Only Open Garage if Away for X Minutes?

I love the ability to have my garage door open when I arrive. I’ve run into a problem, though. One of my presence sensor phones (Android) is fairly unreliable. It will randomly “leave” for 10 minutes and “come back” even though it never left the house. This causes the garage to open incorrectly as it believes the phone has “arrived.”

I’ve read about some ways to try and fix this, but overall I get the sense I just can’t count on it 100%. So, I’m hoping to mitigate this by somehow adding a condition to the garage to only open if the person arriving was away for more than 10 minutes. Is there a way to get or store “away time” for a presence sensor? It’d be even better if the standard garage door smartapp had the same kind of “minimum away time” that the Hello Home options have.

Any ideas on this?

The most “SmartThings” way is to use Modes, I think… Or a Virtual Switch, since there is only 1 location.mode global variable available and you may already be using it.

You can write a SmartApp that triggers upon presence change but have it do nothing for x minutes, then check presence again, and if still away set the mode to “away”(or flip the virtual switch).

I thought I’d be able to do it with modes, but I don’t want to shift the entire mode just because this one person leaves. That would also mean I’d have to have a LOT more modes, essentially ending up with a bunch of “this mode when this person is here” and “this mode when this person is away.” Not gonna happen.

I figured on using a virtual switch to record the status. I can create a Hello, Home phrase that flips the virtual switch when this person leaves and crank the minimum away time to 11 minutes. Then I just need to have the garage only open when that person arrives AND the virtual switch is flipped. That’s probably not a terribly difficult smartApp. Might be the first one I really build from scratch. Or since I’m already using @copyninja’s MyQ smartapp, it may be quicker/dirtier to intercept the garage opening and only proceed if that virtual switch is flipped.

I’ll have to think more on this one.

Just realized there may be an even easier way.

I forgot the MyQ garage door shows up as a switch. So, rather than having the garage smartapp open the door, I’ll try having a Hello, Home phrase that turns turns the MyQ switch on (opens the door) when this person arrives. I can set the minimum away time to 11 minutes. Won’t be able to test it until she’s back again on Tuesday, but I’ll post the results here for the curious.

Yup … I totally empathize. We’ve asked SmartThings repeatedly for them to expand the Mode feature in various ways. location.mode is actually a rather significant security hole and has very limited flexibility.

The use of any sort of “virtual storage devices” … commonly Virtual Switches, are an effective way to overcome the limits on Mode.

You can always buy a presence sensor and leave it in the car, that way the garage door only opens for the car. :wink:

This works for some people, for others the fob keeps connecting and disconnecting from the network, causing the same issue.


Ha, yeah this was my original plan to just use those fobs, but the reviews are NOT good overall. I also like that phones have their own GPS and can detect entering my home radius quite a bit earlier than a fob that has to be within range of my hub. Bit of a buzzkill to have to wait on the garage door to open after you’ve already pulled into the garage. I’ll pass on those for now.

After I added the SmartThings smart power outlet, my zigbee network has been 100% solid. The only time I get disconnects is when I pull the battery to replace it and when I have it in my pocket and I lay on it… But water and rf don’t mix well anyway so I’m not surprised. I’m sure if it was kept tucked in the visor (not the glove compartment) with a SmartThings smart power outlet or hub with in 10ft of the garage it should work well. Battery life may suck with the heat, but I’ve read of someone hooking it up to a “D” battery. I can imagine it would power it for a few yrs :).
In the end every environment is different and this is what I would do in this situation.

I worked with zigbee installations professionally as a network engineer before ever trying SmartThings, I know most of the tricks. And I worked with SmartThings support extensively. The fob just doesn’t work reliably at my house, probably because of interference from a neighbour’s high power WiFi booster.

Many zigbee controllers, including the Philips Hue bridge, let you change the zigbee channel for exactly this type of situation. The gen 1 ST hub has its channel randomly set at time of manufacture and cannot be changed thereafter. So some of it is just luck. It definitely works great for some people, and definitely is unreliable for others.

Support tells me this is their only zigbee device which is not amplified, explaining why other devices don’t have the same issue.

I believe it works well for you. You’ll have to trust that there is unfortunately no easy fix for me. “All home automation is local.”