SmartSense Presence Sensor FAILURE


I have the same problems. I have worked with support on it, and there are some things they can do to make it better, but it still randomly comes and goes several times a week. Probably because of interference from my neighbors Wi-Fi.

I’ve tried a number of different things. (My background is network engineering and I worked with zigbee devices well before I started automating at home.)

Short answer: the smart things presence fob works great for some people. It has a lot of problems for some other people. Most of that seems to depend on issues of local interference.

You can solve most of the problems of the teleporting Zigbee fob by adding an additional device as a verifier. But it’s not something I would rely on for garage doors in particular. Or arming alarm systems. But that’s just me.

Different people have different needs and preferences when it comes to peace of mind.

Here are a couple of discussions about how people are addressing presence issues. They might give you some ideas, or at least a sense of validation. Just to be aware that the device does work great for some people. “all Home Automation is local.”

I myself am in the process of switching over to IBeacon detection as a presence indicator. It can be hard on the phones batteries, but it’s much more consistent at my house. I’m solving the battery issue by using a plugged in tablet at home as the detector and taking the iBeacon with me just like the ST fob.

Anyway, I think the ultimate answer on the Zigbee presence fob is that it should be advertised with one of those little footnote: “individual results may vary.” It certainly can work for a lot of people. But if you’re one of the ones it doesn’t work for, you may want to try a different approach.

BTW, it’s the only ST zigbee device that doesn’t use amplification, so I haven’t seen any of the teleporting issues with my other zigbee devices. Just the presence fob.


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Thanks for your help and opinions.

Thanks for helping the community.

Thanks for helping the community.

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For automated UNLOCK. They’re great for automated LOCK, which is how I use mine. Because humans can always unlock a door that happened to lock due to a bad reading.

For your walk the dog scenario, you could provide a keyfob w/buttons to your walker. That fob would be able to open/unlock if Dog has left and then returned AND the fob is present AND the human presses one or more buttons on the fob.

That would be secure.

Everything else is not, because radios are subject to interference.

I think that’s @JDRoberts point. If you want security, you need to verify that the event you think you see is real. Having a real human press a button is 100% accurate. Everything else isn’t.

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Again, it comes down to the use case and each person’s individual priorities.

I personally would not have a garage door open or close for anything other then a human looking at it. It just bugs me. But that’s me.

On the other hand, I’m quadriparetic with limited hand function. Hands-free is really valuable to me on a daily basis. I have a self locking deadbolt on the front door. I do use automation to operate that bolt hands-free. But it doesn’t open the physical door. And I have a completely separate security system that is not controlled by SmartThings. And a second no networked lock on the same door which can be used if we want verified barrier control.

Setting everything up so it works exactly the way I want it was a little complicated, but I’m happy with the results. However, what makes me happy might make someone else unhappy. It just varies.

(Like most quads, I’m supersensitive to fire safety issues. So you’ll see a lot of forum posts where I bring up fire safety issues that other people would find silly to worry about. But an able-bodied adult has the option to just jump out of bed, and I don’t, so the risk/benefit calculation is different at my house.)

BTW, I agree that the button fob is a great idea for the kind of use case like the dog walker. There’s one tiny one that works with smartthings that only costs $15. Even smaller than the presence sensor. Hook that to the dog’s leash and you’ve solved the same problem with a more reliable and actually less expensive solution. It’s not quite as snazzy high-tech, but you can always make the porch light come on and the door open at the same time or something like that for a wow factor. :blush: The $15 one is the Securifi fob near the end of the following topic:

So again, different choices will work for different people.

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@joefilippello Being an engineer, you would know of the potential failures with a system so why would you hook up a presence sensor to open/close the garage?

It doesn’t make sense to me. My presence sensors work but definitely will flake in and out at times, so I use them to help with modes of the house not access.

ST, of course, will over sell there system. I looked at it at first, but did research before I purchased it and it was very clear that presence was not useful for opening/closing and unlocking doors etc.

I use it to lock things, but never to unlock.

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Thanks for helping the community.

Yeah, there are so many scenarios where it will come in and out of range. I’ve found w/ ST and my family, it is all about introducing things slowly, and really reviewing the use cases before making them critical.

It is why w/ my Hue bulbs all of them are on a Z-wave switch because no one wants to HAVE to pull out their phone to turn on or off a light.


Thanks for helping the community.

