Reliable presence sensor?

Both Her Ladyship and I have been using our iPhone 6 & 6S as presence sensors. They worked wonderfully for a month or so and then, for whatever reason, I never left the house.

I tried restarting the phone, which worked sometimes. I tried removing the phone and re-adding, which worked sometimes. I removed the ST app and re-added it, which worked sometimes. I’ve gone through the ST suggested list to correct presence issues, but always end up right back at square one.

Now, I believe ST is trying to tell me that my wife and I don’t spend enough time together as it appears we are both home. I assure you that we are not.

Additionally, I had our back door lock and garage door opener integrated with ST. I was on the couch during the wee-hours of the morning trying to get my presence to actually come home, when all of a sudden the back door unlocked and the garage door opened. Quite the surprise!

I’ve read about the ST presence sensor, and would gladly get it however, it appears that it too has issues.

Therefore, I’m looking for suggestions of an alternate presence sensor.


Life360 will integrate with ST OK.
Perhaps you might want to try this.

This should be of interest:

Thanks Bob! I’ll take a gander at 360.

JD: Woah! Looks like I’ve got a ton of reading to do! Thanks for the link, which links to links, which links to even more links!

1 Like

Links R Us! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


When I first purchased my system using my wife’s and my iPhones as presence detectors worked perfectly. Anytime one of us left or both of us left together we would get notifications. Now we get no notifications so I had to set up custom rules. Arriving works fine though, just not departing.

My experience with the presence sensors (key fobs) are they are kinda reliable in as much as they’re pretty solid at getting me coming and going - there are very few missed events. However, there are LOTS of false positives, almost always at night time. So I’ll wake up and there will be a stream of comings and goings for my wife’s sensor throughout the night, even though she was asleep next to me (or should I be suspicious that she’s sneaking out sixteen times a night?!?). If they could curb the false positives at night, I’d recommend them 100%.

Not sure what has happened recently but it looks like reliability of the mobile presence sensor has gone down for me too. It use to work 99% of the time, but the past few weeks have been a hit or miss-- it thinks me or my wife are home when we’re not or I’ll be home and then it says we’ve left. I wish there was a way to tie presence with my wifi… i.e. if my phone detects specific access point(s) then consider me home, otherwise, i’m away.

False positives on the key fobs are usually really the result of false negatives where the device loses contact with the hub for long enough to register as away and then when whatever the problem is is resolved it pops back. Thus registering as home again.

The first thing to do is to contact support as they can adjust the grace period before the fob counted as being away. For many people, that’s enough to solve the problem.

The second thing to do is to look for Wi-Fi interference. Wi-Fi and zigbee Broadcast in the same frequency range, but Wi-Fi is much stronger and so it can drown out the zigbee messages. Most of your zigbee devices will just try again, but the fob just sends a checkin signal on a regular schedule and when it has missed a certain number of those in a row the cloud account will count it as away.

First, make sure that your smartthings hub is it least 3 m away from your Wi-Fi router and any Wi-Fi access point.

Then look at where the fob lives. Again, ideally you want it at least 3 m from the Wi-Fi router or An access point. Also, zigbee spreads and so you don’t actually want it right next to the SmartThings hub. Give it a little distance, at least 2 m is good.

Since you are particularly seeing the problem at night, The next question is is there additional Wi-Fi activity at that time. If it’s in the evening, that’s very common. Everybody’s home, everybody’s on the network, maybe streaming Netflix or something else with high-bandwidth and there you are. The zigbee signal can’t get through effectively, it gets counted as absent, then it gets counted as present.

I had this problem every weekday afternoon around 330. I’m pretty sure one of my neighbors has a kid gets home from school at that time and they have boosted Wi-Fi. The fob would show away, home, way, home, away, home, for about two hours. Ultimately I ended up using the two device method which is discussed in the presence FAQ. I set my system up so that nothing depended on just the presence fob. There had to be a second device that also indicated that I was away.

There are other ways to approach it as well, again discussed in the presence FAQ. Most people can probably find some presence method that works for them, but it will be a different method for different houses. “All home automation is local.” And presence maybe most of all. :sunglasses:

I appreciate everyone sharing their thoughts. Tonight I was looking at Sonos speakers at a store with Her Ladyship when she spotted some ST Presence Sensors on a shelf. Her comment was “Well, my phone thinks I’m at home right now, and you haven’t been able to get it working. Maybe we should give the ST fob a try? If at anytime it fails in the next 15 days, just take it back for a refund.”.

I painstakingly removed her phone and added the fob to all of the routines, CoRE and Ask Alexa. So, the time starts ticking today.

1 Like

Just a quick update on the ST presence sensor v.s. iPhone 6s.

I’ve removed my wife’s iPhone 6, and gave her a ST presence sensor.
I continue to use an iPhone 6s.

