Use Your Smartphone as a Presence Sensor

A customer writes in to ask why he’s prompted to set his home location when creating an account, and what SmartThings will do with this information.

I recently got SmartThings and started looking through the app. Love the UX, but in the screens called “Set up your home,” how come you ask me to put in where my home location is? What will you do with this information?
–Fred

Great questions. In short: Setting your home on a map and using your smartphone as a presence sensor has a lot of good benefits, and we don’t do anything with anyone’s personal information. Here are more complete answers to Fred’s two questions:

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By setting your home location, your phone can act as a presence device.

After creating a free account, the first thing we invite people to do is to personalize where they plan on using SmartThings by giving it a name (“Home,” Office,” etc.), a preset or customized image, and a unique location.

While entering the location of your SmartThings Hub is completely optional, it’s an easy way to create an additional presence device free of charge. The reason is that, in the same way that the SmartSense Presence sensor can detect when you come and go, so can your smartphone. Since every smartphone has a built-in GPS sensor, if you identify your home’s location in our app, it can trigger different things to automatically happen (or stop happening) when you come in and out of the area you set on the map–doors lock or unlock, lights turn on or off, Sonos starts or stops playing, etc.

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SmartSense Presence tags are great for pets, cars, and small kids.

You also don’t need to carry a SmartSensePresence sensor if you’ve entered your home location–as both your smartphone and the Presence sensor can detect when you arrive and leave home. This frees up your SmartSense Presence sensors and lets you use them with people or things that don’t have smartphones (eg: know when a child gets home from school by placing a Presence sensor in his or her backpack, know when a spouse’s car is arriving in the driveway by placing a Presence sensor in the glove compartment, and know when the dog walker has taken Barkley out by placing a Presence sensor on his collar).


Setting your home location in the app doesn’t give SmartThings any information other than knowing the general area where your Hub is located.

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We can’t track anyone’s movements–just when they arrive and leave the area you set.

It’s very important to know that enabling your phone to act as a presence sensor does not enable SmartThings to track your movements. This is because SmartThings doesn’t use GPS tracking, but rather something called Geo-fencing. This simply detects when the phone you’re carrying comes in and out of the range you set up on the map, and then triggers the different actions you’ve set to happen.

Entering in your home location will always be optional, and customers are welcome to turn off Geo-fencing at any time. As always, if you have any questions, just drop us a line. Thanks!

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