Presence Detection via Phone VERY unreliable

Hi, I contacted support and they responded with what seems to be a misunderstanding of our problem and blamed Apple and Google location services, as if there’s no way they could update the app to work around this problem so I’m coming here for help.

We have two phones that we use for presence detection turn an outside light on when we arrive at night. Both of the phones will be at home, near the hub, and connected to WiFi, just charging sitting on a table in the middle of the night. As you can imagine we don’t want our lights to just randomly turn on in the middle of the night.

I have copied the relevant information directly from the activity feed. These will display right next to each other throughout the night.

4:02 AM Front Outside Lights switch is on
4:02 AM Colleen’s iPhone has arrived
4:02 AM Colleen’s iPhone has left

3:47 AM Front Outside Lights switch is on
3:47 AM Colleen’s iPhone has arrived
3:47 AM Colleen’s iPhone has left

3:32 AM Front Outside Lights switch is on
3:32 AM Colleen’s iPhone has arrived
3:32 AM Colleen’s iPhone has left

12:47 AM Front Outside Lights switch is on
12:47 AM Colleen’s iPhone has arrived
12:47 AM Colleen’s iPhone has left

12:32 AM Front Outside Lights switch is on
12:32 AM Colleen’s iPhone has arrived
12:32 AM Colleen’s iPhone has left

12:17 AM Front Outside Lights switch is on
12:17 AM Colleen’s iPhone has arrived
12:17 AM Colleen’s iPhone has left

7:15PM Front Outside Lights switch is on
7:15PM Colleen’s iPhone has arrived
7:15PM Colleen’s iPhone has left

Any ideas?

It occurs to me that the reason other apps like google maps will be accurate when Smart Things is confused, whether on iOS or Android, is the simple reason that they’re running on the phone itself, while Smart Things has its hub talk to its cloud talk to its hub to trigger rules based on mobile phone presence.

Or maybe it’s phone talks to cloud talks to hub, but same basic issue.

That introduces at least 2 more communication points than an app running ON the phone, so at least 2 more points where communication can go bad or at least be delayed.

So let’s assume in the current design the phone is telling the cloud where it is.

My first question would be what’s the signal strength, and is it varying? Note that this doesn’t have anything to do with where the phone is in relation to the hub. It has to do with the phone’s ST App talking to ST’s cloud. If that communication is being interrupted for any reason, then you’re going to have presence detection going on and off.

(And it’s the same issue for signal strength at the ST hub, although I’d expect that to be visible to ST support.)

You said that you have TWO phones that you use for presence detection, but I only see ONE phone in the log snippets. Are both phones sharing the same account name? If so, that’s been noticed by others to cause problems with presence detection…

I have same issues. My wife and I both have iPhone 6’s with separate user ID’s and she she goes to work where they have wifi, once in awhile, it will report her home and away sporadically. Other apps work perfect including Life360. Support keeps blaming Apple but they also admitted they do GPS coordinates a little differently than the others due to privacy concerns. They are not constantly keeping track of where you are, but rather your coordinates in relation to the hub. Bottom line is it’s unreliable for some.

I’ve been having problems too. I’m only using one phone to test for now and I’m not impressed. I too have contacted technical support and been told it’s Apple’s fault or try this troubleshooting guide, which I’ve done everything on it.

Some days I’ll be sitting at work and out of curiosity I’ll open the app and it says I’m at home… :worried:

I would say something is not quite right with the mobile presence, which stinks because now I need to buy more overpriced, hard to justify gizmos. (Presence tags.)

I’m keyless now with my zwave locks. The last thing I want to do is use bulky keytags.

Yea I’m just worried my door will be unlocking randomly. I know there’s notification you can set up but I shouldn’t have to worry about it.

The key, for iOS anyway, is to keep wifi on. I noticed when I toggle it off while at work SmartThings will think I’ve arrived at home.

Yea I was actually turning wifi off and it still seems to be buggy.

I think she is losing her wifi signal in certain spots at her job which causes the issue. ST should not depend on this.

It’s not SmartThings, that’s just how iOS determines your position. And probably Android as well.


Then why when I integrated ST with Life360, Life360 has my accurate locations yet ST still reported me coming home?

Possibly there’s a secondary lag because ST has to coordinate 3 things: your phone, their cloud, and their hub. Life360 only has 2: your phone and their cloud.

Phone as a presence indicator integrating with an app on a different device has always had problems. That’s the whole reason iOS 8 added iBeacon support to suggested apps.

I personally wouldn’t use GPS or WiFi based presence indicators for disarming alarms or locks because something that works today might stop working tomorrow because of something your neighbour or the phone company does. The range is just too uncertain. But the ST zigbee fob or a 50 foot proximity sensor like iBeacon or Samsung’s Placedge should be more predictable. (ST doesn’t have iBeacon/Placedge recognition yet, but maybe someday. They do have the zigbee presence sensor now.)

There are already some schools using ibeacons as proximity sensors, so it’s not just about retail applications even if that’s what’s driving sales.

Thanks for the explanation. Hopefully ST will open it up to iBeacon so we don’t have to rely on physical key chains.

No we are using separate accounts. I invited her email and that’s her account and phone that is triggering the lights. My phone was doing the same thing… just not that night! We are both about 30 feet from the router with good/excellent signal strength and I’ve actually replaced our Netgear router with a different model running OpenWRT and we still have the same issues, I’ve even replaced the cable modem with a newer model, and the log goes sometimes a week between events and we’ve noticed no problems with the Internet so I doubt it’s our ISP. I’ve already checked GPS settings on her phone and they’re fine, my phone is Android. I went from an LG Nexus 5 running stock 4.4.4 to stock 5.0.1 to a Galaxy S3 running CyanogenMod 11 and all have the same issue. Every variable has changed. We both leave GPS and WiFi on at night and the phones haven’t even been touched when this is happening.

The problem has, at least for now, disappeared on the Android phone but only time will tell. I don’t see how speculating about the technical niceties of the platform or Android/Appple’s location service implementation is helping anyone but you’d think they could simply implement a one minute timer delay and that would alleviate the problem.

I’m open to ANY practical suggestions, barring ones I’ve already tried, that might prevent this from happening.

The signal strength to the router could be a factor, but I meant the signal strength to the cellphone service. If it drops in and out, that would affect presence indication. I’ve known houses where cellphone signal strength was different on one side of the bed from the other, for example.

I agree a delay would help with spotty cell tower reception, I know there’s at least one android app that does that.

FYI, you can change the timeout for presence-based actions within the SmartThings app.

What does hub have to do with it? It’s at fixed location and never moves. Only the mobile phone’s location matters. The location technology is 10 years old and works reliably for all and any app other than SmartThings.


@geko I don’t want to jinx saying this but it’s the only thing which has worked forever for me (iPhone 5 then 6) and missus still on iPhone 5.

2-3 complete failures since started using ST (several months now). :slight_smile:

The hub is what triggers the actions at the house. So that’s another point of communication. And a difference between an app that triggers something on the phone itself and an app that’s trying to trigger something on a second device.