Phone presence sensor gone rogue?

Hey all,

Is anyone else experiencing issues with using their phone as a presence sensor since the app update? On a typical day, I leave for work about 6:30AM and return home around 5PM. Since midnight last night, the app is showing me departing and arriving 18 times. So, I’m a little lacking in sleep today since my lights and garage door were going haywire all night.

I’m on Android and I’ve had zero issues with this until the recent app update. I’ve rebooted my phone several times, rebooted my hub, rebooted internet, pretty much anything you can think of, aside from factor resets and removing my phone as a device (since I have it part of a large amount of automation).

Is anyone else experiencing this and/or have any suggestions on how I can clear it up?

This is my presence sensor history on a typical day:

This is my presence sensor history since midnight:

Any help would be appreciated. My wife works nights and is going to be grumpy if lights/garage door is going off all day today while she is trying to sleep. :confused:

Can’t speak for the presence sensor as I’m not using mine, but I can offer help.

Set restrictions on your lighting and garage automations, and your quality of life will improve significantly. Using CoRE, I have mine send a notification instead when they try and execute outside of their allowed hours. Create a “nap” mode as well as the “night” mode

The nap/night mode are in interesting thought. Little off topic, but I’ve been trying to incorporate the modes more into routines/automatons, but due to my wife and I having opposite schedules 4 out of the 7 days a week, I haven’t found a good way to go about this.

My biggest restriction with many of the things I’ve been trying to do comes when trying to determine who is at home/work and who is asleep/awake.

My phone is constantly reporting me as not being home when I am because of my Wi-Fi system. I have a range extender that is technically a different network since Netgear adds EX to the network name for the extender. Therefore whenever my phone hands off to that network, it reports me as being away because I have “left” the network that Smartthings uses. Drove me crazy until figured out that was the issue!

Calling Rogue One for assistance. Sorry couldn’t resist that :wink:

Coming back to your Rogue issue, let’s understand how location works so it’ll help you figure out how to fix your issue. Location is determined by a couple of methods:

  1. GPS - Most of the time devices do NOT use active GPS due to the fact that’s it drains the battery. So this only works while the app is open.
  2. AGPS - Assisted GPS, this done with the help of mobile network towers. Most cellphones are aware of the network towers within a certain radius and their distance from them using the signal strength from the towers. Since the mobile network is always active this is the primary way for a cellphone to “guesstimate” its position. (Each towers location is transmitted to the phone). This is one source of a problem. Often in urban cities and even rural areas where there are objects (buildings, hills etc) that cause reflection and other interference the signals from the towers fluctuate which causes the “guesstimated” position of the AGPS to vary. This can cause your phone to appear to be out of its “circle” as defined on the hub to be considered “Home”. The second reason this may happen is due to boundary conditions. Mobile towers work on the concept of micro cells (think small circles or hexagons). If you live on the border of two cells your location can fluctuate between the two cells depending upon which tower the cellphone connects to and this can keep fluctuation for the reasons above. I live on the border of two cells and see this issue. The problem is one tower’s “location” puts me squarely in the center of my “home circle” as defined on the ST hub, the other towers location puts me outside the “Home circle”, so when it fluctuates my location keeps moving in and out of the “Home Circle”. I’ll explain how to solve this later.
  3. WiFi Location - AGPS also uses wifi hotspots to determine their location. Apple pretty much has a list of every WiFI hotspot in the country (personal and public, I won’t get into how but it does and so do other providers). The AGPS uses the MAC address of the wifi router to look up its position and then lets the phone know where it is and it’s pretty darn accurate. Onfact this method is much more accurate than the cellphone tower AGPS method. If I drive down a road with only Wifi AGPS enabled it tells me pretty accurately where I am everyone my phone “detects” a wifi router from a nearby house or building. It ALSO uses your OWN router MAC address to find it’s location, so if you have a NEW/USED router or an updated mac address it may not know your new location and will mess it up.

iOS’s/Android geo fence uses Cell Tower and Wifi AGPS to approximate its position and report it to the apps.

