IFTTT for Integrating Cloud, Mobile, Wearable, Social Media, and Internet of Things

IFTTT for iPhone - Intro Screen 01I like gadgets and discovering how I can use them beyond how they come out of the box. One fun part about having these gadgets is figuring out how to integrate them with other devices and services. This is where IFTTT (If This Then That) comes in. IFTTT is a service that, through triggers and actions, can enable different devices and services, including cloud, mobile, wearable computing, social media, and the internet of things, to work together. I use Evernote, Dropbox,  iPhone/iPad/Samsung Galaxy Note, Fitbit, Pebble watch, Google Glass, Nest Thermostat, Automatic app, and various social media platforms. I’ve experimented with some IFTTT “Recipes,” a combination of triggers and actions, just for fun and to see what I can use for productivity. Listed below are a few of the recipes I’ve used:

1) Fitbit activities to Google Drive. This recipe saves daily activity summaries to a spreadsheet on Google Drive.

2) Automatic/Nest Thermostat – turn on Nest with the car. This recipe turns on the Nest thermostat when my car, which has Automatic, is detected within a certain distance from home.

3) Automatic/Nest Thermostat – turn on the fan for 15 minutes when the car is home. This is similar to #2 above.

4) Twitter favorite creates a note in Evernote. This recipe creates an Evernote containing the tweet I marked as a favorite.

While this post is about IFTTT, I also want to mention an application I have used to issue commands to my Nest Thermostat using voice commands from my Google Glass. As this page shows, this app called “Google Glass App for the Nest” can be used to issue different commands, which include adjusting the Nest thermostat temperature to a certain temperature.

Klout recently gave me a Parrot mini-drone as a “perk.” Currently, there are no IFFFT recipes published for it, but just like the Google Glass App for Nest, I wonder if I can control the mini-drone with Google Glass. It seems some companies, including this one, have tried it.

It’s fun trying to integrate these technologies through IFTTT and other means. I do them mainly to explore what is possible for entertainment’s sake. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they do. But, I do explore these possibilities as part of my thinking of what the future may hold. There are ethical and privacy considerations with these technologies, and so as I do these experiments, I think about the implications. As I mentioned in this blog post about why I decided to buy Google Glass, to truly understand how these technologies work and the implications behind their use of them, one must have real-world experience with them. Just like golf, there’s no substitute for actually swinging a golf club to understand how a swing works.

Going back to IFTTT, there are thousands of recipes for you to try. Check it out and have fun with it!

Photo credit: http://blog.ifttt.com/post/55130449805/the-power-of-ifttt-now-in-your-pocket

How to Use Mind Maps To Brainstorm and Organize Ideas

mindmapThis is a post on mind mapping, a technique used to visually organize ideas, tasks and any set of related information.  This is a concept popularized by Tony Buzan, who is also the founder of the World Memory Championship and a memory champion himself. I will share a couple of ways I use this technique, some applications I use, and how I am able to work on my ideas from my mobile devices, laptops, and desktops at work and at home. It really is such a simple concept and only requires couple of applications to use.  Even just a notepad will do.

Every person has their own learning styles and preferences.  For me,  one of the more effective ways I learn is when information is presented in diagrams, pictures.  I am constantly thinking about personal and professional goals, ideas like what would make a great student information system and how to improve business processes.  I read a lot so I use mind map to compile notes from books, web pages and blogs, such as my research on instructional design. I also do presentations on social media, professional development and digital reputation from time to time. In preparing for presentations, I go through a process of brainstorming including  what content to include and how to organize them into themes. Mobile computing, cloud services and common industry formats  have really made it easier for anyone to work on the ideas anytime, anywhere. Here are a some tools  I use:

iThoughts on iphone and iPad.  I found this application to be the easiest to use in terms of the user interface and functionality.  One of the features I really like is the cloud integration with itunes, Box and Dropbox services.  This is very useful when I work on my ideas on multiple devices. Another useful feature is the ability to export/import diagrams using various industry formats like OPML, CSV, html and Freemind’s format.

