Stringify is a crazy powerful tool that lets you automate complex tasks with minimal effort, even if you don’t know any code. One of Stringify’s most powerful tools is called Connect: Flow. This “Thing” lets you use one Flow to activate another, or even create a Flow that loops itself.
Connect: Flow is one of Stringify’s built-in Things. Like the previously covered Mode Thing, Connect: Flow isn’t used to directly control the stuff in your house. Instead, you can use it to make your Flows do more complex things with fewer steps. Connect has one trigger and one action:
- WHEN Trigger — “Start whichever Flow this is included in”: This is a confusingly titled trigger, but it’s really easy to use. Simply add this trigger to the start of a Flow and that makes it available to any of your other Flows. For example, you could create a flow named “Bedtime Lights” that turns off your living room lights and turns on the bedroom light using this trigger. Then, you can create multiple other Flows that use this action.
- THEN Action — “Run the selected Flow”: This action is how you call other Flows. Put it at the end of a Flow and you can activate a different Flow. To continue the example above, you could create one Flow that activates “Bedtime Lights” whenever it’s 8:00PM. You could create another Flow that uses a Stringify widget to activate “Bedtime Lights” that you can trigger manually. This way, you can turn on or off a set of lights with multiple flows, but you only have to set up the actions for the lights once.
Connect: Flow can also reference itself. So, if you want a Flow to run on a loop, you can put a Connect Thing at the start and end of the Flow and it will continue running constantly. Note, Stringify may add a delay to your loops if they run constantly, since that takes up precious server power, but for a Flow that uses timers and takes a while to complete each loop, this can be a handy solution.
To demonstrate how this works, we’re going to create a looping Flow that turn some Philips Hue lights on and off every so often to make it look like someone is in your house while you’re away. To create this, you’ll need the Connect: Flow Thing enabled, as well as a smart light Thing like Philips Hue. We’ll also be using Date & Time and Timer.
To get started, open the Stringify app and tap the plus icon, then select “Create a new flow.”
At the top of the screen, give your Flow a name. If you’re going to call this Flow later on from a different Flow, make sure to give it a short, descriptive name so you know what it does.
Next, tap the plus icon at the bottom of the screen. This is where you can add the Things you’ll need for your Flow. For now, add Connect: Flow and Date & Time.
Drag the Connect: Flow icon to the circle grid and tap the gear icon.
Under the Triggers tab, choose “Start whichever Flow this is included in” which should be the only option on the list. On the next page, tap Save.
This trigger allows you to call this Flow from any other Flow you create. Our example will use a loop that references itself, but you can also call it from any other Flow using the Connect Thing.
Back on the grid screen, drag Date & Time out to the circle below Connect: Flow and tap its gear icon.
Under the ONLY IF section, choose “Time is between.” Set From Time to 6:00PM and To Time to midnight. Make sure the Start Date is some time after the current date, and set it to repeat every day. We’ll control which days this Flow activates later, but for now we want to make sure this loop only continues running between 6:00 PM and midnight when it is activated.
Back on the grid screen, add one of your Philips Hue lights and a Timer from the Things menu. Drag the Hue Thing to the screen next to the Connect icon, as shown below. Tap the Hue light’s gear icon.
On the Hue screen, tap “Turn on the light.” On the next page, tap Save.
Back on the grid screen, connect the Date & Time and Hue things by quickly swiping between the two. Then, swipe from the Connect icon to the yellow link icon you just created, as shown by the arrows in the left picture below. The result should look like the picture on the right.
Next, drag the Timer you grabbed earlier and place it to the right of the Hue light you just added, then tap the Timer’s gear icon.
Tap the countdown timer box and set the timer for 45 minutes (or whatever interval you prefer). We’re going to use this to leave one light on for 45 minutes before shutting it off and turning on a different light for a while. When you’re done setting the timer, tap Save.
Back on the grid screen, swipe to connect the previous Hue light and the Timer icons you just added to create a link.
Tap on the Things menu at the bottom of the screen to add more lights. For the next step, we’re going to turn off the light you just turned on and then turn on a different light, so grab two Hue lights. In my example, I want to turn off the Office light that I just turned on and turn on the Living Room light.
Place the light you want to turn on directly to the right of the Timer, and place the light you want to turn off below that, as shown below. Tap the gear icon for each one and choose either “Turn on the light” or “Turn off the light” as you did for the first light earlier.
Swipe from the Timer icon to each Hue light to link them together. The result should look like the picture below.
Add another Timer from the Things menu and set it to 45 minutes (or whatever duration you want). This time, it will leave your second light (in this example, the living room) on for 45 minutes before restarting the loop. Swipe to connect the Living Room light and the new Timer, as shown below.
Next, add another copy of the Hue Thing for your second light, and one more copy of the Connect: Flow thing. We’re going to cap off the loop here and refer it back to itself (and turn off the second light). Place the Connect: Flow Thing next to your last Timer, and place the Hue light below it, as shown below. Then, tap the gear icon next to Connect: Flow.
Tap the Actions tab along the top and choose “Run the selected Flow” which should be the only action in the list.
On this page, you’ll see a dropdown where you can choose which Flow you want to trigger. Since this is the first Flow you’ve created using Connect, it will default to “This flow.” This option means that when this Flow reaches this action, it will start back over with the first Connect trigger at the beginning of the Flow. Keep this option selected and tap Save.
Back on the grid screen, tap the gear icon next to the final Hue action and set it to turn your second light (in this case Living Room) off, just as you’ve done with the previous lights.
Once you’re done, connect the last Timer to the Connect: Flow and Hue icons separately by swiping quickly from Timer to each of the actions. The result should look like the image on the right below.
At this point, you’re finished with the loop. When activated, this loop will alternate two lights every 45 minutes. Every time the cycle finishes, it will start over unless it’s after midnight. This should give any onlookers the impression that someone is inside your home.
While this Flow can loop back on itself, it needs an initial trigger to set it off. To do that, we’ll create a Flow that will activate every day at sunset for a specific week. This is useful if, for example, you’re going on vacation. Since this Flow is separate from the loop you just created, the loop won’t be affected. You could leave the loop active (or even temporarily disable it) and update your vacation Flow when you need it.
To get started on the next phase, create a new Flow and give it a name. In this case, we’ll use “Away From Home.”
Next, add a Date & Time and Connect: Flow Thing to the grid. Place Date & Time on the left and Connect: Flow on the right. Tap the gear icon next to Date & Time.
In the list of WHEN triggers, choose Sunset.
On the next page, set the start and end dates to your vacation and make sure “Repeat” is set to “Every day.” Add a location to the bottom to make sure Stringify uses the correct time zone. This doesn’t have to be your home address, just a city or zip code within your time zone. When you’re done, tap Save.
Back on the grid screen, tap the gear icon next to the Connect: Flow icon.
Under the Actions tab, choose “Run the selected Flow.” Click the drop down menu and choose the looping Flow you created earlier. Tap Save.
On the grid screen, swipe to connect the Date & Time and Connect: Flow icons. Then, tap Enable Flow at the bottom of the screen.
As you can see, the second Flow you created is much, much simpler. Now if you want to start switching lights for a few hours, you can use just a couple Things to create a Flow that will activate that loop. The next time you go on vacation, you can simply change the dates in the Away From Home Flow or create an entirely new one and you don’t have to build your loop from scratch. This is just one example of how you can use the Connect: Flow feature to compartmentalize your Flows, connect multiple Flows together, or even create a Flow that loops as often as you need it to.