Presence Detectors / Iphone as presence detectors


I am extremely new to Smartthings, but I am these support pages really useful.

One question that I have outstanding is the operations of presence detectors or namely Iphones

I have my wife, both children and my own Iphone’s set as presence devices and all seems to work well with present or not etc.

The question is, should the iphone entering the presence area disarm the system so that we can enter the house without triggering the alarm?

Its a difficult one to simulate but would be interested in the more expert advise before I kick everyone out of range to test.

Many thanks


You can definitely set up your iPhone as a presence sensor, and it would basically show up on ST as “you”

You can then “invite” other people to register as part of your home, and each phone would then become an additional presence sensor / person.

You can at that point create logic around people arriving / departing, whether that’s a particular person or everyone (something like “do this when the house is empty” or “do that when person x arrives”).

With that said… using the native presence detection is notoriously buggy for some users, so your mileage may definitely vary.

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Excellent thank you Viguera

I have the routines set for coming and going etc, but have not tested if someone arrives in goodnight routine or away state with the alarm set?

Would this deactivate the alarmed state?

I basically gave up on using my phone w/ smartthings as a presence detector. It’s way too flakey. Instead, i used Life360, while it’s the same thing, it seems to work much better and more accurate than creating a device, and this basically avoid the need to give people access to your “home” since it doesn’t allow for limited access account.

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So basically Life360 uses the location sensor on the iphone in a similar fashion but is more reliable?

OR does this use a different locations service thus the reliability?

Not sure my kids are going to be up for me keeping tabs on them to that level (17 and 21 so not really kids now lol)

You can use whatever method you want to trigger an action on SmartThings.

You can do this natively using the phone as a presence sensor, so that when you / another user arrive, it disarms the alarm, or changes the mode, or tinkers with the Smart Home Monitor, or turns on a light, or plays a song, or whatever.

You can go about this with Rule Machine, or you can use a simulated presence sensor, or a real presence sensor, or an Automatic dongle connected to your car, etc.

The biggest caveat is the reliability of the detection itself. Some people (myself included) have had some serious struggles with geolocation. It works for some people, it works for others, and for some it actually shows them coming and going at random, once or multiple times.

I’d suggest you try and figure out just how reliable presence detection works for you, either using your phone, or Life360, or a separate presence sensor, before you get too involved into planning your routines / alarm setup, just in case.

Brill, thank you

Sounds like good advice, will give it a go for a few days and see how we get on.

Dare I ask what the alternative is if the location devices don’t work?

I’m not sure that iPhone users have too many more choices. It’s either the native app or Life360, or you can get a physical device ( ) and give it a shot, although some people have complained that doesn’t work for them either.

Android users can also use Tasker / AutoLocation / SharpTools with a simulated presence device. You basically have AutoLocation monitor your location at intervals, and this updates Tasker, which updates SharpTools, which tells SmartThings where you are. It sounds convoluted, but it offers much more flexibility and (in my case) has been much more reliable than any of the other options.

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hi there,

sorry to jump in here but i’m having similar reliability issues with mobile presence.

do you have a link to a post or something similar that would help me with phone - tasker - SharpTools integration?

thanks in advance.

Search for SharpTools or hit up @joshua_lyon – there are quite a few youtube videos out there that he’s put together and plenty of posts.

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The article shows how to setup a custom presence device using Tasker, but as Amauri mentioned, you may want to change out the WiFi Near profile for an AutoLocation Geofence profile. AutoLocation is a Tasker plugin by another developer that you can find on the Google Play store.

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great stuff - will take a look. thanks!

Well WiFi Near is actually more definitive, so to speak, or even cell tower locations, but they’re “expensive” in terms of battery life and sometimes don’t work as intended – namely when you reboot your phone or put it on airplane mode or tethering for some reason, and WiFi gets disconnected… :smile:

But IMO, joining your home WiFi network is 100% the best way to track when you arrive home… :slight_smile: Too bad SmartThings can’t somehow piggyback off this and see when the hub is on the same network as you are, which would also be a good “arrived home” indicator.

Nevertheless, I have to second the AutoLocation recommendation only because it’s significantly more versatile. I can do all kinds of crazy Tasker actions (which then translate into SharpTools actions) based on multiple geofences. I’ve also started experimenting with the “activity monitor” that is exposed to AutoLocation from the Google fused location provider. Now I can have Tasker react to whether I’m walking near the mailbox at the front of the house (so I’m not really “absent” when I just go get the mail or take out the garbage) compared to driving in/out of the house.

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My experience so far with using iPhones as presence detectors has been that it works well, but only if your phone is doing something else that causes it to know its location.

For example, if I’m using Waze or any other App that’s using the phones GPS, then it reliably knows when I enter or leave the geo fence. When not using an App that is using GPS then it doesn’t appear to trigger the geo fence or at least it’s way less sensitive.

I have a nice small App that manages the garage door (if I leave and it’s open, close it and remember to open it when I return) but it just doesn’t work reliably enough. I rode to work one day and it wasn’t until my phone connected to the wifi at work that it realized that my position had changed and I’d left the ego fence.

The next thing I’m going to try are some iBeacons and then write a small App for the iPhone that uses the Smartthings web API to trigger present and not present. This should work in theory as iPhones will monitor iBeacons in the background and notify the App when they go in and out of range.

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@obycode wrote an iBeacon app for iOS that integrates with SmartThings:

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I think that’s the downside of the recent “battery life craze” that most companies have gotten into. It’s all about optimization for all day battery life, because it’s a good bullet point on the literature.

Of course that’s a “nice to have” feature – particularly if you’re not near an outlet for most of the day – but in the end it results in optimization of the power-hungry items like GPS and WiFi.

Me personally I would run Waze all day if I had to, as long as it gave me pinpoint accuracy. Instead I rely on very frequent AutoLocation polls, but I don’t care because now my Note 5 lasts a full day instead of two. Not that I care because I can plug my phone in when I’m in the car or in the office.

I might mess around with beacons only because BLE seems to offer proximity rather than just general location though.

I know this is an older thread but has anyone had a change in how well iPhones have operated as presence devices to turn on/off security? Mine seemed to work fine for a month or so and now it’s flaky. Works sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t. May be explained by explanation above about an app in use of GPS at time of arrival.

Same experience here. iPhone presence has been fine for months. Today, my wife’s iPhone is coming and going like crazy. I’ve rebooted it, made sure there are no other apps running at all, etc. Doesn’t matter. Meanwhile, when I go out, the house ARMS with her still in it. Sweet! So far I’ve caught it on my phone, but if the alarm goes off with her in the house, she’s gonna call B.S. on all things Smartthings! (and rightly so!)

I am having the same problem. Works fine for months since I set it up. Recently the presences of my android and wifes iphone is not working. I’ve removed the devices and rebooted the hub. Something must be broken on their end? I’ve sent my logs to smartthings support, hopefully they can help out.

Apparently my wife has left me because according to ST she and her iPhone (i5 w/iOS 9.2.1) haven’t been home in days! Fortunately (at least in my case) that’s not true, but her phone is not providing presence at all. My iPhone 6 w/iOS 9.2.1 is reporting correctly all the time. Wondering what’s changed? and it could very easily be something Apple has done, since they love to change the rules without sharing.