I don’t think the presence sensor is advertised properly. Had I researched more before my purchase I never would have opted for the bundle including one as it is all but worthless to me.

Still, I’m with the captain on this one and would not automate a security related device. The tech is just not at a level to reliably accommodate this particular wish. I was thinking it would be cool to walk into my living room on a cold winter evening and have my gas fireplace auto ignite, but I would not even for a second entertain actually implementing such an app.

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Thanks for helping the community

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I feel your pain in the frustration of presence issues…I have them too and presence is the center of my setup. I am not using the individual sensors but rather iPhones. Mine was working perfect at first then a IOS app update crippled presence. I have been in contact with support and they have been helping and recently I am having better results. It’s not perfect and I would say recently of the past 50 arrivals and departures by all of our phones I have only had 2 hiccups.
Right now I use presence for adjusting my HVAC, turning on a light when we come home at night and Smart Alarm, with the exception of Smart Alarm I can accept a FEW hiccups. I am in the process of having backups for arming and disarming Smart Alarm via tablets in the house running SmartTiles and keyfobs.
I would like everything to be automatic but certain things I just cannot depend on 100% of the time. Worst case scenario for me is having the alarm trigger when my wife comes home and her presence is not detected correctly…GAME OVER. Having a backup just in case is what I will need.

Like I said I feel your pain but I am willing to work thru it, not everyone will feel that way.

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Thanks for helping the community.

I agree with you, that would irritate me and my wife (which is worse) and I would find that unacceptable. Have you tried using a cell phone as opposed to the sensor? I know you wanted it for your dog but maybe a $15 keyfob would be a better bet for the dog.
Not trying to tell you what to do but personally I would contact support, but I understand why you don’t want to. You may have found a bug that could be fixed and help others.

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A lot of different things converging here…

First, ST has never, to my knowledge, advertised microlocation uses for their presence sensor (like knowing who’s in the bedroom). It’s for crossing a geofence boundary. So I’m not sure the lights in the bedroom example applies.

But as far as stabilizing it in general, this works quite well:

As far as tolerating random lights coming on…with the exception of things triggered by presence detection, I’ve never had a problem with things randomly coming on. I have had multiple issues with things randomly not working, as have many people. So I always have a plan B option for anything run by ST.

ST solved some important convenience use cases for me and I’m happy with that. In particular, I have decent voice control and an IFTTT channel, both high value features for me.

If you want a home automation system under $3,000 that has always made stability and reliability their top priority, look at Staples Connect. Their Target market is small businesses, so reliability was their big issue from the beginning. They got there by avoiding cloud services, not using Geopresence, not having an IFTTT channel, not allowing user-developed code, and offering a much more limited selection of generally more expensive individual devices. Basically they threw out anything that might cause instability. If you look at their forums, you’ll see that most of the complaints are about devices that they are not supporting yet. Not about instability in the system that people already have.

SmartThings chose to offer a much more open platform and chase a lot of the hottest, newest stuff, even if they didn’t offer full integration to begin with. That comes with a different set of issues.

It may well be that ST isn’t the right fit for you. My personal guess (just a guess) is that by summer 2016 we’ll see several reliable plug and play home automation systems. Apple Homekit/insteon will be one. I fully expect Samsung/SmartThings to be another. So I’m putting off my big HA projects until late 2016.

For now, ST fits my interim needs best. I like the vision, I like the community, but I’d jump ship in a heartbeat if a competitor had a solution that was a better fit for what I need right now. But for right now, ST is solving some things I want solved. Your value calculation may be different.


That’s what motion sensors are for. I’d never use presence sensing for something like that. And even there, to give you a more realistic use case - the lights in the hallway and bath come on, at night, if off, when motion is detected. If it’s LATE at night, they come on dimmed. Since they’re controlled by the wall dimmer smart switch, the human can always override that.


Thanks for helping the community.

I’m doing this from the road, so I apologize if I miss anything…

You can adjust the presence time out (the difference between when a tag drops off the network to the platform running a SmartApp) by going to>View Utilities>Select the new time>Update. The dropdown does not automatically update, but you can view the timeout setting by selecting Get Presence Timeout. This should reduce false positive location events, especially if they are typically 1-2 minute flip-flops.

For more cool tips, glamour shots, or just procrastinating at work… and troubleshooting, I recommend emailing


I do hope you find something that works for you. I’d love to read the blog post, what’s your blogging site?

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