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

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.


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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.

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@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.

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If I can convince the missus!

The combination smartlock has the highest xAF of any device we use at our house. Everybody likes it, the people who live here, the people who work here, family from out of town, and visitors.

You have to be OK with the aesthetics, but otherwise people seem to “get” immediately why it’s a good idea.

I was really enjoying the fact that my suggestion was able to help you as much as it did. That really is too bad that it all failed so dramatically, on a rainy night too.
I use an app that someone from this community made called SharpTools. It enables me to create widgets on my home screen and I have found that even when I can’t load ST the widgets always fire as the are supposed to.

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Okay the last couple days it’s been working very well, and it is really nice to have when it is working. So as long as I treat it as a convenience, meaning I always have to have a Plan B available, I like it.

Here’s how I have it set up. Everything is done with hello home actions. There is no custom code except for the creation of one virtual switch. And I’m using that switch for some other things in IFTTT, not for the actual arrival events in smartthings. You could leave the virtual switch out, and still get the improvements regarding network drop offs.

  1. I usually wear my hat when I go out, so I leave my hat In the cupboard with a motion sensor under it. When I’m ready to go I pick up the hat which triggers the motion sensor. This sets the mode to “JD Leaving.” This motion sensor is only set to run when the house is in home mode.


  1. I leave, taking my presence sensor fob with me. When smartthings recognizes that my presence sensor is out of range, it changes the mode to away and flips the virtual switch to off. This is set to only happen if the mode is “JD leaving”. This is what protects me from the random drop off of the presence sensor fob which happens a couple of times a week. The house has to have been put into “leaving” mode before it will change to “away” mode. And the house can only be put into leaving mode by the actual physical sensor under my hat.

  2. When SmartThings Recognizes my presence sensor as having come back into range, it changes the mode to “JD in range” but only if the previous mode was “away”. It also turns on my entry light, which lets people in the house know that I am on my way in.

  3. When I then open my front gate, as long as the mode is “JD in range” the mode changes to “JD arriving” and my front door unlocks. This solves the bus stop problem. :blush:. The door does not unlock until I am inside the gate.

It’s true that if someone else happened to Open the gate after I was detected as being in zigbee range, the door might unlock a little too soon. But it’s a lot better than what I had before.

  1. After I am in the house, I put my hat back. This time because the previous mode was “JD arriving” the mode will change to home and the virtual presence switch will turn on. Again, the presence fob just randomly leaving and returning to the network will not usually trigger any events, because the previous mode is not JD arriving.

Again, if I did happen to come through the gate right as the fob was randomly dropping off the network, things might get a little out of synch. But much better than before.

If I happen to forget my hat, or something glitches, I can just change to the next mode manually through the ST app.

So that’s it. My thanks again to @DigitalM0nkey for suggesting an additional device to capture an actual leaving event, overcoming the problem of the teleporting presence sensor and the bus stop problem at the same time. :blush:


wow. This is brilliant.

Nice hat, btw.


what a fantastic setup . . . Hats off to you (pardon the pun) genuinly impressive concept im going to consider something similiar with a little thinking

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Awesome idea for arming and disarming an alarm!

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Thanks. It was @DigitalM0nkey 's suggestion of adding a second device that really improves the reliability. So one device is using your presence, which means it knows the “who” and the other device requires physical action at the house, so it can’t be fooled by teleportation.

These days I’m mostly using an iBeacon which is attached to my wheelchair as the Geopresence device, and that seems to be pretty solid. But I’m still using a two device system and transitional modes. For one thing, it gives me an easy way to handle the situation where I need to reboot the tablet/phone without suddenly creating an “away” condition.

Impressive solution. I’ve found the fobs drop off for me about once a month (location of the hub matters a lot in my testing) but the one thing that made my presence rock solid? Free Life360 app. Has worked every single time no fail so far. Requires a phone that has battery life, but it seems like the family can’t live without them (all but the youngest). It’s the one thing I know they’ll have and with power.

Still, the method described here is a step above. Nicely done.

