Safeguards and the move towards increased automation

There are many apps available to help us automate basic tasks on our mobiles and computing devices. When choosing these tools, we often read reviews and then download the app, set it up, then let it run its tasks accepting that it will carry out our requirements. But what happens when there is an issue?

I have a simple IFTTT (If This Then That) recipe running on my mobile phone that sends a test message when I leave an area set up in google maps using Geolocation and GPS to look at my location. A standard recipe for IFTTT.

Today whilst sitting at my desk, the recipe triggered saying I had left the area, however I was sitting in the middle of my geolocation fence which extends for about 1 mile around to allow some local area travel. The net result is the person who got the message thought I was on my way home, when in fact I was still at work.

Solution to my problem:

The issue with this recipe was caused by the Android operating system and the phone type causing some wonkiness with the location. I fixed this by ensuring all the packages are up to date, rebooting and using another app called GPS Status to assist with ensuring my GPS is working correctly and has the right the location. Also ensuring that the GPS is set to high dependency. The downside may be the drain on the battery with the extra services – I will monitor this going forward.

The main thing this points out is how we accept and then use an app/tool and expect it to work, but not consider the what ifs, such as what if the app is triggered incorrectly. Should I have set any safeguards in the recipe or built a counter app?

No harm done in this case as it triggered a text message, but what if this had done something different such as put the heating on, turned on a kettle, opened the garage door, turned something else off? This could be reversed using another recipe to turn things off if I’m within the geolocation fence.

So, what can you do to ensure that your apps/tools and related apps/tools are reliable?

Research – review and research your app. Have there been any issues with running something similar?

Secure – Think about the security of the app and what you can do to protect yourself.

Update, Update, Update – keep the OS, Apps and related apps up to date. In this instance, Android, IFTTT, Google Maps.

Plan – for the what ifs. Allow a reverse control if needed such as turn off the kettle, close the garage, turn on the alarm.

Experiment – Dont be afraid to experiment to get the automation you require.

Safeguards – Think about any Safeguards you may need to build in such as a counter app.

This entry was originally posted in Max’s blog.

Max Hemingway — Senior Architect

Max is a senior architect for DXC in the United Kingdom. With more than 25 years of experience, he has a broad and deep range of technical knowledge and is able to translate business needs into IT-based solutions. Currently the chief architect of the BAE Systems account in the UK, Max has a proven track record acquired through continual client engagement and delivery of leading edge infrastructures, all of which have delivered positive results for end-clients, including IT cost reduction, expansion of service capability and increased revenues.


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