The Quest for A 100% Reliable Presence detection

Wow. I read precise detection using two device
Well so I guess for the masses its an unsolved problem.
Thats a bummer. Seems like some small device that wakes up every few minutes and searches for the home wifi network would work great.
Anyone know of such a device ?

SmartThings mobile presence works great for many people.
The SmartThings arrival fob works great for many people.
Life360 works great for many people.
IFTTT location works great for many people.
The Netatmo Welcome camera works great for many people.

It’s just that none of these works great for everyone. So you have to try them and see what works well for you. But I don’t think it’s an “unsolved problem.”

But What if My Phone Dies?

As for your specific issue with wanting a Plan B to handle your phone running out of battery, if you drive a car, a phone charger in the car solves that. If like me, you don’t drive, a backup battery pack is a cheap and simple solution.

For one step up in complexity, @rboy ‘s suggestion above that you make unlocking your smart lock successfully be an alternative form of presence seems like a very good one. (If there’s anything about his suggestion you didn’t understand, just ask and I’m sure he’ll be glad to explain.)

For one step up in cost, the zipato/BeNext keypad has an RFID keyfob you can touch to the keypad to turn on presence. Not as convenient as geopresence, but a decent Plan B.

And again, the primary presence options (phone app or zigbee keyfob) work well for many people.


Your specific use case seems to be the high tech equivalent of hiding a key on the porch because you often forget your keys at the office. (In this case, it’s phone running out of charge.) Which is fine, that’s a real issue for many people. :sunglasses:

My personal suggestion since Life360 works well for you as long as your phone is charged would be a $25 Anker Charger. Works well, solves your particular problem. :zap:

Why there isn’t a WiFi arrival sensor

As for your hypothetical WiFi pinger device: not practical with current technology. WiFi is a high energy protocol, you’d likely have to recharge the device every day or two, and the odds of it running out of juice as well are high. Zigbee or Bluetooth are the protocols best suited for pingers, and both are already options with SmartThings, as discussed in the FAQ. :wink:

Any geolocation method I’ve tried has not been 100%. Sometimes they wouldn’t even register until I’m already in the house which is too late.

The only way I have been able to get 100% presence has been by combining two methods. I use geolocation (currently life360) along side a network presence monitor that checks if our phones are online. If either are home then my presence is home, if both are away then presence is away.


  • This has been 100% reliable for us. I have had it running on multiple phones in our house and it hasn’t failed us yet. However you do run into the battery dying situation of course but if the code is put into the lock that will also disable the alarm as a backup.
  • Arrival is pretty much instant. If the geofencing doesn’t get me as I turn the corner, my network picks me up as I pull into the driveway.
  • Done with only our phones, no need for an extra device.


  • The network presence was not the simplest to setup. Ended up writing my own way of doing it and you will also require a computer online to run the detection routine unless you have one of those routers that will let you run a script on them.
  • The departure has a delay of 15 minutes before I’m marked as away. This is really because of the way the iphones work. When they go to sleep they drop their network connection and from lots of logging I found that about 15 minutes is the sweets spot. So to avoid false detection I had to set it so that I wouldn’t be marked away until geolocation is away and network has been offline for at least 15 minutes. I believe on android phones you can disable this but might add battery drain.

I can live with the departure 15 min timeout since this solution has yet to fail me.


FWIW, I was also struggling with why my phone’s presence is detected very accurately by ST built-in presence sensor, but my wife’s phone’s detection was very unreliable. I have Android, she has iPhone. So, I kept on observing when her phone stopped working and my phone still worked.

When her phone’s presence was not detected for four days, I opened the SmartThings app on her phone and checked the settings. The map where location shows up, displayed blank. It just would not show me the location, the circle kept spinning. Finally, I decided to restart the phone. It worked. Since phone restart, the presence sensing has worked flawlessly. Turned out that she never restarts her iPhone, so the phone presence detector processes might have just hung up. I have emailed the presence sensor logs to ST support. Let’s see what they have to say, not expecting much from them.

On the other hand, I restart my phone every week. Samsung phone health monitor generates a notification if I haven’t done so. It’s a Samsung recommendation. Now I am in observation mode again to see if periodic phone restart is the solution.

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Would you share your network detection with me I am looking for a ifttt or something to detect I am on my home wifi as the 2nd mode of presence detection.
Also how did you program the OR as most of the SH is AND.

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I do have the keypad lock to disarm my system too. So thanks for that.
However my wife and I come and go and never use that door so the automatic mode is my primary mode I am trying to get robust.
I do think with BTLE and wifi networks there should be a reliable enough combination to get it right.
I do like the idea of a Keypad as a last resort if we come home and the alarm goes off.

There are multiple options in one of the threads posted above for lan presence including methods for asus routers and raspberry pi’s. They should get you going if anything. I’m not a fan of sharing my code because I really don’t have time to support it if it doesn’t work for others.

In terms of the logic. If you use webcore you can setup a piston that does all the logic for you and updates a master device with the end result. There is also a smart app i believe called presence central that can help with that logic much easier too.

In the end there is no easy way to do this. But once done its pretty solid.

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One more question.
I found a service on android to detect I am on or off my home network. that will be great.
But it wants to set a device in smartthings ON or off.
Is there a way to make a virtual device like a variable in the cloud I can turn on and off and then sense that and change the state of the alarm to HOME, away etc ?