In an odd turn of events, my iPhone has worked perfectly as a presence sensor since my last post. My wife’s ST presence sensor has flaked once; recording a late-night departure of 0:07 hrs with a return at 0:07 hrs. This equates to one failure in about 12 days.

I’m thinking about the possibility of using both her phone and ST presence sensor in tandem. Dual failure, although quite possible, at least might decrease the odds. The problem is that if one fails away, and the other is at home, or mutatis mutandis, what happens to automation. Something I will need to mulch over.

Another update, if anyone cares…

Well, ST has suffered the recurrent inability to figure out if I’m at home or not. I’ve found that if I’m away, and ST thinks I’m at home, I can sometimes turn location services off and then back on again, and then ST realizes that I am in fact away.

Aside from the one glitch as noted in the post above, the ST Fob has been reliable. The only improvement I can think of is that I wish it would connect to ST sooner. I have the house geofenced for 200m, yet get no notification that my wife is arriving until she’s pulled the car half-way into the garage.

Please forgive my naivety, but I’m willing to bet this is somewhat attributed to cloud-based notifications, but she still has to wait outside the garage door for a bit before the door will open. I’m also willing to bet this has to do with the long range distance capabilities of the fob.

According to the app, the fob battery is still showing 100%.

I’m still perplexed to as why my location is apparent to both my phone and on my wife’s “Find Friend’s” app, yet ST is clueless?

I’m leaning more and more towards getting another fob for myself.

I am using Life360 and my phone as presence sensors.
I have noticed that these are just not reliable any more.
We are leaving and getting home when we are both home or away.
Is anybody else seeing presence issues?
I just cannot rely on it any more.
Any other suggestions for a good reliable presence sensor much appreciated.
EDIT:I’m not sure if this is due to the platform upgrade this week.

Unlike using your phone for location, the Fob actually has to connect through the Zigbee network (or are the fobs Z-wave…) which explains why she has to pull so far in before it registers. You may try putting a repeater in the garage to push out the zigbee bubble a bit, but it’s still not going to pick you up until you’re in the driveway at best :frowning:

Both me and the missus had some location issues over the last couple of weeks (me on Life360, her on Iphone 6S). I also think it may have been related to the updates both on SmartThings and Life360, because it seems to be working normally this week.

Just a little update:

Thus far, the fob has been pretty reliable. Nothing has changed in terms of recognition distances from the house (despite adding additional Zigbee repeating devices in the garage and office facing the street).

The thing that irks me to no end is the abysmal battery life of the fob. 2030 batteries aren’t exactly cheap, and I’ve been replacing them about every 45 days. The fob is in her ladyships purse at all times, and is not subject to extremes of temperature.

I used a volt meter on the battery that I just removed tonight and it is showing 2.9V. However, the ST app is showing 15% battery life. If I’m not mistaken, battery power is reported incrementally, so I don’t know what “15%” really means.

That seems like a big hassle to replace the battery every 45 days.

I moved to a new state and just got to setting up ST and all my HA stuff here recently. I used to use my Samsung S5 active and my wife’s iphone 5s for presence sensors with hardly any issues that I can recall. I’ve added my phone (S7 active) three times recently and it always gets stuck in away mode even though I haven’t left yet. I really like the trigger capability with sensors, but I’ve given up on it ever being reliable. My IFTTT trigger works flawlessly to turn on/off wifi when I come/go. Maybe it can be done via ST through IFTTT?

I am having a poor experience with the fob too. The presence seems to work fine, however the battery life is shocking even with branded cells. What’s worse is that it often stops responding at 36%, so I’m not aware I need to change the battery but all of a sudden there’s a mismatch - I can see the fob in the house, but the app says it’s away.

I’m only using it to find a spare set of keys (the kids take a key when they go out sometimes, but when it gets misplaced they always argue about who took it when so I can use the app to make the fob beep, and also tell them when it was last at home).

For actual presence, I splashed out £40 on a Asus N66U router which has a full busybox environment, and used the AsusWRT Presence script from here. It scans every 15 seconds for MAC addresses of everyone’s phone and updates a virtual presence sensor in ST based on the outcome. 15 seconds is usually quick enough to pick up a phone joining the WiFi as someone walks up the path and puts the key in the door, so I can use CoRE to arm/disarm the SHM based on presence with very few false alarms. You have to sprint to the door and be very quick with the key :slight_smile:

It seemed very heavy handed to buy a router just for presence, but £40 (secondhand admittedly) is only the cost of one-and-a-bit fobs, and after a few months of replacing a battery in the fob I’m probably saving! Kids ALWAYS take their phones with them, and no apps are needed unlike Life360 or ST’s native app presence. I can also track a theoretically unlimited number of people, I just need to know their MAC address.