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I love the idea of different modes for arriving and then being home. I am still a little confused on how to monitor different devices to change the different hello home actions and modes of (leaving, arriving, home, away, etc). Here is my scenario…

  1. I am going to use a pressure mat with a contact sensor in front of my front door and the presence of my phone to unlock the door.
  2. Once I enter the house and close the door, another contact sensor mounted on the door changes my mode so that someone else can’t open my front door by stepping on the mat. It would be nice to auto lock it at this point also…
  3. I would like to do the reverse somehow to auto lock the door when leaving the house (nice to have)
  4. I can add another pressure mat/contact sensor on the inside of the house in front of the door if that helps this all work…

I am using kwickset locks (914) and smartthings multi sensor for the door, and ecolink contact sensor for mat(i haven’t build or setup this yet)

Thanks for your help!


I know I’ve the past six months you have down sized your ST system. But presence is still a major problem in the environment.

I have moved completely away from using any ST monitoring and fully embraced the life360 app. It, along with a custom rule in RM has completely eliminated false alarms for me ( until today that is).

But my question is, I’ve given some thought into implementing this type of system parameters for each of my family members, how well had this worked for you? Are you still using it?

Plus, I wanted to revive the thread because I thought it is still very insightful and useful.

We’re Still very happy with Ibeacons for small area presence detection. If you have iOS, I really like beecon + which has builtin support for the IFTTT maker channel and works well for my needs. Again if you have iOS, the IBeacon add-on to SmartRules works very well with SmartThings.

Using Ibeacons, we haven’t needed to use a second device because the beacons are very reliable at the close distances we want for our use cases.

But as always different things work for different people. The two device method is still a good approach with many different kinds of devices, because it just increases certainty. And let’s you set up a wider radius. :sunglasses:

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I was helping a friend create a similar set up, but they didn’t want to use an I Beacon The way I do because they didn’t want to set up a tablet as a receiving station. This person is also in a wheelchair. And they had the same bus stop problem I do where their phone presence would be detected too early while they were still on the bus. So they also wanted the detection range to be right at the front door.

So we kicked around a couple of options, and ultimately ended up using a Contact sensor. We put the magnet on the wall near the front door, it’s very small and blends in quite well. Then we put the contact sensor on the plastic cup holder that is attached to the wheelchair armrest. This way they can just drive up to the magnet, and it will register as closed for that specific contact sensor. That gives them a trigger they can use for anything in their home automation system, including unlocking the door and having the front lights come on.

We used an inexpensive $15 sensor.

Because we mounted the magnet on the wall and the sensor on the wheelchair, nothing can trigger it except that specific sensor. Of course if they happen to drive their wheelchair right up to some other magnet it would also trigger, so that’s the only thing to be aware of. Even though it’s the bigger piece, we didn’t want to mount the sensor on the wall because then anyone with a magnet could trigger it. (For people in our situation who have Health aides come to the house, unfortunately one of the biggest burglary concerns is the health aide or a friend of theirs, not just some random burglar. So you just have to keep that in mind when designing a system setup. ). Also, didn’t really want to be driving around with a magnet on the wheelchair.

Anyway, this option obviously won’t work for everyone. It’s sort of like using an NFC tag, because you have to actually touch the contact sensor to the magnet. And of course you have to carry around the contact sensor. But for people with walkers or wheelchairs or even strollers, it does offer another option. :sunglasses:

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2020 update

A friend recently got a Yale assure “connected by August” lock and we’ve been testing out its presence options. (They recently released a smartthings integration for this model as well.)

August combines three separate pieces of information: Bluetooth detection at quite a close range, maybe 5 m, WIFi, and GPS. It also keeps its own home/away status for each person registered to the lock. It kicks into “away” mode at about 200 m.

What makes this interesting is that it’s using a different range for going from away to home (5 m) and for going from home to away (200 m).

That means your door doesn’t unlock until you are quite close to it when you are coming home. but once you are home, it treats you as continually being home until you get at least 200 m away. That solves a lot of the “instant transport” issues from other presence detection set ups where a very brief drop in signal strength can cause your system to think you’ve left home.

He was able to plug in the August connect bridge device so that it’s only three or 4 feet from the door in a straight clear line, so I’m sure that helps.

But anyway, so far it’s been extremely reliable and solves “the bus stop problem” at his house. It wouldn’t work for opening a garage door because the arriving home range is too short. But it’s really good if you are entering through the door that has the lock.

You can use that presence with other systems through their Ifttt channel, so it just depends on what your usual Ifttt lag is.

Anyway, just another option that will work for some people. Choice is good.