This Universal Remote Controls Your Whole House
Stringify promises to simplify your out-of-control household
Think of Stringify as the universal remote for your connected life. It’s an app that enables you to link network-connected devices that wouldn’t normally interact with each other. So, for example, if your doorbell motion sensor detects someone at your door after dark, you can have a light above your door turn on automatically. Stringify, as the name suggests, ties together the two unlike devices—the doorbell and the light—to work collaboratively.
Stringify uses what it calls Flows to link smart devices. At its most basic level, a Flow involves two things: a trigger and an action: When this happens, that happens. The concept is similar to that of an earlier connectivity platform for apps and devices called IFTTT ("IF This, Then That"), which is still going strong. But unlike IFTTT, which can work with only two things at a time, Stringify lets you create multiple actions from a single trigger, or multiple triggers for one or more actions. You can see the relative sophistication of a Stringify Flow in the illustration below. On the left is a Stringify Flow that tells Amazon Echo to run “good morning,” which turns on a light, resets the thermostat, and sends a traffic report to your email. The IFTTT recipe on the left only turns on a light.
Though IFTTT remains the more popular platform for now, Stringify is taking a long-term approach, preparing for the increasingly complex world of the Internet of Things (IoT)—the growing number of household devices with network connectivity.
Physical & Digital Worlds
Stringify is at its most interesting when controlling things in the physical world: LIFX lights, Ecobee thermostats, Netatmo cameras, and so on. Your Automatic connected car pulls into the driveway. Its proximity to the house triggers a series of events that activate various devices in preparation for your arrival; adjusting the thermostat, turning on the lights, playing music, and so. The result is a warm, welcoming home—a smart home at its best.
You can also run Stringify Flows via verbal commands. For instance, the app works with Amazon’s Echo, as you can see from the comparison above with IFTTT. So you could say, "Alexa, tell Stringify to run living room all on"—and all the lights (as well as any other devices you’ve linked up) will turn on.
But Stringify isn’t limited to working with physical things. In fact, you don’t need a single smart device to take advantage of what Stringify offers. You can set up purely digital Flows. For example, you can have a weather report sent to your email inbox every day, or receive NASA’s picture of the day, or get a list of Yelp-reviewed restaurants every Friday afternoon. Or create a Daily Commute Flow that sends you a text notification when your predicted travel time between home and work exceeds than 30 minutes. Testing Stringify with digital commands is a great way to get your feet wet without committing to a host of pricey smart home gadgets.
Stringify hopes to make the smart home promise a reality by supporting a high level of linkability. It gives you a way to make IoT devices work together. Stringify is its most impressive when controlling objects in the physical world, but it works with digital things, too. With its ability to add new devices, it’s in a good position to gain adherents as the smart home universe grows.
The one caveat with Stringify is that its learning curve isn’t easy. Although the interface offers praiseworthy drag-and-drop functionality, the app is sophisticated. Indeed, the interface may deceive you into thinking using Stringify is easier than it is. When you set up a Flow, everything must be just right for it to work; but if not, it’s not always obvious what’s wrong. Success takes patience and practice. So I recommend starting with simple one-to-one relations until you get the hang of it.
Photo credits: Stringify, IFTTT.