Where are you located? What’s the climate like? Are you in in the northern part of the US where you’re going to have to deal with below freezing temps or in Florida where you have to deal with humidity? Answers will vary based on that.
You’ve described exactly the issue: most of the under $100 motion sensors that work with smartthings are PIR: passive infrared, which means they measure very small changes in heat across the lens. And it’s just very hard to get those to work successfully outdoors because of both sunlight and breezes. And insects.
There are three typical options:
rely on a sensor built into an outdoor rated camera or video doorbell. These use a different technology and are usually much more reliable.
use three or four sensors to create a zone and then only count it as a motion event if they all trigger at the same time. This can be done, but obviously significantly increases the total cost.
use a plastic tube over the lens to narrow the detection field and help protect it from wind. Some community members have been very successful with this if they are only trying to target a very specific area, like someone coming onto the front porch.
you can find all of these options discussed in detail in the outdoor motion sensor FAQ, but sometimes it’s just a matter of trial and error to see which one works for you and fits your budget. There isn’t any simple easy answer because of the technology being used.
The problem with a camera is the area already has a 16 or so camera setup. I’ve messed around with stuff you showed and it’s horrible when fog or rain comes in. Plus disconnects are frequent with the far far far majority of systems.
It has to be a motion sensor
IMHO, you are never going to find one, for the following reasons:
Battery: When it gets cold, batteries die. You won’t be subject to this too often but I guarantee, the first cold snap you get the battery is going to die.
It’s going to be set off by EVERYTHING: Motion sensors work off of heat or microwaves. Microwave sensors won’t work because they would pick up movement of just about anything and everything outside, including trees and even rain. PIR (heat sensors) are also going to be tripped by gusts of cold or warm air frequently.
You say that you already have 16 cameras. Are they actually hooked to a system for monitoring them? Are they IP or CCTV cameras? Most modern DVR surveillance software does motion detections on cameras a LOT better than PIR sensors do.
You are never going to find something that is 100% reliable outside that doesn’t give frequent false alarms.
There is one system that is almost fool-proof…a security guard watching your 16 camera system. You could spend the equivalent amount you’d spend on a human guard on different motion sensors and still not come up with one that will work well for you.
The battery thing isn’t true. I have plenty of devices that has been outside in 20 degree weather and they lived through it. In fact, long story short a family member has some outdoor lights around the house hooked up to some smart switch. Basically, the switch is connected to a motion sensor outside and somehow all the switches interact with each other.
They found out 2 of the motion sensors they have died and they only have 1 more. I talked to the company a few weeks ago and they stopped making the product line all together a while back. Because of this, I’m looking at switching out the light switches with proper GE switches that will hook to the smartthings hub on the property. All that is needed beyond that is finding a motion sensors needed. I’m just having trouble finding outdoor motion sensors that are wireless.
Fog or rain is going to throw off pretty much any motion sensor, at any price. That’s just physics.
What do you want the motion sensors for? Specifically? If it’s to know when someone is on the front porch, for example, you might be able to use a pressure Mat system which Will not be thrown off by weather. There are also some that you can bury under the driveway for vehicle detection.
You might also be able to use an interruptible beam system like the kind that are used for garage door obstruction detection if it’s in a sheltered area.
But there just isn’t going to be a practical point and detect device that you can stick on an outside wall and have it pick up movement 15 feet away through fog right now.
There are a lot of researchers working on variations of this, particularly for selfdriving cars, but there’s nothing on the market yet and we’re probably at least three years away from something practical.
Where they had motion sensors is 1 on the front porch for when someone got near there, one outside pointed towards the dog door, and another pointed towards the back gate. How he had the thing setup is when 1 of the motion sensors went off, it triggered all the outdoor lights (flood lights and not). All the outdoor lights are wired to 3 light switches (I’m not exactly sure how and I’m not sure how the 3 interacted with each other).
As I mention before, 2 of the motion sensors stopped working and the manufacture doesn’t make it anymore. I could try to find the RF signal it runs on and maybe get him a RF motion sensor. Or I could just give him that functionality he had and much much more with the Smartthings hub.
Simple flood lights isn’t the option here since the area that is trying to be covered is a hit or miss when it comes to the motion sensor on them. And it would also requiring wiring more things up and no one wants to do that. Even more now that the person this is for has a broken collarbone at this time.
To my guess, he wanted all the outdoor lights to go bright when something is picked up. that away you know something is up. But I know he wanted extra things like at sunset the lights would be on some % of brightness for 30 or so min.
Again, I already have the light switches in mind but I can’t find the motion sensors.
Flood lights for the most part can’t be dimmed that way. You made it sound in the beginning of the post that you had all this stuff 100% worked out but it doesn’t sound like that anymore.
You say they are IP cameras. What kind? There are a lot of good pieces of software out there for doing exactly what you are looking for. And all of them are going to be a lot more accurate than a PIR sensor. You can then have the output from that trigger a virtual motion sensor in ST. So, ST can react the same way that it would if it were a real sensor. If you want to get really fancy, you can even have different cameras trigger different motion sensors so you know where approximately the motion is coming from. Your options all depend on what type of cameras you have. If they stream on your local network, then you can set up a program called MotionEye for free using a Raspberry Pi.
There are lots of motion sensors that work just fine outdoors, but they aren’t usually based on the inexpensive PIR technology that most home automation sensors use.
Just as one example, most of the video doorbells do a decent job, or the category wouldn’t sell so well. Sure, there can always be some individual placement issues, but you can get results That meet most people’s needs.
I don’t know what the Phillips sensor is using, or how many false alerts it will have: it’s very early days on that one. But I don’t think the entire category is deficient. The challenge is just the cost of the more accurate technologies.
Since I was in the Alarm business for 46 years and worked on close to 60,000 service calls mostly related to Infrared, microwave, ultrasonic and radar systems I know what goes off on it’s own, there is only one system that works best outside and that is a Dueltech system combination microwave and IR, everything else is going to false from different environmental conditions!
No question, dual microwave and IR is a good choice for when you need high reliability. But a lot of the new video-based systems are also good. But they take a lot of computing power, which usually means a cloud, and almost always means more expense. So different things work for different people.
I am curious to see what the field report will be for the new Phillips hue outdoor motion sensor. Again, I don’t expect anything to be perfect, but will it meet the expectation for home automation needs? We will see.
Interesting discussion. I have been following it since I want better exterior sensors. My security Camera Sensors (nighthawk HD) are good. But I have too many trees and shadows so the false alarms make using the sensors useless.
What I have been doing.
Cameras are setup for 100% recording 24/7
I have various motion detectors that are “tuned” for specific areas. Working now to provide Solar powered constant voltage to eliminate the battery issues.
The tuning simply means the sensor is set to avoid nearby trees.
What I do is when I get a motion alert trigger, I go back to my cameras and look at that specific time to determine what happened.
Since my cameras record 24/7 (I have 3 systems, last count was 12 cameras) I avoid the issue Ring and other doorbell cameras have. Generally people posting videos online are missing what the person does for 30 seconds or so before they trigger the sensor.
I actually had to call the city because the Utilities person who reads my meters stepping up to my fence and was calling my dogs. No reason for anyone to Stand next to a fence and call a German Shepard over. If I had relied just on camera alerts I would have missed it. I saw what he was doing by a camera on the other side of the house even though he was well outside the trigger range for that camera.
But I do wish it was easier to connect external motion sensors to Smartthings. Reading above there appears to be a few new sensors to try.