App geofencing or presence devices?

I'm happy to see the Hubitat app but I have some questions about it.

First off I have a question about geofencing. I am guessing that the app uses GPS location to determine its location and communicates that to the hub. The upside is that it is probably quite accurate. The down side is that it will be using data to do the communicating. I'm on Google Fi which uses WiFi primarily but uses cellular data when it is not. That cellular data is not unlimited. I don't know how much data is used but if we do an extended trip, I can see a constant stream of data being sent from the phone to the hub. I dont' think that is a good idea.

Second is related. Why not use the phone's connection to the home WiFi network as the trigger for geofencing? I don't know if there is any way for the app to determine if the home WiFi connection is present or absent. If that could be done, I think it would cut down on the need to send data over cellular.

Third, is there any real advantage to using the app's geofencing over presence devices like the Iris V1 key fobs or V2 smart fobs? I realize that if one does not have any presence devices, this would be very useful even if it did use cellular data. However, since we do have Iris key/smart fobs, it seems like it is not as desirable unless the key/smart fobs die.

I am interested in getting other people's opinions of this geofencing function.

One other thing is the notifications. I tried setting up a notification to be sent to the phone via the app if a door is left open. When I tested it, nothing happened. Is this a function that has not been implemented?

The mobile app uses the location services in the device to determine if the device is in or out of the circle on the map. That is it, no gps data is transmitted or leaves the phone. Only an event on enter or exit is sent directly to the hub. This requires an active cloud connection (hub and device).

So if you are on wifi, it will communicate your presence on wifi. If you leave the geofence but stay on wifi or transition to cellular, it will send the exit event to the hub.

Accessing a wifi access point name is not a reliable means to determine location. For some, it might be good enough but for others it isn't going to be reliable. On top of it, turning off wifi or rebooting your WAP isn't leaving your house, so how do you tell the difference.

For those that want GPS based presence / geofencing the mobile app is a solid and reliable way to determine if you have crossed an arbitrary line on a map. Other solutions you outlined are simply if you have joined a mesh or network or not. Both serve different purposes.

The mobile app was developed for those that wanted all 3 services, remote dashboards, push notifications and geofencing. Nothing requires you to use the app.

Push notifications are working fine and implemented, but something isn't working on your end, you can try logging out and back in and see if that fixes it.


Edit: A phone reboot did not help. I am still getting the error message.
In this case, it was not just the phone which I needed to log out and log in on, but the desktop login. I had deleted the mobile device entry from devices. Not knowing how to add it back in, I quit Firefox. When I logged back in, I started getting notifications, but I found 4 instances of moto X4. I deleted three of these, leaving only one entry. I'll see what happens, but I am now getting notifications.

I logged out and logged back in. I got an error message:
For input string: "MotoX4"

Initially, I had given the phone the name Stephen's Moto X4. I tried changing it to Stephen Moto X4, then to MotoX4 but I am still getting this error.

If I click OK, it changes to
Please wait...
Fetching users data...

Then it just sits there with the spinning circle.

I am rebooting the phone to see if that will fix this new problem.
So then for geofencing, it only sends data when the state changes? That is better. I thought it would be sending often. If that is the case, I would feel more comfortable using it. I will shrink the circle so that it will not be that big.

As for WiFi, my router stays on except for the very rare occasion when it has to be rebooted. It has to stay on for the sake of the WiFi devices, including the phones. For this reason, the router is on an UPS along with the cable modem. My phone gets rebooted much more frequently than the router.

I am doing just that. I use FINGBOX integration with IFTTT and IFTTT with Hubitat. FINGBOX sees phone connect/disconnect to home network, tells Hubitat to change presensce/switch status.

I would like to see a FINGBOX to Hubitat direct integration. Should be doable. Both operate locally.

IFTTT has its own WiFi connect/disconnect capability (at least on Android) without having to use anything else...

There's a simple way of doing this that avoids the use of IFTTT. Use @jwetzel1492's iPhone WiFi Presence Sensor - [UPDATED] iPhone WiFi Presence Sensor

And, despite the name, it works with Android phones as well.

Regarding Fingbox, I have one also. AFAIK, they offer a documented cloud API, but no local API.


One other thing. While I read that on iOS, the geofencing keeps turning off, I am having the opposite issue. I disable geofencing on both the local and cloud app but when I check back, it is turned back on. I turn it off and later it is turned back on again!

Motorola X4 running Android 9.

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In my case my router supports IFTTT directly. So given the 4 options for presence/absence detection without using the mobile app:
1-Router - IFTTT- Hubitat
3-Custom Device driver that checks for active IP assignment
Any thoughts on which of those is the most reliable? Pitfalls of one verses the other?

Why pick one? You could pick them all and multiplex them into a virtual presence sensor using something like Presence Governor.

P.S. If your router to connects directly to IFTTT is Google WiFi, my experience with it was hit or miss for the IFTTT applet triggering in a timely manner.

Edit: Just tested Google WiFi/IFTTT out again this morning, and it is way faster than it was about a year ago.

Neat! I had no idea that Google WiFi feature existed, thanks for pointing that out

I bought a ST presence sensor, what a piece of unreliable junk!

I’ve been using @jwetzel1492 ‘a combined sensor using the Hubitat app and his IPhone Presence sensor, which has been doing a great job of detecting me myself home/away but this IFTTT ability would be great for my car leaving/arriving since Sync3 wants WiFi

Thanks again for pointing that out

Its good for arriving, but not for departing because at least with my Ford & Sync3, WiFi disconnects about 5-10 minutes after I turn the ignition off.

That gets (undesirably) interpreted as a departure event.

