Geofence in HE App constantly incorrectly changing

I have been patiently waiting for some solution to "pop up" in the community since the release of iOS 13. I have seen a couple of references but there never seems to be an adequate solution.

Here is my issue:

This seemed to start when I upgraded to iOS 13 a while back (I keep my devices updated). The HE app reports change of presence on both my and my wife's iPhone randomly and frequently with no obvious pattern. They are both iPhone 11 Pros. This issue has made presence completely unreliable and unusable. I have had to disable all presence rules as a result. I waited and watched the community to see if others were having problems and I saw a few references but nothing definitive and with no real solutions.

Here is a recap of what I have done to diagnose the problem:

I keep the latest version of the HE app updated. I have checked location services and it is set to "Always On". I have checked "Background App Refresh" for the HE App and it is set to "On". I have deleted and re-downloaded the app and reattached it to the existing hub and device. Nothing worked....

Today I got radical.

  1. I removed my iPhone device From the over 30 rules that were referenced
  2. Deleted the iPhone device from Hubitat.
  3. Deleted the App from my iPhone.
  4. Rebooted the iPhone
  5. Reset network settings on the iPhone (then reattached to the wifi network and renamed my iPhone back to its original name)
  6. Verified that the GPS was working properly in the iPhone with a diagnostic app (GPS was solid as a rock over a 1 hour period).
  7. Re-downloaded the app from the App Store
  8. Reinstalled it and set it up from scratch (Allowed location services "Always On")
  9. Checked "Background App Refresh" (ON)
  10. Verified that the device was created on the hub (all good)
  11. Sent a GeoEvent from the app
  12. Manually switched presence from present to not present from the devices entry on the hub (worked fine)
  13. Tested text notifications (worked fine)
  14. Created a new rule to notify me when presence changes.
  15. Sat at the kitchen bar and waited....

Only had to wait about 10 minutes and "Bam" I was suddenly not present and outside of the geofence. When I went back into the app it showed me inside with my blue dot and red pin perfectly aligned. Over the last hour, presence has transitioned 4 times outside of the geofence and back. The phone has not moved from its position at the kitchen bar.

What am I missing? Is it just me (and my wife) or is anybody else having this painful issue and just not talking about it?

Any help would be GREATLY appreciated as I am at a loss....

1 Like

Maybe this isn't the help you're looking for, but here's my opinion. In general, geofencing to determine presence is sucky. There are community apps, like Presence Governor, and Combined Presence, that make presence detection way more reliable.

I use Presence Governor to determine my presence using the following inputs:
Hubitat mobile app, Alexa mobile app, Life360 mobile app, Phone WiFi connection to router, and Front door key-codes.

It is super reliable ......

3 Likes

Thanks for the suggestion. I used to use just the HE app and it worked fine then it just went south..... I guess that my expectation was that it would one day work reliably again....

1 Like

Those apps exist because your experience is not unique. The minor difference in opinion(?) being that geofencing using any single app is less reliable than multiplexed presence detection .....

On iOS, I have heard that Locative works quite well.

1 Like

I don't disagree that multiple sources would give a more accurate sampling as with any measurement but I guess I wonder why there is even a presence function in the HE app if it isn't going to work right. It used to work fine for me, now it doesn't. That means that it's broken. If it is broken, why is it there (just saying)?

While I realize that I can combine multiple, broken, presence methods and rely on an average of the broken parts to do what I need, I don't see why I can't have one that works to do the same job. The HE app used to be that one that DID work reliably. I hate to rely on a plethora of methods with many moving parts (that break) to get one job done. That may be my only option at this point, but I would hope that the Hubitat development folks would check in and at least tell me that the app won't do what I want. They spent a great deal of resources and time developing the app to do that. Has anybody else been able to get it to work again?

Here's the thing, and I said this before. Presence via a mobile device is dependent on SO many factors that are difficult to control including:

  1. Changes in mobile OS (altered app priorities by the OS)
  2. Changes in cell tower load/accessibility
  3. Changes in battery state
  4. Changes in the number of apps running in foreground and background
  5. Differences between individual devices access to towers (where they're placed etc).

It's tough to control for all of these, and IMO, that's why individual apps work in a stochastic manner. This is not unique to the Hubitat mobile app. I haven't seen any mobile app that works consistently 100% of the time. The work around to that is multiplexing.

1 Like

Apple changed something with regards, for the worse, to background services.

I was having the same problems as you, then I started using the Combined Presence sensor + his iPhone WiFi driver and my rules dealing with being here or away have worked rock solid.

If you continue to think you can rely on just the app, you're going to do nothing but feed your frustration. The combined stuff works, people swear by it! (me being one of them)

4 Likes

I'm with you there.

2 Likes

I am well aware that I can do a "workaround" and get the answer. If I have to use bandaids and bobby pins to make it work, I will, but why doesn't somebody at Hubitat support check in and say that it doesn't work reliably (or it does)? In order for HE to be an acceptable consumer product and survive beyond the tinkerer and hobbyist, then what is presented as a solution HAS to work reliably. I have the technical knowledge to put these (and other pieces) together in a bastardized solution that will work as the sum of flawed solutions that hopefully won't all fail at the same time and I may very well do that. But to present a solution to the average consumer that doesn't have these skills with a shiny app that is represented as having these capabilities will do nothing but give Hubitat a bad name. I think that Home Automation has a future beyond our "technical" group and I could see Hubitat positioning itself as a viable player. In order to do that, it has to work as advertised and actually do what the product is designed to do. It DOES for the most part. If we "accept" that it's okay to be flawed and broken then the platform is dead already. I don't think that the folks at Hubitat have that defeatists mentality and I hope that they are looking down the road. The main reason that most people selected the Hubitat platform to start with is RELIABILITY. Freedom from the broken cloud based platforms, speed, security, and the other solid visions that made Hubitat exist in the first place. It's a good product/platform but it needs to work.... I'm not usually viewed as an idealist, far from it, but I like to hold up the standard and not accept "that its just flawed" and thats okay.

