A dual device approach to geopresence for smaller areas (sequential detection)

Continuing the discussion from Smart Presence Sensor randomly "leaving" and "returning":

Battery life is fine on my presence fob, but I still get random drop-offs with both the fob and the phone presence.

Using an idea from @DigitalM0nkey , I am changing over the way I use presence sensing for all activities. I’m now using dual devices at the geo-fence barrier, as well as a virtual presence sensor for better continuous occupancy indication.

Basically I’m trying both reduce the range and improve reliability by using two devices that will be recognized in sequence rather than both at the same time.

So this is how it will work at my house now:

  1. Smartthings recognizes that my phone or the fob, mainly the fob , has entered the Geo fenced area. but nothing else happens yet. I do not trigger any events just because of this presence indicator.

  2. A physical detector, either an open close sensor on the gate, or a pressure Mat, or a motion sensor gets tripped. This demonstrates that someone has entered the specific physical zone that I am using as a trigger area. But the physical detector itself does not know who it was.

  3. A smartapp/hello home action that subscribes to the event in 2) above runs because of the Geo presence in 1) above and because the mode is still “away” and does whatever I want done at that moment (like turn on the porch light and unlock the door", and changes the mode to “JD arriving” (or whoever, specific to the person associated with the presence sensor in 1)

  4. A second physical detector inside the house now runs because the mode is “JD arriving” and turns on a virtual presence indicator, which I am using as an occupancy indicator, and changes the mode to the more general “home.”

When I leave we do everything in reverse, approximately, the sequence is a little different but still using a transitional mode and physical devices combined with the geo-fence devices.

The result is that even if the fob drops off the network temporarily and activity shows it as coming and going, the occupancy indicator, which is the virtual presence sensor, does not get changed unless we have the combination of the physical sensor and the geofence indicator and the appropriate previous mode. Just the geo-fence presence indicator thinking I left or returned doesn’t trigger anything. It has to be combined with the correct physical sensors and the correct mode.

The other good news is that someone else just opening the gate or stepping on the welcome mat is not going to trigger the arriving home activities.

But this involves one virtual presence indicator, multiple physical sensors, and a geofence device. And getting it set up just right is tricky.

Still, it gives me real Geo fencing and is something that is not available with some of the competitors.

It also allows me to use a trigger zone which is much much smaller than the actual geo-fence. The trigger zone is bounded by the physical sensors.

And once it’s set up, it all works automatically, just the way you want geolocation to work.

Note that this is not a substitute for micro location if you have more than one person who lives in the house, because you can’t tell which of the people is in which room. Just that person A is home, person B is home, and someone tripped a particular sensor.

But for my purposes, which have to do with actually leaving the house, it should be solid and reliable. If a pain to set up.

NFC Check In System + Wifi
A Decent Fix for Smart Home Monitor Arm Delay
3D location?
Hack the Amazon Dash button to control a SmartThings switch
iOS 1.7.1 Mobile Presence Issues
SmartThings Presence Sensor Device--Working Well for Anyone?
Presence Sensor Event Overload
Frustrated with ST!
Magic presence sensor: car arrives without leaving
Pressure Mat with contact sensor to open door
Homekit and SmartThings: The Latest Discussion
BeaconThings - Beacons and SmartThings
BeaconThings - Beacons and SmartThings
Can you find out EXACTLY when you enter your house?
Bluetooth presence sensor?
Not having much luck with presence detection
Should I persevere?
How do I change my presence area?
Using iPhone AND Presence senors to improve Triggers?
Help with rule for motion and open/close sensor
Room Presence?
Noob tutorial so stupid questions aren't asked?
Help with YRD240 Yale Keyfree Touchscreen Deadbolt Auto Lock Feature
Beam Sensor?
Open Doors locks with proximity sensors and key fob
Alternating Messages (Open/Close)
Ideas? Outbuilding Auto Arm/Disarm
Capturing Motion and door multisensor sequence to turn a light on based on direction of travel?
Extremely Scary Bug! (Lost internet causes away/arrival sequence to fire)
Smart Presence Sensor randomly "leaving" and "returning"
BeaconThings - Beacons and SmartThings
Welcome home greeting
Presence Manager 1.1 Released
Garage door opening control
Door Unlock Automation? How do you reduce security risks?
FAQ: The Many Ways of Detecting Presence (2020)
Help with YRD240 Yale Keyfree Touchscreen Deadbolt Auto Lock Feature
SmartSense Presence Sensor FAILURE
Presence detection (Mobile) and timing of actual mode change
Hack the Amazon Dash button to control a SmartThings switch
Platform Security
Mobile Presence Issues?
SmartThings Hub 2.0 Radios (Bluetooth or no?)

So does this kind of OR your phone and presence fob to average their shortcomings? Sounds like a good way to double your odds.

Yes, but mostly it says just the presence indicator (phone or fob) changing state is NOT enough to trigger any arrival events. It has to be combined with a physical sensor. And the right mode.

So it doesn’t solve the problem of The phone or fob not being connected at all. But it should address the problems of the porch light going on in the middle of the night because smartthings thinks my fob left home and came back again.

This way my install doesn’t count me as arriving until the fob says I’m here and I tripped the welcome mat sensor. If I was lying in my bed the whole time, no events will be triggered.

1 Like

So it’s a trifecta really. Sounds too rich for my blood. :smile:

Great idea, but won’t work with opening my garage doors when I come home unless I put a pressure mat on my driveway :smile:


To be clear, you only need one presence detector, either a phone or a fob. Then you combine it with a virtual presence detector and a physical trip sensor.

But, yeah, a lot of devices and a pain to set up.

