My love of automation is something I partly blame on the classic 80’s game of Mouse Trap – if you haven’t had the pleasure – check this out.
Mouse Trap was a miniature version of Wallace and Grommit’s breakfast making contraception – or a slightly higher brow analogy would be the beautiful ‘Heath Robinson’ machine in Honda’s – The Cog.
As a kid, the idea that I could do something over here that could make something else happen over there was the closest I’d ever come to having a super power. Fast Forward to 2015 and although the tools may be little different, I still get a small sense of childlike glee when my hall lights automatically come on when I get to the end of my street, or I get a photo emailed to me of the person ringing my doorbell outside. Automation and efficient use of our data is a relatively recent phenomenon. It’s also something we have a tendency to associate with Google or Facebook, but then who said it was only the big boys in the digital playground that could reap all the benefits? We can all leverage our devices and data with the right tools – this is where the likes of IFTTT and Zapier take centre stage.
“Who said it was only the big boys in the digital playground that could reap all the benefits from our data?”
What is IFTTT?
If This Then That (IFTTT) was founded in December 2010 by a 28 year, Linden Tibbets. At the end of 2014 it was valued at around $170m and has been touted as one of the most influential ‘Internet of Things’ companies around. Its simple purpose is to help automate your life. It does this by triggering an action (i.e sending an email, turning on your music) if a certain criteria is met (i.e your location/temperature) . If it sounds a bit complicated, it really isn’t - the beauty of IFTTT is its simplicity. I managed to get my first ‘recipe’ working within minutes.
A recipe is just a nice way of saying; if you combine two ‘things’, which you will likely already own or have access to, the resulting love child of these two technologies can do a whole lot more than if you hadn’t put them together. Or, back on the theme of 80’s TV shows – this is like merging Optimus Prime with Starscream – the result is a one very unbeatable and kick ass transformer.
Be an Auto-bot, not an Auto-not’
“IFTTT is like merging Optimus Prime with Starscream - the result is a kick-ass transformer”
And the important point here is once you’ve combined these technologies or ‘activated them’, it can continue to run in the background so you never have to lift a finger again. You’ll probably have already activated these benefits without realising. You’ve likely granted Google Maps permission to ‘talk’ to your phone so it can know your location through location services - the efficiency delivered here is that it means it will serve you taxi companies in your area and not ones based in London, Kentucky. Its worth mentioning at this point that Google Now, Siri and Cortana are making inroads into this type of automation but do not allow the degree of tailoring of IFTTT or compatibility across platforms that IFTTT can provide.
IFTTT Automation for Work and Creative Thinking
In this world of media and advertising, the principles of IFTTT are already hard at work in various guises. Weather triggered advertising is one of the most cited uses. In fact, Ross Webster from The weather Channel gave a great overview (include date). During my time at Amscreen, we delivered a simple but effective example by Ford through Mindshare and Kinetic - specific creative featured across the screen network when certain temperature based triggers were met. Automation like this is also seen within online and mobile based programmatic advertising that serves up relevant content when various audience targeting metrics are identified.
With the huge proliferation of data, the possibilities of triggered/automated advertising are only really limited to your imagination (and of course the publishers ability to activate it). Data plays an enormous role in our personal and work lives more than ever, but how many of us have consciously leveraged it for our own personal benefit?
IFTTT may just be a gimmick to some but its approach of encouraging us to play with data and platforms will probably help us look at how we deliver tangible benefits for brands through their own data. Ideas such as British Airways’ ‘Look Up’ delivered by OgilvyOne, Clear Channel UK, Posterscope and Carat is one such example of having fun with data and delivering something memorable. Someone once said;
“Serious play is not an oxymoron, it is the
essence of innovation”
These kinds of stand-out ideas are surely born from this philosophy.
So, just for starters, here are some of the quickest work based recipes you can implement that offers just a taste of the fun and genuinely time saving solutions that can be achieved with these kinds of platforms and principles: