Home and Away Status

Trigger Home and Away Status Automatically

There are lots of home automation tools which will automatically detect your home and away status to trigger their own actions, such as the Nest Thermostat, but for those of us that opted for cheaper options or want to trigger other actions based on our home and away status, there are other options. Perhaps you want to set up smart security lighting, trigger other heating devices such as your custom space heater, or trigger different behaviours when someone rings your doorbell. Being able to automatically trigger the home and away status will give you much more control.

I personally chose the Honeywell Smart Thermostat for my house which offers lots of the features I wanted, but does not have the automatic home and away status detection of the Nest model.

I also want to be able to trigger different behaviours for security lighting in my house if I’m away for a night which I don’t want to happen when I’m home. But with multiple people in the house, it’s a bit more challenging to track when there is someone home or away than just using the location option on IFTTT or Stringify. 

With all that said, let’s get to automating our home and away status!

Automating Home and Away Status in Stringify

Perhaps the best thing about Stringify is that it has the ability to handle multiple triggers and complex logic to take action, which we need in this case, unless you live alone and can use just the location on your mobile device as the trigger.

In my house we need to take into account two adults and three children and their whereabouts when we consider home and away. For this simple example I will ignore the kids and just focus on two adults.

I use the Google Home Wifi product for my wireless network throughout the house which integrates nicely into IFTTT for triggers based on connection or disconnection of devices which is the key to the extra magic here.

So let’s look at the use case:

  1. When both adults are out of the house, set the Stringify mode to “Away”
  2. When either adult is at the house, set the Stringify mode to “Home”

If I can meet both these conditions, then I can simply use the Stringify mode status as a trigger in other flows that are designed to take action based on whether we are at home or out of the house.

Trigger Away 1: Location of Device Leaves The House

To set up the flow we are going to use two triggers and one action in Stringify. Open your Stringify app and create a new flow, then drag IFTTT and Location to the first column and Mode to the second column.

Configure them as follows:

Trigger – IFTTT Applet Runs This Flow

Trigger – I am away from a location
Then make sure you set your home address and a reasonably tight radius (300M) so it will know when you are not home

Action – Change my mode to… Away

Now connect the nodes together as shown in the diagram to the right. First the IFTTT to the Mode, then the Location to the mid-point of the connection so that ONLY IF both the IFTTT trigger is run AND I’m away from home will the mode change to away.

Trigger Away 2: Device Disconnects from Google WiFi

For the second adult who doesn’t have Stringify installed, I need to determine when they leave the house, so I’m going to use the handy IFTTT trigger from Google Wifi to do this. Go to your IFTTT account or app and create a new applet as follows:

Trigger: Google Wifi – Device Disconnects
Device Name: Select the name of the mobile device that the other adult carries with them

Action: Stringify – Run a Stringify Flow
Flow name: Change Mode Away ID XXXX

Now you’re first use case is met – when I am away AND the second adult disconnects from WiFi (they are away) then Stringify will set the mode to Away.

Now we need to trigger when someone is home. But this is a bit more complicated because there are two independent conditions here. It isn’t when both adults are home that we want the mode set to home, it is when one OR the other are home.

Trigger Home 1: Location Is At Home

Again, let’s start with the simple version of this which just uses Stringify on it’s own and my device location to trigger home status. Create a new Stringify flow with just two nodes:

Trigger – When I enter an area
Then set the address and radius appropriately for your house

Action – Change my mode to… Home

Now just connect the two nodes and you’re done.

Regardless of where the second person is, when I enter the area of my home, Stringify will know that I’m home and run trigger any other actions based on a mode change.

Trigger Home 2: IFTTT Wifi Trigger

While slightly more complicated because we need to use both of our services, this still isn’t hard to set up. First we need to create the Stringify flow, so open a new flow called “Change Mode Home” and add the IFTTT and Mode nodes configured as follows:

Trigger – When IFTTT Applet runs this Flow

Action – Change my mode to… Home

Done… simple right?

Now go into your IFTTT and create the triggering applet as follows:

Trigger: Google Wifi – Device Connects
Device Name: Select the name of the mobile device that the other adult carries with them

Action: Stringify – Run a Stringify Flow
Flow name: Change Mode Home ID XXXX

And now you’re set. If the mobile device connects it will trigger the mode to change to Home and any other flows will run. Because these are independent flows, it actually doesn’t matter who gets home first. Once the mode is changed to home, the second person arriving just reaffirms that setting.

Now What? Home and Away Status Triggers

Now that you have a reliable way for your home and away status to be set automatically, you can do lots of neat things. For example:

Trigger Heating and Cooling Changes

While I have a schedule set in my thermostat for when I expect people to be home or away, I can now automatically turn down the heat even at non-traditional times of day and save even more money on my heating costs.

Trigger Security “Away” Lighting

Knowing that I’m away from home after sunset, I have configured a Stringify flow with a series of lighting changes in the house over a 3 hour period to simulate people being home. It works a lot like those old timer switches, but with more complex timing and lighting options.

Modify Other Flows

In some cases I don’t want my normal “home” flows like turning on my back yard lighting at sunset to run when I’m not at home. By using the Stringify mode as an additional condition on my existing flows I can change behaviours based on my home and away status.

I’d love to hear your ideas for how you might use this new “automatic” home and away status to improve your own home automation setup. Feel free to share your ideas!

Tim Empringham

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.