People do that, you know. Not the United one, but there are drive over versions. :oncoming_automobile:

There are lots of other driveway detection devices. Again, they don’t know who tripped it. So the trick is to combine the physical arrival indicator with the geopresence, not use one or the other.

Understood, but at this point, the burden has to fall on ST to fix the mobile presence issues. It’s been their Achilles Heel for a long time now. iOS 1.7.1 is just bring it to more light.

1 Like

Agreed. I initially chose smart things because of the Geopresence, found it unreliable for my purposes, and I’ve now had to develop a pretty convoluted approach to reestablish reliability. If they can fix it, I’ll gladly drop this whole set up in favor of a discoverable device that works.

Have you considered a SmartApp that would make this less tricky to setup?

What would you expect a smartapp to do any differently?

Possibly allow selection of the devices and eliminate the need of an intermediate mode…

Lay out the logic, I’m all for improvements. :blush:

Here’s the use case.

I’m in a wheelchair. It can take several minutes before the bus driver unloads me from the bus. During this time the presence sensor device thinks I’m home, but I don’t want my door to unlock until I am much closer to it, basically until I can see it.

There is a gate that I have to go through before I get to my front door.

Digitalm0nkey suggested adding a contact sensor on the gate, to verify that I was ready for the door to unlock. That’s what started this whole idea of having a secondary physical sensor.

Then I have the same problem that many people do which is that from time to time, totally randomly, either the fob or the phone presence thinks I left the house and came back. I’ll just get logging entries showing me departed and then arrived. This can happen randomly at any time of day, I’m not sure why. Many other people in the community have reported the same issue.

So the second issue that has to be addressed is preventing ST From triggering “arrived” events just because it detects the fob as suddenly being back in range.

Finally, the obvious one: I don’t want the door to unlock just because the UPS guy is coming through the gate, even if I’m inside the house. So it’s not enough for the presence detector to know that I’m home. I’m really looking for that moment of crossing into the geo-fence area.

I’m using the transition mode to distinguish between “I just got home so unlock the door for me,” and “I’m already home.”

Because of a restriction on the way hello home actions work, if I have the gate sensor change the mode to “home,” then some of my other actions won’t fire.

If I decided I never wanted to set up a hello home action using a motion sensor, that wouldn’t be a problem but I do want to use the hello home actions. And I specifically use motion sensors as touchless switches.

I can code, but I don’t want to. When you’re totally dependent on voice, it’s really hard to work in groovy. Even just cut and paste is a pain.

But, like I said, I’m always open to improvements. What did you have in mind?

Update: so far, so good.

Last night, again for totally random reasons, my zigbee fob showed me leaving and returning at one in the morning. Everybody, including the dog, was asleep. Nothing else scheduled to run at that time. Battery life over 80%. Zigbee mesh is strong. No reason for this, it just happens several times a week.

This time, however, no events were triggered in the house. Which is a good thing. :blush:

The combination of the transitional modes and the physical sensors meant that no events fired.

Since the physical sensor didn’t fire, the fob leaving did not change the mode to “away.”

Since the mode never changed to “Away,” the fob returning didn’t trigger any arrival events.

The mode remained in “Asleep” throughout, which is what I want for this situation.

Obviously I’d prefer it if the fob didn’t misfire so often. I don’t expect 100% perfection, but these drop off events occur several times a week, much too often to accept as part of normal operations.

But it looks like the occupancy approach is going to solve two problems for me: the bus stop issue, where the zigbee fob reports me being home before I actually get close to the door, and the network drop off problem, Where both the zigbee fob and the phone just randomly drop off the network and return.

It won’t fit the use case for everyone, but it may help some.


1 Like

Sadly, last night after a couple days of working perfectly, everything failed. The zigbee presence sensor first failed to find me arriving home, and then, based on activity logs, did show as arriving, but the event did not fire.

I went to plan B, which involved doing something directly through the mobile app, but the dashboard would not load so nothing was available to me.

That left me outside, in my wheelchair, at 10:30 at night, in the rain, unable to get in my house.

Fortunately, my housemate was home, and I was able to get him to come let me in.

After this experience, I do not feel I can trust smartthings at the present time for anything except pure convenience use cases.
It’s just a safety issue. :disappointed_relieved: :umbrella:

So I am not going to do any more work with the occupancy concept at the present time, and I am removing everything from my installation that depends on ST geolocation, Although I am still using some geolocation from other apps. Just not with smartthings.

1 Like

@JDRoberts this coming for me… I buy all these stupid gadgets but never went for an automated lock. I am assuming you have one?

Yes. My lock is a combination on the outside, turn bolt on the inside. The deadbolt is motorized. So unlocking the door with the combination opens the deadbolt, turning the inside manual bolt opens the deadbolt, or sending the code via smartthings unlocks the deadbolt.

I can’t do the combination from the outside, not enough hand control. (I can’t work a key, either.)

My housemate, who is abledbodied, has a lot more options, he can use a physical key, use the combination, use smartthings through the phone, or use geopresence.

If I get stuck, my neighbor has a key and will come let me in.

I was really enjoying being able to go out and not worry about who was going to let me back in, but I’m no longer counting on ST as an option. If it works through the widget, great, but if not I will have another option set up before I go out.

BTW, which lock do you use? Does it function well without ST in general as well?

I like both the Schlage and the Yale locks. The Yale lock is a little quieter and uses a true capacitive screen (like an iPhone), while the Schlage uses a resistive touch screen which requires a physical press. But the Yale lock is more expensive. Both are good locks, though. I haven’t tried the Kwikset locks.

1 Like

If I can convince the missus!