Sorry for the rant.... I really DO appreciate all of the fine suggestions from the talent in this community.

1 Like

It apparently works reliably for some. And, I'm sure, if the conditions I outlined were controlled it would work with the exact same reliability (or unreliability) for everyone.

I'm curious - your comment suggests that there must be home automation platform(s) whose mobile device app-based geofencing works with 100% reliability. Which one is it?

The apps with geofencing that I have used do not have that degree of reliability. And this includes Amazon's Alexa app, which is created on a budget that exceeds Hubitat's by several orders of magnitude ......

Maybe 5G with its micro-cell towers will improve reliability

1 Like

As a developer myself, I can attest that some things are at the mercy of Apple and their solutions to problems that don't exist sometimes.

You've got your recommendations, you can try them out and feel like it's a "bobby pin", or you can continue to be miserable over it not working with just the app alone.

Sorry I took time out of my day to try to help, but good luck anyways

Does it work reliable for some? My hope was to find out if in fact it did? It used to for me.

I never said what you infer in the second statement. Your second statement would seem to imply that if everybody else's app sucked then it would be okay for Hubitat app to suck as well. I guess that I don't subscribe to that. If Wink sucks should Hubitat suck and accept that same standard? I do have other apps that use geofencing that work for other applications (non-HA).

As far as budget..... budget does not always equate to quality or successful innovation. Again if Alexa sucks then I guess its okay for Hubitat to suck too...

Well I wasn't going to debate this but since you press the point.... other than to provide a reliable data path for the mobile device to the internet, the mobile wireless network has little to do with geolocation. The GPS in the unit dictates the location, not the cell tower, the mobile wireless network is there only to allow the location to be reported. In my case the cell isn't even a factor as I am at home on a solid mesh wifi network. The phone battery isn't a factor either. The number of apps running in background or load on the device isn't a factor. The only thing possibly relevant to my situation in your list of "factors" is the mobile OS.

It's probably worth resetting all iOS location data as well. Apple stores a lot of information that if wrong may interfere with proper location.

Settings → General → Reset → Reset Location & Privacy

1 Like

Incorrect. To be explicitly clear, my point is that no one I know of has geofencing working (and it is for reasons like those I have outlined). I view this as a limitation in the technology of geofencing using mobile devices, not in individual apps.

After posting that I checked if Apple's homekit worked for geofencing with 100% accuracy. And, like every other app, it doesn't.

That is the point. The reliability of that path is questionable. Not only when you use cell towers, but also when you use WiFi, because some phone manufacturers, including Apple, put the WiFi radio into a low-power mode in specific situations (others turn it off entirely).

Finally, Wink vs Hubitat. I would argue that while each of their apps has equivalently good or bad geofencing, Hubitat offers users multiple ways to compensate for that. AFAIK, Wink does not.

1 Like

I can’t speak to what specifically changed to make your presence detection less reliable on iOS than it used to be, but from a non-technical perspective, I believe it’s just kinda hard to have a geolocation function in a mobile app that works well, doesn’t kill the battery and weathers any changes in the underlying OS over time.

The GPS chip in your phone is not used to update location at all times for an app like hubitat, that would definitely kill the battery in no time.

1 Like

Please don't misunderstand, I appreciate your suggestion and thank you for taking the time to respond to my post. My intention was to find out from the support folks if they intend to fix their app or even if everyone else's experience was the same as mine. I agree that the changes in iOS could be a factor as my problems started shortly after that upgrade. I would hope that the HE support folks are working on "improving" the app to work in that new environment, if thats the problem. That was what I was trying to find out. You are correct that Apple upgrades break things and often the developer has no idea until after the fact. I just don't like accepting that if things are broken that it's okay to live with them that way, just because. Thanks again for your response.

I agree that battery life takes the brunt of the GPS updating regularly. The new function on the HE app certainly proves that LOL. Interestingly that new "Precision" location mode doesn't help my issue at all it seems to not have a lot of effect.

Agreed, I tried out the high accuracy feature in the iOS app and was truly astonished at how much of the time the app was using the battery vs. when that setting was disabled.

Are you using the iOS beta app through Test Flight? They just released a new version today and among the updates, it does mention location accuracy.

I think they're trying to address this, but you're right they don't say a lot about this specifically in the forums. I think they know that while people would like some validation re: complaints like yours (which are valid), at the same time users don't want to hear "we're trying to figure it out, but ultimately this is hard, especially when Apple changes how it's supposed to work."

@aaiyar's point is well taken. Other home automation platforms struggle with consistent geolocation too. If it were easy, everyone would have it down cold.

1 Like

I used to interact routinely with Kris Linquist (from Stringify) regarding their Android app. Its very tough to get geofencing right. What worked on a Samsung S6 wouldn't work on an S7 etc. etc.

And I would hear the same complaints about iPhone 5 vs 5s etc.

Geofencing is not easy with the existing infrastructure .....

2 Likes

I don't use the beta. I try to avoid those LOL. Thats good to know that a new one is coming out. Maybe it will help the situation. I think in general that the Hubitat folks do a good job and I don't want anybody to characterize my comments as a knock against them. I think that we all should strive for perfection and not "accept" something less simply because everybody else does. Thanks for the info.

1 Like