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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  • eliot_smartthings

    It’s also worth mentioning that aside from acting as an additional presence sensor, the one added benefit of setting your home location is that it allows you to use the Sunrise/Sunset functionality to automatically turn on/off lights and switches. This is because sunrise/sunset times are (obviously) determined by where you live, and the only way SmartThings would know this is if you set up a Geo-fence around your home’s location.

    • alttext

      And don’t forget the SmartWeather app (which is actually pulling info from WeatherUnderground.com)

  • Robert Andrews

    The radius range is not fine enough. For me, it’s leading to “left”/”arrived”/”left” duplicates.

  • Ron Anthony Quinn

    Great idea! I’m going to try this!

  • Kim Andrè Flaten

    Im unable to save my location, any idea? so unable to add mobile as mobil presence :(

  • How do I make my proximity area smaller? I’d like to be able to see my garage door close when I leave my property, not 3 blocks down the road – it won’t get that fine for me :-)

  • Louis Baumann

    I would also like the radius to allow for a smaller setting like 100′. The minimum of 500′ is too big and whenever I drive on an adjacent street passing my house SmartThings sets me to being home and then when I immediately leave the circle, since I’m just passing through, it doesn’t set me away. Very annoying.

  • Rahul Singh

    A GPS route sensor is a sensor that precisely ascertains geological area by getting data from GPS satellites. At first, it was utilized by the United States military, however now generally utilized as a part of the most recent cell phones.

    As we realize that the Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite-based route framework made up of a system of at least 24 satellite as the satellite information is free and works anyplace on the planet. It’s paramount that the GPS sign is extremely frail when they touch base at the Earth’s surface so to make them usable for the clients GPS sensors are utilized which by investigative preparing give us the precise and required information.

  • Peter Smith

    I want to replace my old phone, which I used as a presence sensor, with a new one, which I now want to use for that presence sensor. It appears I have to add the new phone as a presence sensor, then update all SmartApps the old phone presence sensor reported it was used by, by removing the old phone and adding the new one, then finally remove the old phone as a presence sensor. Is that the simplest way to do this? The presence sensor is used by 6 different SmartApps.

    If there isn’t, shouldn’t there be a way to replace the old presence sensor/phone with a new one, without having to change all the Apps. There should be a level of indirection that facilitates this. Thanks, Peter

    • I came to this article to get this exact issue resolved. Have you figured this out yet?

  • Kevin Rutledge

    Would enabling this cause battery to drain faster?