HomeHome AutomationSonoff Presence Sensor (SNZB-06P) is not what you think

Sonoff Presence Sensor (SNZB-06P) is not what you think

Great detection but...

After having some fun with Aqara FP2 – which I will cover eventually, I anticipated a similar solution from ITEAD. After all, the only device able to detect presence in rooms was a very inexpensive but slightly dated Sonoff ZB PIR Sensor. I was eager to open and try the Sonoff Presence Sensor (SNZB-06P), as it brought two of my favourite features together: a ZigBee 3.0 protocol and mm-wave presence detection.

It’s not what you think

Anyone expecting a less expensive version of Aqara FP2 that uses ZigBee 3.0 will be disappointed. Priced at $14.90 at launch, the Sonoff Presence Sensor (SNZB-06P) promises affordable and reliable presence detection without breaking the bank. The problem isn’t with the sensor itself but the expectations set by similar devices in that space. If you consider your use cases right, Sonoff Presence Sensor (SNZB-06P) could be for you, but read the article to manage your expectations well.

Unlike other sensors from the Sonoff ZB series Sonoff Presence Sensor (SNZB-06P) is not powered by a battery but comes with a USB-C cord to keep the device powered. It’s ZigBee, so you need a hub, and ITEAD recommends Sonoff ZB Bridge PRO, with iHost and NS Panel Pro to follow suit. I used one of the spare Sonoff Bridges that are not flashed yet with Tasmota and I gave it a go.

The senor alone is as play as they can get. A single button to pair it, and a dome which can be oriented in any direction thanks to a magnetic base. It works actually well – and I wish more sensors would adopt this fit type.

In eWeLink

After a brief paring in eWelink (Sonoff Presence Sensor has a button for that), I was treated by a card which is… standard. The card of the sensor tells you one thing, and one thing only – if someone is present. It gets a little better in the automation panel where additional triggers are exposed:

  • No one present
  • Person present
  • Person present in a bright environment
  • Person present in a dim environment

Straight away I saw problems with the premise. Considering how accurate mm-wave sensors are, it almost feels ridiculous not to utilise the technology better. Even advanced features offer only 2 options:

  • Detection duration (min 01 min)
  • Sensitivity (low/med/high)

For a tech that is capable of “hearing your breath”, the Sonoff Presence Sensor is extremely underutilized. The tech can detect multiple targets at once and provide a very accurate distance from the sensor. Even light detection boils down to 2 conditions (bright/dim) which cannot be adjusted. No settings for brightness threshold almost make this feature irrelevant.

It can be good

With everything aside, as long as you can get over the 1 min timeout (Sonoff ppl confirmed they are working on a way of decreasing it) – the Sonoff Presence Sensor is a very reliable alternative to the rather simple Sonoff ZB PIR. It would work in situations where PIR either trigger false positives (harsh light conditions) or simply expires due to no movement. Paying $15 for a sensor which is basically foolproof to these shortcomings isn’t a terrible deal.

Other ecosystems

My new Tuya hub is on its way, but I thought I would try something new. I already own a ZigBee-enabled Amazon Echo Hub, but up until now, I have been using the Alexa app to set everything up.

“Alexa, add new device”

Was enough to trigger the pairing mode, even from another speaker. And just like that, the Sonoff Presence Sensor appeared on my list of devices. While the device card has absolutely no settings, the routine panel allowed me to set the timeout and it worked well. Unfortunately, the device card isn’t very responsive in showing your present/not present state. It doesn’t ruin the automation but it makes it harder to figure out if someone is in the room or not by looking at the card alone.

Sonoff Presence Sensor in ZigBee2MQTT

Will custom Sonoff ZigBee Coordinator be a saviour? Aqara FP2 may have all the funky features, but the fact that it cannot be easily used with custom automation works against it. Let’s see what I could expect from the Sonoff Presence Sensor in ZigBee2MQTT.

I was very surprised to learn that the Z2M update process did not update my installation. I was positive about the Sonoff Presence Sensor having already a converter in place, but no matter how hard I tried, it failed each time.

Once I installed Z2M anew, everything fell into place and I was able to use the device without any issues. So what’s exposed? Not much:

{"linkquality":40,
"occupancy":true}

However, the sensor is extremely hard to fool. Even with a sensor facing the walls, it can detect your presence from the changes in your surroundings. It’s nuts how accurate it is. I had to cover it with a piece of metal to actually make it time out for testing. It’s going to be fun to create automation with it. I only wish it would also offer a distance for the detection.

With a bit of NodeRED magic, I was able to restore the basic functionality of the sensor. This little web interface shows the current sensor state and the duration it has been in this state.

This flow will actually work for any PIR sensor, so if you like the idea, you can add this to other sensors that submit true|false states back to NodeRED. You can download the flow below.

Final thoughts

Now that you know what to expect, you can decide if the Sonoff Presence Sensor is for you. It’s not what we all wanted (the ZigBee version of Aqara FP2) but it’s a solid choice if all you want is your lights to stay on while you chill on the sofa. For that Sonoff Presence Sensor is pretty much okay, even if you have to pay $15 for it. Let me know what you think in this Reddit thread.

🆓📈 – See the transparency note for details.

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