Evernote.  While I do most of my mind mapping on my computers, I still use paper from time to time. When ideas strike me and I only have my notepad, I write my thoughts immediately. I then take a picture of my notes and upload them to evernote into notebooks I organize by themes/ideas.

Freemind.This a free software that runs on Windows, Mac and Linux.

Dropbox.  As I previously mentioned, this is where I upload/download and share the mind map documents I generate from iThoughts and Freemind.

Notepad. It’s not digital, but still effective.

As you can see, there is not too much when it comes to mind mapping, but it is a technique that is very powerful and effective when it comes to generating and documenting ideas. Happy mind mapping!

image credit: http://www.mindtools.com


Using Mobile for Professional Development

My wife and I were having dinner with a teenage daughter of a friend recently. She mentioned that she has been trying to convince her parents to buy her an iphone so she can do some school work.  In the past, I would have dismissed the  idea that an iphone or any mobile device could be used for nothing more than texting and wasting time. However, given my personal experience the last couple of years using my iphone, ipad and just recently my chromebook,  I see the value of using mobile devices for learning. Here are some applications and ways I use my mobile devices (and you could, too) for professional development.

Social media mobile apps. I have several social media apps on my iphone including: facebook, twitter, pinterest, foursquare, google+, tweetcaster, yammer, skype, linkedin and a few others. While I do have these installed, I mainly use facebook and twitter. Personally, twitter has become my “go-to” network for learning and connecting with others.

Social bookmarking.  Diigo, a social bookmarking site provides a bookmarklet you can use to bookmark pages you find on the web. This bookmarklet provides tagging functionality to organize bookmarks.  In my case, I use a combination of diigo.com and rss to curate some content on to this blog under the resources section. This is done with minimal manual process. For a fee, my twitter favorites are copied to diigo.com daily. Here are my bookmarks.

Kindle app. I use this app to read digital books I buy and download from Amazon. For some reason, the Amazon mobile app does not have the functionality to buy kindle books so I use their mobile website. I also use the kindle app to read pdfs. I find the highlight and sharing functionality really useful.

Podcasts/Videos. The TED videos are perfect examples of how I maximize my time during the workday to learn. The videos are short (approx max of 20 mins) and so I sometime listen to them when walking from/to different locations on campus for meetings.

 Goodreads. This is a site used by readers to catalog and share the books they read.  The value of the site for me is that I can share what I read and I can also view what other folks in my profession (student affairs) are reading.  This gives me some ideas on what books I should be reading. Here is my list of books.

 G-Whizz! (Google Apps browser). This app provides access to Google+, gmail, google drive and other google apps. I use this app primarily as my RSS reader. I use Google Alerts to monitor keywords like “student affairs”, “social business”  and I have set it up for these notifications to be pushed to my gmail account.

 Blogging. With my new chromebook, I have been able to blog from a device other than my laptop at home, which I use as my desktop machine.  Maybe it’s just personal preference, but even with a keyboard, I didn’t feel comfortable using my ipad to log in to wordpress (software I use for this blog site) administrative interface.

Slideshare.  This is a good site to view presentations, including ones that have been converted from powerpoint formats. It is also a good site to share your personal presentations. Here are some of mine.

Cloud Storage.  There are several cloud storage options including Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft Skydrive. I mostly use dropbox because of its automatic synching capability. I only store documents and presentations that I consider public. These include presentations I am working on and any pdf files and other presentations I find when doing research.

Mindmapping. I use a mindmapping app called iThoughtsHD on my ipad to organize my presentations and to brainstorm ideas.  I find the mindmapping process really productive when I’m just casually watching tv or when inspirations about new ideas enter my mind.

Virtual Conferencing.  I have used Skype on my iphone for informational interviews. I have also used Adobe Connect for a virtual meeting.  Google+ mobile for Hangouts is another app to consider.

What other uses for professional development have you found for your mobile devices?


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