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App darling IFTTT says it can run with Apple, Google and Amazon in the smart home race

If connected devices have a building boom, IFTTT wants to be the plumbing.

The Ring app on a mobile phone shows a picture of a person arriving at a front door. Ring

IFTTT, a quiet startup that’s well known in the developer world, is trying to make some noise in the home.

The company’s main schtick is providing “recipes” — a service that automates connections between products and apps. Want your Instagram photos to automatically upload to Dropbox? Write an IFTTT recipe. (Hence its name: “if this, then that.”)

Starting today, IFTTT is allowing these recipe capabilities to live inside other company apps, starting primarily with home automation startups. That’s intentional: Connected-device makers have been trying to figure out how their many gadgets can talk to one another.​

IFTTT would like to be ​that​ connective plumbing, particularly as the smart home market is seeing a sudden surge of investment from Amazon and Google.

That surge validates the startup’s founding thesis six years ago, claimed IFTTT CEO Linden Tibbets. "A lot of the bets that we were making back in 2010 are becoming more true by the day,” he said.

The company has released over 40 million of these recipes. Tibbets framed the new feature as a pervasive web layer that enables smoother services on partner products. “It’s kind of like PayPal,” he said.

An example: Ring is a company that sells internet-connected doorbells. It has tested IFTTT recipes for six months or so. The most popular feature, said Ring CEO Jamie Siminoff, is an integration with a smart lightbulb. Doorbell rings; light turns on.

Now his company can pitch more complex and tailored use cases, like an alert for office workers, via messaging app Slack, if someone is at the office door.

“It’s something that we don’t imagine doing — a direct interaction with Slack,” he said. “For us, we save a bunch of engineering costs.”

It’s not clear how much these savings will be passed on to IFTTT as revenues. The company isn’t sharing figures.

In addition to Ring, IFTTT is working with a smart indoor air pollution monitor (Foobot) and a smart garage door monitor (Garageio). Right now, these are not things people buy in droves. But the hope is that soon they will.

IFTTT last raised a financing round of $30 million two years ago, when tech giants like Google and Samsung were splurging on home automation companies. That wave fizzled; device sales failed to rise as expected.

But there’s a new connected home push now, driven now by intelligent voice speakers from Amazon and Google as well as Apple’s software efforts. Connectivity fixes are still an issue, although it’s unclear if the big tech companies need to turn to someone like IFTTT to solve it.

Tibbets said he’s focused, for now, on helping automated home companies demonstrate their value to consumers.

“It’s going to take time,” he cautioned.

This article originally appeared on

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