“Alexa, turn on the room light!” Every night before going to bed, I always asked Alexa to turn on my room lights. Although sometimes it couldn’t connect to the device, which is frustrating, most of the time, it works perfectly as expected. Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant are the three smart assistants that dominate the current smart home market. So how do they work? All of them rely on NLP, natural language processing, to understand human languages. Since analyzing the words take a lot of computational power, these smart assitants first record the words and then send the words to cloud servers to be analyzed more efficiently. On the cloud side, the NLP breaks down the words into individual sounds and then consults a database training various words’ pronunciation to find which words most closely correspond to the combination of individual sounds. Next, NLP identifies important words to make sense of the tasks and carry out corresponding functions. Lastly, it sends back the information to the devices.
At home, the three devices, Amazon Echo, Home pod, and Google Speaker, play the role of the central brain controlling all smart home devices through different types of wireless channels. We called them smart home hubs. Smart home hubs enabled the possibility of automation and linkage between different smart devices from different brands. However, some devices only support one smart assistant, which makes integration complicated. For example, if I have an Alexa at home, but I want to connect it to Nest Thermostat, the smart thermostat acquired by google and only supports google assistant, it’s almost impossible to do so. Thus, we need a new tool to solve this problem.
Here it is, IFTTT, which is short for If This Then That. IFTTT is the simplest way to connect hundreds of apps and devices, including Twitter, Dropbox, Alexa, and Google Assistant. IFTTT introduced the concept of Applets, which is like mini, active apps customers can create to connect different devices and apps by themselves. For example, creating events in the iPhone Calendar via Google Assistant, and sync Alexa’s to-do list with Google Calendar. Automation saves us a lot of time. The way to do so first connects your accounts to IFTTT then choose the existing services in the platform and create your Applet. Then click “connect”. That’s it!
If you are not sure what to do, then you can select an existing Applet created by others. If you cannot find what you need, you can also use IFTTT’s API to build your logic and create your own smart home! Let’s say I want to connect my phone to nest smart doorbell so that “IF a delivery guy pressed the doorbell, THEN my phone would get a notification, and THEN the camera was turned on,” I can simply use IFTTT to achieve that. IFTTT empowers smart assistants and smart devices to work together in a frictionless environment. With the power of IFTTT, I can also connect my home media centers to all smart devices and provide an automatic watching experience.
Imagine that you can enable theater mode at home by just saying “Alexa, theater mode” and suddenly the lighting brightness adjusted to 30% and the warms adjusted to 2700K, then the drapery was closed automatically along with the opening of the 7.1 Dolby speakers and 4K movies. This can be made possible with Plex and smart assistants. Plex is a client-server media player platform, made by Plex, Inc.
The Plex Media server organizes video, audio, and photos from a user’s collections and from online services and streams them to the players. The official clients and unofficial third-party clients run on mobile devices, smart TVs, streaming boxes, and web apps. Unlike Netflix, all the content is stored in the NAS –Network Attached Storage, and fetched by Plex servers. With IFTTT, we can easily connect Plex to smart assistants and other smart devices to set up the theater scene. Plex can store not only movies but also private videos, pictures functioning as a home cloud service. With premium membership, you can also stream your content from your home media center to your mobile phones through the internet so that you will never store your document/pictures/asset on cloud drives such as google drive and dropbox.