So having explained how a phone determines its position now I can assume you understand why your phone position keeps fluctuating and moving in and out of your “Home circle”. So let’s talk about how to fix it. Couple of things, you can’t obviously do anything about cell tower boundaries or location errors or signal fluctuations, but here is what you can do:

  1. Leave your Wifi on on your device always. It helps find nearby routers and locate it self more accurately for the most. Conversely if your have “Rogue” router nearby with a wrong location in the providers database it could be throwing your location off. Try turning your wifi off and see if it is a rouge router, this very unlikely but not impossible. If you have a new router it could be throwing your location off, give it time to find it’s location and update the database and you can test by turning off Wifi.
  2. Change your “Home circle” radius on your hub. From your ST App open your Location properties and increase the radius of the circle. Make it very large at first say a Mile or so and then start reducing it slowly until you find the threshold where the fluctuations are within your “Home circle”
  3. Open the IDE -> My Hubs -> Utilities and check your presence timeout. Make sure it’s at least 2 minutes. This essentially tells the hub how to react when the “phone” reports its location outside the Home circle. How long should it wait before updating the presence status (arrived or left). If you are on a boundary region with towers or have slow fluctuations, increasing this number to day 5 minutes can help immensely but letting the hub know to ignore temporary changes in location. This could be an issue as it gets corrupted sometimes or isn’t configured properly so do reset this number.
  4. Reboot the SmartThings hub, it helps (it can help reducing caching issues and “other” firmware quirks)
  5. It’s possible that one of your neighbors have changed their wifi router and the mac address of their router is still pointing to an old address and when your phone “sees” the wifi the location is being thrown off. To check for this, scan the Wifi’s in your devices range in your home and extract these wifi routers MAC address (many tools for that). Once you have the MAC address use this tool to track the location of the MAC address.

So there you are, what you’re seeing has not much to do with the app but a lot to do with the operating system and how it calculates its position. But now you have to tools to diagnose and fix it hopefully.


This is actually an interesting thought. This actually started with the roll-out of the app update, but I did also get a new modem/router last night. Google OnHub and an Arris surfboard. I wonder if it’s actually the router that’s causing the issue and it just coincided with some unusual activity after the app update.

Did you find a way to correct this with your router?

The only way I know of to correct my issue would be to setup a new wifi network, (which is the route I’ll be taking) using one the “mesh” network router systems (like the new Samsung one) so I don’t have to use a range extender. Until then I’m just dealing with the erroneous reports.

Thanks for the info RBoy. After doing some poking around, it does look like my router might be the culprit. I picked this up used from a friend and it appears it’s still reporting their home as my location when I’m connected to wifi. When I drop off of wifi, it brings me back into my “circle”. Soooo… moving on to try and figure out how to get that fixed. :slight_smile:

Thanks again to everyone for all the help!

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For what it’s worth, I also started experiencing issues with my phone as a presence sensor since the app update. I haven’t changed anything else; i.e., same old wifi network, my phone always has wifi and location turned on, no new router, etc. When I noticed it happening yesterday, I deleted my presence sensor and re-added it, but that didn’t help. I work from home, so 90% of the time during the work week, I’m in my house, and yet SmartThings thinks I’m leaving randomly throughout the day.

Just now I increased the presence timeout in the IDE to 5 minutes and widened the “home circle” radius like RBoy recommended. Hopefully that will help. But it sure seems like it has something to do with the latest app update. Also, it hasn’t happened as much today as it did yesterday.

I put a ticket in yesterday but haven’t received a response yet.

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Looks like I can join this club too. My wife’s phone started wandering out of the house late at night. Presence is the one thing that has worked solidly on my system for over a year. Now, nothing has changed, but her phone leaves when she’s home and also comes home when it really isn’t there.

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Presence is an issue with the new update, mine has been going nuts. Support told me they were working on a fix yesterday and it should be quick. Guess not so quick, figured there would be an announcement about it already

Thanks for the post, but none of those tips work for us. We don’t get crazy in’s and out’s. What we do get however is we leave the house go 30 miles away for hours (as much as 10 hours gone) and it still shows we are home. Or I can leave for a few hours, come home, and it never shows I left of came back. It is just not consistent. It might work for a couple days then it starts doing that. Completely ignoring both of our phones. Now…it usually doesn’t happen to our phones at the same time. Sometimes it is happening on one phone, but the other is fine. We have the exact same phone, 6s plus.

Having a working reliable presence sensor is a top priory for us and one of the biggest selling points to ST. Having lights automatically turn on when we arrive, making sure everything is off when everyone leaves, and arming and disarming the alarm, are all essential to home automation. Without a reliable presence sensor, we have to keep manually checking for things that should be automated, which defeats the purpose.