Geofencing alternatives

I’m open to hearing your ideas, but I think it’s OT to go much further in that direction on this thread. PM me, or if you think some public discourse is in order, let’s take it to the Lounge.

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@rigpapa I would be interested in continuing a conversation on your geofencing solution. I cannot get to the Lounge, not sure if it is a private area or what. I am exploring IPhoneLocator but it only works with iCloud accounts and Google cloud accounts. If there are alternatives, I would like to explore.

OK. I moved the conversation here. Let’s talk about this, because I’m interested in more feedback.

My solution is based on an AWS cloud service I developed that communicates via WebSocket connection with a plugin installed on the Vera. The cloud services gathers location data from your mobile devices, handle region entry/exit, and update the plugin with state for each mobile device. The plugin maintains state of a virtual motion sensor for each device (so tripped is home, untripped is not home). The first mobile app I integrated, and still today the primary one I point people to, is OwnTracks. But it can work with Tasker, GPS Logger, or a number of other applications–really anything that is capable of doing an HTTP POST with location data periodically.

The cloud service has a web site where you can see an integrated (and live) view of all your devices, get configuration information and instructions for each, etc. I also plan to extend the services there with more features.

It works. I think it even works well. It definitely works better than Vera’s native geofencing (which should surprise no one, as I specifically set out to right those). But it’s not without challenges. Currently:

  1. Increasing security/privacy on Apple iOS makes setup a bit more challenging. In the face of GDPR and California’s CCPA, they are tightening screws. There was a while where one update after another progressively tightened more. But, it still seems to work. Having only old Apple devices to test with (and no plans to buy new), I can’t see these issues myself, as they’ve appeared only in the latest updates, but it has been reported that they can, for the most part, be worked around without too much fuss.
  2. On Android, since the OS can be customized by each vendor, and some do quite heavily, certain devices simply will not work, and a large number require that you make some configuration changes to the phone to overcome manufacturer defaults aimed at maximizing battery life. Notable among these seems to be Huawei–it puts background apps to sleep and there’s no way to make it not do that. So Huawei is not supported. Other devices, like Samsung, which I myself use, require that you teach it not to sleep background apps, and give the app permission to use location services in the background, and other such things. These are all pretty well documented, and once you go through the dance, things work pretty well. My family uses Samsung and LG devices, and we’re quite successful with both.
  3. OwnTracks itself is not a perfect app. The iOS app is a considerably better piece of machinery than the Andriod app, in the sense that it seems to support more of the documented features that OwnTracks claims. The Android app seems to be in the hands of one developer who is slow to look at problems and uninterested in supporting some of the documented, but not implemented, features that would be “nice to have.” But the basic function of updating location works, so while it’s a shame we can’t do a few other cool things (like send messages to the phone/app, or preconfigure settings remotely for optimal behavior), it’s passable.

There are also some business issues to be resolved:

  1. Currently, I provide the service for free. But it costs me a bit every month in Amazon AWS services (more than I get in donations). Some of the things needed by the system aren’t within the scope of AWS’ free tier services, and even those modest fees add up. Currently, the system costs me about $125/month to operate, with no revenue in return. The nature of the services has “shelves” in the billing, so it is likely I could support quite a few more users before that number changes, but change it will. On the plus side, the service could work with eZLO’s new firmware, it can work with Home Assistant, it can work with Hubitat. So I could push my reach out to broader scope and get busy generating revenue; I just haven’t done it yet. But if I continue the service, and that’s still an “if”, it will not be free in future.

  2. GDPR is also an issue; it’s very strict, onerous, and opens up liability far in excess of any revenue that could likely be generated. So I do not allow the product to be used anywhere that GDPR is in effect.

If you want me to create an account for you, just PM me (do not reply here) with your email address, which I use as your account username. You get no email from me or the system other than required communication (password reset links and that kind of thing from the system, status notices from me if I’m going to do maintenance–I think I’ve sent 2 emails so far this year).

If anyone currently using it is reading this, feel free to chime in and add your feedback, good or bad. I haven’t heard from anyone in a while, so no news is good news, right? :slight_smile:

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Hi Patrick,

I have been running your GeoTracking app for quite awhile. Have OwnTracks on our 2 Samsung S9’s and it works pretty good. My wife’s phone sometimes doesn’t report that she has left the neighborhood, though I think mine works more reliably. Now that we are retired and in lock down, I don’t have many interesting test cases so haven’t been doing a lot with it. Using it mostly to control camera modes in BlueIris.

Roger

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