iOS/Hubitat - mobile based presence - *should* it work?

I’ve been using HE for a few months now (former ST user).

Loving it so far...although I am yet to iron out a few creases.

The biggest of these creases is mobile presence. I have not found a definitive answer on this topic.

I've been fiddling with geofence settings, and other settings (including those on the Beta iOS app) with little success.

Is HE presence supposed to work reliably ‘out-of-the-box’ on iOS devices?

Is there a known issue with HE presence detection on iOS?

For me, presence is an absolutely fundamental requirement for a home automation system. It's critical to a lot of my automations and it has to work reliably.

I know there are issues with iOS and how it manages background apps and has always worked quite reliably for me on Smartthings.

(at the moment my workaround is to use mobile (iPhone) presence on Smartthings, reporting to HE via hubconnect.)

So - that it works with Smartthings makes me wonder if this issue is (at least partially) a HE issue?

I am aware of the various other work-arounds (combined presence etc)- I'm not asking about those here...I just want to manage my expectations and get a clear idea of whether or not I have an issue, or whether this is a platform issue.

Please can somebody advise whether this is an 'officially' acknowledged limitation?

If it is not, I will know to follow up directly with support to fix what appears to be a problem at my end. If it’s a known issue, I’ll explore some other workarounds (although my ST via Hubconnect solution seems to work fine - but I'd rather have everything working natively in HE) and sit tight hoping a fix might emerge.


I was never completely happy with iOS presence detection under ST (Android seemed to work much better) and so didn't hold out hope that HE would work any better. That being said, it has gotten better (at least in the Beta version of the app), but I'd still recommend looking at using a combination of methods (wifi detection,etc.). There are some setting on iOS (and now Android) that relate to random IP and MAC address assignment that improve detection if turned off. You've already looked at the background authorization, but the app is also subject to the "sleep" mode of iOS.


My solution to the battery drain and quirkiness of presence detection in the HE iOS mobile app was

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I was unhappy with all options for geofencing (on Android) until I started using OwnTracks. When I switched to iOS last year, I continued using OwnTracks, and have yet to have a single missed geofencing event.

It used to be onerous to setup - requiring an MQTT broker on a separate computer; however, there is a native Hubitat integration for OwnTracks now, thanks to @brianwilson. His integration uses a webhook to directly call back to Hubitat, and is a snap to setup.


What I was hoping to avoid is another thread about workarounds...there are plenty of those.

For me home automation is a hobby rather than a necessity, and therefore I’m happy to play around with settings and install various fixes.

Trying to persuade other household members to muck around with settings (on their phones) that they don’t understand, and perhaps feel they don’t need is another challenge.

I just wanted to establish whether reliable location is something we should/can expect, natively, on this platform.

Mobile presence is hard, and the reliability for each user can vary regardless of which platform one is using because of many local variables.

I haven’t used my ST hub for three years, but I found it to be pretty good, not great, with mobile presence detection.

The iOS presence detection mechanism that Hubitat uses works differently than the way ST’s does, if I’m not mistaken (and Android too). That’s a choice they made so that the app is literally incapable of following your movements anywhere else, it only knows about geofence traversal.

Is it good enough by itself for iOS? In my experience, not really. But since ST couldn’t provide close enough to 100% reliability either (even if it was “better”), I have no issue with combining presence sensing options into a more reliable output. I take that on, and don’t expect anyone else in my family too. But that’s part of what I find enjoyable about this hobby.

Have you tried the high accuracy option in the app settings? That may improve the reliability dramatically, but watch out for battery drain. TBH, I last tried out that option several app versions ago, so it’s possible they’ve improved on that.

Give it a try and let us know. Only you can tell us if Hubitat’s mobile presence meets your needs, after all.

Yes - and like you battery died quickly.. I have not, yet, revisited that setting. I will.

Yep, I understand... we all have different requirements.
It is becoming clearer to me that I need to take responsibility for fixing this myself...and that's hobbyists we spend a lot of time trying to find solutions.
I was just hoping somebody (at Hubitat) might tell me "we're aware of this and we are working on it".

I understand. There’s a thin line between hobby and complete time suck sometimes!

While I think it’s fair to say they want to improve presence detection with the built-in app (given the limitations of how it functions in the interest of user privacy), they don’t tend to publicly comment on where potential improvements rank on their to-do list.

I've spent a lot of time on making presence reliable, and have found a recipe that others have also found useful:

  • Setup one or more geofencing techniques on your phone. I use Alexa and Homekit, but others use Life360 or Owntracks or similar.
  • Setup this sensor that detects if your phone is on your wifi: [UPDATED] iPhone WiFi Presence Sensor
  • Use my app to combine those inputs into one reliable output for your presence: [RELEASE] Combined Presence

I know those threads have become pretty long, and it can be daunting to read through, so here are direct links to a couple comments that show how it all ends up being set up when you're doing this for multiple members of your household:

Note: I do NOT use Hubitat's own iOS app for presence. I've tested it and it never worked well for me. YMMV.


This is a very helpful summary. Thank you!

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