BeaconThings - Beacons and SmartThings

Well that all depends on the actual layout though. I know in my case, I generally don’t approach my garage doors at all unless I intend to open them, so it would make sense in my situation to say “if I enter the immediate range of the beacon, it means I intend to get in/out so open the appropriate door”

Then at that point I can say that if I was home, mark me away or vice versa.

In your case though, if your gate is close enough that you think you’d trigger it without intending to use it, you’ll have to come up with other criteria. Maybe even track through multiple beacons as some people do, to determine your path, rather than just location.

You’re right it is far enough away to not actually go near it unless I want it to open, but on the other hand I expect to put a fairly power beacon inside so that it triggers as I come down the driver and then i’m not having to sit at the gate for a few seconds wondering if its going to pick me up or not.

So with that powerful beacon it’ll probably pick me up every time I go outside, so I think maybe you’re right with multiple beacons to create a path, sort of overkill, but you could maybe have a quite low power 2m beacon on the inside of the gate somewhere and if you connect to that, and the original becon, whilst in home mode, the gate opens. It would take quite a bit of fiddling with transmit power but seems to make sense.

Then you could have the other one on full power, but tell it to only open the gate when you’re in away mode (or for fool proofing, just in case I log onto Wifi outside the gate etc, can you set a more complex task like, having been on away mode within the last one minute?)

Maybe you’re going about it the wrong way with the beacons though… I have a sizeable driveway, with the entrance about 400 feet from my garage door, so I just have a smaller geofence “out there” that determines when I’m approaching, rather than when I’m “home” – and I can use that to do things like open garage doors (if I wanted to) ahead of me actually getting home.

I think we have a few people that are doing this sort of approach, not just with geofences but with multiple inputs. You have to have something more than just a binary “home / away” mode to be able to work out those transitions.

This is my “at home” geofence, which doesn’t put me as “away” when I’m out in the yard, etc (well it does when I take out the garbage :slight_smile: )

And this is my transitioning geofence, which I use for “arriving” mode (when I’m away and going into “home” mode) and for “departing” mode (when I’m home and going into away mode).

I know it doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, but it should give you an idea of how I’m tackling that particular problem.

Micro location is a problem that many people are working on, but no one has solved yet.

One reason is that any radio frequency device, including Ibeacons, are 360 degree transmitters. So if it’s 30 meters out from a driveway gate, it’s also 30 meters in from that gate, which often takes you inside the house.

And defining a " room" is also tricky, because unlike a motion detector, the iBeacon detects through walls.

There are different approaches you can take, but nothing perfect yet.

Here’s the approach I took: using two devices and a transitional mode.

And here’s a topic with discussion of many microlocation strategies.

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There is another problem with my arriving home triggering the gate. Obviously to work with the iBeacon my phone has to not only sense it, but have an internet connection to tell the SmartThings hub its found it too. Well there’s NO phone signal for a good half a mile to my house. Which means id have to extend my wifi outdoors and make it much stronger so that I connect to the wifi network before I reached the gate and connected to the iBeacon. Except and this point I could probably make it so that when I connected to the wifi the welcome home was triggered anyway!

You can always look into commercial or directional WiFi stuff and extend the network outside.

You’d be surprised… some of the stuff from Ubiquiti Networks is surprisingly affordable ($100-150 range) for commercial grade WiFi.

Oh totally, I know its not difficult to do, we have about an acre of land outside, so sometimes in the summer if you sit in one of the fields you can barely get 1 bar of wifi from the house, so whilst I don’t do it very often in the UK (where the weather sucks!) I have been considering an outdoor wifi aerial for a while.

My SmartThings starter set finally arrived today so i’ll start playing - as a side, is it possible to add “connected to wifi network named X” to the list of things needed to trigger a new mode?

We’re on the same boat… I have 3 acres and it’s one of those terrible First World Problems to have.

As far as the wifi connection, you can definitely do this with Tasker. I believe IFTTT can do it too, but you won’t get that much of an immediate response.

Thanks @obycode, received my first RadBeacon in the mail today. Within a few minutes I had it setup and was testing with my rules. I’ve already ordered 4 more beacons based on this initial testing. I’ve still got some testing to do with manipulating the power level. This my first attempt at playing with beacons.

I really hope you can find the time to add the ability to setup multiple accounts, because my wife is going to get super jealous. I also feel like this will drastically increase the audience and use cases for this SmartApp.


I think I bought BeaconThings the day it was released knowing this could be super powerful, but got sidetracked in my HA build…

@obycode is it possible to base automations on the proximity to the beacon? So for example, using rule machine or another smartapp, you could do different things at different distances using the same beacon.

So, I just read on your site that you’ve limited BeaconThings to monitoring only to prevent power drain. Perhaps as a feature request, you could let the user switch on range detection. I wonder if you can do that at the beacon level or if its limited to the app level. There could be some interesting uses there.

Either way, this project is awesome.

and apologies. I forgot you have a competing product. I promise not to bring up thou rule engine that shall not be named again.

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That’s not a bad idea. We could consider enabling this as an option. The thing that I worry about (besides the battery usage) is the functionality. Apple limits what can be done in the background, so the ranging will not always work as expected. Apple has designed ranging really to work in the foreground, not when the app is in the background. If we enable this, even optionally, then we have to deal with people complaining that its not working right. I’ll keep thinking about it though.

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How do we get that?? I want to ask Alexa where my kids are.

Definitely interested in support for multiple accounts as well. If we’re using beacons to detect my presence and not my wife’s we’re only telling half the story.

Perhaps make this an in-app purchase?

I don’t think it will be an in-app purchase, it should be part of the core, but, once we put more time into the app, the price will likely go up from $1.

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I would pay a little extra for multi user and ranging capability!

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Several of us are using IBeacons other way around: with the app on a permanently placed mains-powered tablet used as a home automation controller, and the Beacon coming and going with the person just like the SmartThings arrival sensor. So there’s no battery issue.

I agree ranging as an option adds a lot. :sunglasses:

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Good point JD.

I know you’ve used other beacon apps (not specifically for ST); what has been your experience with using ranging when its running in the background? Has it worked as you’ve expected? Is it reliable?

I’ve gotten the best ranging performance from Beecon+ by Beacon Sandwich. That’s the one I used to set a trigger at the bottom of the wheelchair ramp at my front door. It has excellent custom ranging. It does require a more advanced Apple device. For example it works with the iPhone 5s, but not the 5C. We mostly use it with a mains-powered tablet, so we haven’t had to deal With battery issues. The app was designed from the beginning for home automation, so I suspect they spent a lot more time on ranging then some app designers do. For example, it comes set up to use the IFTTT maker channel. :sunglasses:

I was never able to get ranging to work at all with the Geohopper app. Most other apps were somewhere in between these two in terms of reliability.

(I should mention that the beacon sandwich documentation is nowhere as good as the app itself, but their support is very helpful if you can’t figure something out.)

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