV being the centrepiece of the smart home moving forward, and it's going to use Stringify to help cement itself as this key device. The app is now able to link smart home devices with your wider entertainment setup, as well as integration with the company's X1 box letting you add your TV to Flows. This results in your Comcast-powered TV now being able to, for example, notify you if somebody is at the door, or even change the channel, temperature and lights as part of a movie night Flow.
As we say, the play here is that this method of automation and control will win out against a speaker from the likes of Google and Amazon, and we expect many more TV-centric features to help strengthen the platform in the future.
Getting started with Stringify
To set up the Flows we're going to talk through below, and create your own ones if they're not exactly to your taste, you'll need to download the Stringify iOS or Android app. As detailed in the video above, you can search for a specific Flow involving set physical (Alexa device, Philips Hue bulb) and digital (Instagram, Facebook) Things, or you can create your own.
It's all pretty straightforward once you're actually in the app and experimenting with it, and you'll no doubt spend some considerable time playing around with the potential dominos in place. However, if you are struggling to get the hang of things, check out these quick-hit clips on how to create a Flow with an 'and' condition and creating a flow with an 'or' condition.
We'd also highly recommend tapping into the Stringify Subreddit, if you're in need of a bit of technical help, or you're just looking for a bit more inspiration as a newbie. You'll find the solutions to many odd glitches, and it's a neat way to keep up with the latest additions to the app.
Let's jump straight in with a Flow that highlights just how complex things can get with Stringify ‚Äď this one uses six different Things: Nest, Multi Sensor, Location, Hue, Notification and Weather.
This Flow looks to see if your location (from your smartphone) is set to home and that your front door Multi Sensor has been open for 20 minutes. If those are both true then it will turn a Hue bulb blue and send you an SMS saying: "The front door has been open for 20 minutes". If the temperature outside is above 80 degrees then it will set your Nest Thermostat temperature to 75 inside or if it's below 50 it will turn the temp up inside, putting it up to 60. These temperatures, and time periods, are all adjustable, too ‚Äď as is the bulb colour and the text message.
See, we told you it was a bit more in-depth than IFTTT.
Look Occupied Home
This one is a little complex but such a great idea. It brings together the motion sensor on a Yale smart lock, your Hue lights, a Logitech Harmony, the geo-location data from your smartphone and Stringify's timer.
If your Yale lock notices motion outside your front door ‚Äď and you're not home ‚Äď it will fire up whatever Hue bulbs you tell it to and play an activity from your Logitech Harmony remote‚Ä¶ maybe firing up Netflix on TV and playing some radio on a speaker in the bedroom. You can set a timer that you feel is long enough to deter any unwanted attention from your abode.
Smarter Philips Hue security lights
Philips Hue and Nest already team up pretty well without IFTTT or Stringify getting involved ‚Äď but you can get a lot more specific with the latter powering the proceedings.
We have it set up so that, between midnight and 5am, if any of our Nest Cams detect motion, certain Hue lights will turn on. We've also set it so that these lights turn off after 15 minutes, as we don't want to come downstairs to find everything lit up just because a cat had a walk around the outside of our house.
Whole Home Ring
Struggling to hear your Ring Doorbell's chime when you're in the kitchen? Got a Sonos speaker in your kitchen? And a Samsung SmartThings Hub? Then you're in luck.
This Flow sends a doorbell chime over Sonos connected to SmartThings. Super simple but super effective.
That's actually the name of this Flow. Chubby buddy. Brilliant. Essentially it's designed to fat-shame you into losing weight.
After your Withings smart scales register a 200lbs+ reading you'll get a text with the weight, fat mass and fat ratio all detailed and and a message over Sonos will say, "You weigh X. Are you kidding me? Do something about it today." And your Hue bulbs will turn red at 100% brightness too, just for an added kick in the teeth.
Naturally, you can customise the weight trigger and the Sonos message. Maybe a rendition of Who ate all the pies?
Nap It Out
You can already link up your Lifx and Philips Hue smart bulbs, if that's what your lighting system is about, but one of the fresher Stringify integrations also brings Lutron to the mix. The company's Caseeta dimmers and switches, as well as the Serena Shades, can now all be pulled into your Flow.
Pair them with a command to integrate Carrier's C√īr Wi-Fi thermostat, and you've got yourself a nice little weekend nap-time Flow at your fingertips. Simply set the chain to begin when the time is right and you're in your home, with the lights dimming, shades lowering, TV turning off and temperature set to combat the weather outside.
Remember the old days when your parents used to take your PlayStation controller off you until your homework was finished? Well, those days are over, humble Stringify parents, and you're now more powerful than you could have ever imagined.
With Homework Time, you can set a Flow to come into action every weekday after 5:30pm when you're home, with Wi-Fi pausing on your child's iPad (yes, Stringify can now finally control Wi-Fi), a desk light turning on and a timer beginning for 90 minutes. Once the time is up, you can even set the colour of the smart bulb to in the desk light to change. This is the future, parents ‚Äď just try not to go too power-crazy with all its tools.