I’ve gotten to 100% reliable presence detection.
It required ceasing my efforts to utilize phones as presence devices.
It also necessitated a better battery arrangement for the ST presence sensor.

Right now I’m about three months in since the last battery change (two AA batteries per sensor). They have worked flawlessly in that time. They unlock my front door, turn on the porch light if it’s dark out, turn on indoor devices, disarm SHM.

Sometimes success is about abandoning how you believe things should be, and rolling with things as they are. That four-AA-cell holder with the two batteries and the sensor is far less elegant than having a tiny keychain fob or than having my phone do it. But it works, every time. No muss no fuss until the batteries finally start giving out. And that is the desired result.

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This is discussed in the same presence FAQ above.

There is a link there to code for a virtual presence sensor which also has switch capability so you can turn it on and off like a switch. That allows you to have any event that SmartThings can recognize turn it on or off, and then you just use it like any other presence indicator in your rules. :sunglasses:

Or you can just have the virtual switch part of it act as a trigger for webcore or a routine.

The link to the code for the virtual presence sensor is in post #5 of the FAQ thread.

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I love how you reframed the issue. Excellent.
So far the phone wifi detection has been working well, I used an Android services IFTTT for both arrival and departure and put ifttt on both our phones.
and I like your idea of the arrival sensor with a bigger battery. whats your setup look like do you have a photo ?
Going to be hard to convince my wife to carry around a BIG thing though. If I leave it in her car it might work, mostly.

It was my idea indeed, but others had already thought of it and executed it better than my idea so I went with that. lol I can’t remember which poster did it first… there are these little boxes that hold 4 AA batteries. Check this out, starting with Cobra’s entry around post 52:

Thanks did u use the regular samsung presence, arrival detector?

I just wanted to share here how I accomplish WiFi presence detection. I use Fingbox, a great network monitoring tool you plug into your network.It is integrated to IFTTT. When a user’s device is connected to the network it triggers IFTTT by user or by a generic “Someone”. IFTTT then sets a Simulated (virtual) switch I set up. I set an IFTTT rule and a vSwitch for each person I want to track. When the switch is on, the person is home. OFF, they are gone. Fingbox and IFTTT allow for departure indications too. Response time is very rapid so far. At home is tripped when I pull into my driveway.

Just wanted to mention that since I did not see this option above.


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Yeah, this thread was just one day’s discussion. The FAQ linked to above does mention Fingbox, as well as a number of other options not discussed in this thread… :sunglasses:

I’m wondering why we would need another whole network box to do this?
My cell phone knows it is either on my wifi or not and android speaks to ifttt with the same latency right?
Why would fingbox be better than using android networking on the phone?

You don’t, necessarily, it just depends on exactly which router you have and which software you are willing to use.

Fingbox comes with this feature built in and is quite easy to use, so some people prefer it.

If you read the presence FAQ referenced above, you will find people have posted a number of different ways that they did it using their existing router without Fingbox. And of course some people have privacy concerns about any third-party service and would rather do it all themselves. So different things will work for different people. :sunglasses:

FAQ: The Many Ways of Detecting Presence

I already had the Fingbox so for me it was not an extra purchase. However, the application I found it useful for is not for knowing who is in the house when I or my wife are home, but rather who else is home when we are not. We have a rather popular 16 year old in the house. All her friends of course have to hang out here. As such I have captured all their devices on Fing. Now we know who is over. Especially who is over when we are not home. The cameras would tell us that if we were to look at them. But with this I can trigger messages tailored to who is there. For example, if a boyfriend comes over when we are not there (against the rules) I can trigger a tailored voice message over Alexa to tell him hello and that unfortunately it is time to go and if he doesn’t then I or my better half will be notified. He doesn’t need an app on his phone to do that. Fing tells us and triggers the announcement.

This is just one application but the basic reason is we don’t need apps like life 360 or SmartThings in every phone that enters the house. Guest mode can be triggered for some known people. Etc.



It seems like they’re REALLY close to having a fully functioning presence working with phone, I’ve used 4 different phones so with their own issues connecting to SHM automatically, but after this long with no solid working presence directly from ST, I’ve lost faith that it will ever work at all without a third party perfecting it. I’ve bought multiple apps, programmed multiple workarounds, followed all these tutorials and fixes, bought the official presence sensor, and even changed my phone, but ST refuses to just WORK. My last phone was an LGV20 which I was forced to upgrade due to it no longer getting updates, and it worked 99% of the time, just sometimes my presence was a bit delayed. My wife’s iPhone was hit and miss, she now has a Sony Xperia and it never has once worked, it shows present all the time, after talking to customer support, I get the same canned troubleshooting methods they always give me. My new phone is a Nokia 7.1, and as long as I restart my phone after leaving the house every day, it works fine, but if I don’t restart my phone, sitting at work it shows my presence at the house all day until I restart, then magically I’m not home after the reboot. After contacting ST support, they made suggestions about changing my geofence to another time zone and then changing it back to my house, they’ve suggested turning off battery saver which I’ve never used, and they’ve suggested removing my old phone which I’ve verified I already did to them every single time they ask. I’ve tried both classic and new apps, nothing works, so I give up, the battery hungry ST tracker works 100% of the time and recognises me in my front yard as soon as I walk up and 10 minutes after I leave, so it seems I’m buying stock in batteries

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Have u tried the Life 360 app.
That’s very reliable if u adjust it to not shut down when battery is low.
My Google pixel 2xl does the presence 99% perfect.
Make sure u are running the latest version of Android on your phone.