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More Reliable Virtual Presence Sensors - Revised DTH’s to Detect Departure and Arrival

Updated: Sep 28, 2021

In a previous article titled, “Use Mobile Phone as Presence Sensor in NEW SmartThings App”, video link, I provided details for setting up a virtual presence device type handler or DTH which I used to create an virtual presence switch for each family member's mobile device. The Device Type Handler which I used to create my virtual presence switches or VPS, was developed by SmartThings Community contributor by the name of Austin Pritchett. In that same video I also showed how to use the virtual presence switch in an automation that could arm or disarm the SmartThings Home Monitor based on the arrival and departure of each family member's mobile device.

I’ve had several subscribers tell me that they are having problems with the reliability of these VPS or virtual presence switches. Typically I instruct my subscribers to be certain that they have the most current SmartThings App updates, as SmartThings continues to release new software versions with improved stability of reliability of many devices. I also urge them to verify that each family member’s phone is setup to give permission to SmartThings to “Get a location from the (member’s) phone”. This includes enabling permissions in the ST app as well as going into the phone’s settings and selecting the option to “Always Allow” notifications.

It is also important to make sure that you have your geolocation properly set. This setting can be accessed by clicking on the House icon while in your favorites screen. Improper settings for your homes geofence can cause your phones to be detected late, or not at all.

Because I too was experiencing sporadic issues with my installed VPS, I decided to search the SmartThings Community to see if there was an improved virtual presence device handler. What I found was a virtual presence device handler that was written by Ralph Torchia. I installed Ralph’s device handler about a week ago and I have found it to be better in functionality and reliability. What I mean by “better in function”, is that my phone’s presence icon now displays as either “Present “, or Not present. The former device handler icon displayed our phones as either “On” or “Off”, which was not very intuitive. As far as reliability, if have found the device handler to respond much quicker and a more accurately then the former Device Type Handler.

If you have already installed virtual presence switches based on my former video then you can simply log in to your SmartThings account at and copy and paste the provided GitHub code using the links below. You then just need to change the device type handler buy going to the “My Devices” tab, and edit former virtual presence devices by changing the device Type from the former “Virtual Presence Plus” DTH to the newly installed “Virtual Presence Sensor”

If you have not previously installed and setup the virtual presence device handler or virtual presence switches then I highly recommend that you watch that former video to get a better understanding of the steps needed to set things up. When you get to the section of the video where I instruct you to copy the GitHub code, you can substitute the code provided in the links below, rather then installing the code provided in that former video. Then when setting up your virtual presence switches with in the My Devices tab, you will simply select “Virtual Presence Sensor” as the device type.

At this point I’ll take you though the easy steps of installing Ralph’s GitHub code and changing your existing devices to the new Device Type Handler. These steps can be viewed in the following video:


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