Arriving would be what I’m after to pull up to garage and have it open and turn on lights at night

For the departing: I’ve got some mad scientist levels of Rule Machine kicking around in my head lol

I bought some Iris 3450-L2 (second gen) fobs. From my testing, they are less reliable for presence than the SmartThings arrival sensor I'm using:

Several people have reported issues with the SmartThings arrival sensor, but mine has been very reliable with 2 caveats:

  1. The mesh needs to be solid. To increase the reliability and allow other Zigbee devices away from the house, I've going to extend my mesh with one or more repeaters outside. The only time I've had issues to date is when I had other problems with my mesh or....

  2. The battery contacts on the arrival sensor are "fiddly". Care must be taken not to bend them where they don't hold the battery firmly. So attention needs to be given when swapping the battery out. If the battery is low or not making good contact, you will have problems with the arrival sensor.

I will probably retest the Iris fobs again once I put Zigbee repeaters outside. The initial tests may have been influenced by other Zigbee mesh issues.

Having been a long time Iris user, I would not recommend the Iris fobs. I fought with them for years because Iris did not have a geofencing function. They can take up to 2 minutes to notify the hub that you are home unless Hubitat has changed the ping rate. On Iris it was every 2 minutes. That doesn't sound like it is that long unless you are standing by the front door waiting for your lock to unlock and your alarm to be turned off.
What has been rock solid for me on both SmartThings and Hubitat is Life360. I have not had it fail since I have been using it which is one year now. It is way more reliable (for me anyway) than any built in geofencing function that I have tried including Nest, Blue Iris and SmartThings. I did not even consider the Hubitat built in function because I have Life360 installed on all family members phones, even if they don't live with us, so that certain functions happen when they visit. That way they do not have access to Hubitat and do not need the Hubitat app on their phone.

99% of the time, the alarm has turned off by the time I reach the front door. If the warning tones start to sound, I can just hit the disarm button on the fob. For me, the Iris fobs (which I already had) beat going out and purchasing another device to gain that last 1%.

Life360 looks like it is an app that could share family locations, not just with family members, but who knows where else (e.g. China) the location data is being sent? I prefer the Iris Smart Fobs or other local devices that don't require Internet sharing of location data.

I found an article which contains this:

The company may say its mission is to help families, but it’s also a business—one that is trying to grow. Life360 quietly went public on the Australian Securities Exchange in May. Its prospectus claims that the company has “amassed one of the world’s largest digital audiences of security-conscious family units" and has "deep insights into these Users in a way that was not possible before the smartphone. We know where our Users live, work, shop, drive and more.”

And the company is using that data to, well, sell car insurance. According to the company’s privacy policy, it shares your “personal information, driving event data, and other information,” with the risk-assessment firm Arity, which uses that information to calculate insurance pricing and “develop risk-predictive models for its own analytics purposes.” Arity is a subsidiary of the insurance giant Allstate, which is also an investor in Life360. In its prospectus earlier this year, Life360 said it hopes to soon offer US customers Allstate insurance plans that are customized based on how they drive. And why stop at cars? The company woos potential investors with grand plans of one day disrupting areas like general insurance, home security, elder care, and more. When Life360 detects you’ve moved, for instance, it could offer to sell you new surveillance cameras.

Life360 is not something I want.

I agree completely. I bought the Hubitat for local control. My goal is to eventually have my smart home 100% local other than maybe the Hubitat app (primarily for notifications). The one thing I haven't found a good replacement for yet is a local and reliable voice control to replace the Amazon Echos.

I'd prefer the fobs as well, but (for me anyways) they don't work for nuthin'. Completely useless when it takes 2-5 minutes to decide "hey, you're home"

One advantage to using a mobile phone as a presence device is that the geofence can be far larger than what could be done with a zigbee device. For example if you want a thermostat setpoint to change when you’re still several miles from home.

Or you can create automations based on arrival/departure from locations other than where your hub is. For example when you leave work.

There are several geolocation apps that aren’t nearly as invasive as Life360 (according to their privacy policies at least).

I have a SmartThings presence sensor which is quite reliable but the battery doesn't last long and when it fails it's extremely fiddly to replace and get a good connection. I resorted to wrapping electrical tape right around the battery insitu, which works really good but now upon replacing again leads to a sticky mess. I have an Iris 4 button fob, 2nd hand shipped all the way from the USA as quite high cost - and it's utter junk. Drops off the mesh or needs multiple button pushes to respond, and the battery seat is even worse than the Samsung. So in the end I went for a combined Presence approach using (1) wifi connection app (fixed IP, utterly reliable), (2) life 360 (quite reliable for us) and (3) Hubitat app (quite reliable). I simply use RM to build our Combined Presence based on a recipe/combo of these that works for us. If everyone is out then the switch on the right turns on and controls alarm, lights and AC off/on etc. On the left I put our Withings sleep pads. It makes for quite a nice presence dashboard.

You can see in this example here that Life360 has failed to update for me but because the other 2 are validated then it knows I'm home. Then the wife is below, and finally at the bottom a guest can use the Iris fob (which as I said doesn't work well at all anyway). I have some buttons for Life360 refresh, property rental mode etc.

Hope it gives you some ideas!

Strange that the Iris Smart Fob is not working reliably. Ours have been fantastic. Both my wife and I have them and except when the battery has run low, have been very reliable. Have you tried a fresh battery in the Smart Fob?

I know what you mean about the battery seat. The side terminal for the positive can break off. I had to re-solder and glue one of them. I have one that I purchased that is unusable because it came without the side battery terminal. I am waiting for one of the ones we are using to die so I can transfer the terminal to that one and put it to use.