So you’ve got a Google Home and it’s doing some clever stuff, but you want more. You want it to control your lights , to turn on the aircon, to warn your game-playing son that dinner is ready. Then you hit the wall and find that your Home needs a friend.. It turns out that Google Home cannot do a lot of these things by itself; once you get beyond some basic controls you need to use a third-party app to make things work.
Most people then turn to IFTTT; that’s what I did. If This Then That allows you to create simple recipes. For example if I say “OK Google I’m watching TV” then set your Hue lights to low. It doesn’t take long to find that IFTTT has great strengths and some serious limitations. The strengths lie in the fact that it comes ready to connect to a huge range of devices and can use webhooks to go even further. The limitation is that it can only do one thing at a time and, and this is the killer, it doesn’t always work.
Yes, it doesn’t always work. I started really noticing this when I wanted a quick way to arm my security system. I set IFTTT up so that I could get my Google Assistant to turn on the security. In tests it worked fine. In reality, it fired less than half the time. Now some research showed that others had come to the same conclusion before me – empirical testing showed IFTTT failing to fire way, way too often.
Which brings us to Stringify, which is the place you probably want to be. Stringify fills the same niche as IFTTT but it does it better. Most importantly, Stringify has proved to be completely reliable – and that’s a crucial thing. If I’m telling Google Home to arm my security system as I walk out the door, I want to be pretty sure the job has been done.
But there’s more. The cool thing about Stringify is that you can use multiple triggers and actions in a recipe. So I can have two triggers – Google Home or a button on my phone – that trigger a timer that waits a couple of minutes before triggering my security system to armed and messaging me to confirm it has done so. Now that’s a neat set up. The capacity to build in a more complex recipe really makes Stringify a powerful tool.
Because Stringify is a third-party app using it with Google Home could be annoying. Out of the box you have to tell Google Home to tell Stringify to do something: “Hey Google tell Stringify to…” is a mouthful especially when Home insists on giving a running commentary on what it is doing. There’s a simple solution: Set up a Home shortcut so that you can say something simple and home handles the messy bits behind the scenes.
Probably my biggest quibble with Stringify is that there is no web interface to create flows or recipes. You have to work in the app on your phone. That’s not the end of the world, but it makes the process more clunky than it really has to be. It’s not as if setting up your internet of things recipes is an intrinsically mobile undertaking that you want to do on the bus, so not being able to take advantage of a big screen seems to be a real lack. That said, once you get the hang of it, Stringify’s approach of connecting bubbles is really effective.
There are also some other limitations with Stringify which power users have found. Interestingly one of the major work-arounds is to use IFTTT. I’m not sure how important this is – especially given IFTTT’s dodgy activation history – but if you are a hardcore IFTTT fan, you can use Stringify to extend what IFTTT can do.
There’s an excellent article here comparing and describing both IFTTT and Stringify.
The bottom line for me is that if you are making serious use of Google Home / Assistant or any part of the Internet of Things you will want to be trying Stringify out.