51Degrees Pipeline Documentation  4.1Newer Version 4.4


Most device detection solutions rely primarily on the User-Agent HTTP header. However, the content of this header can be any string at all. This inevitably leads to situations where finding an exact match to a previously observed User-Agent is not possible.

A false positive occurs when the service tells you it has found a match but in reality the details provided are incorrect.

In these scenarios, different use-cases often demand different responses. 51Degrees Device Detection allows the developer to determine exactly what happens.


The Device Detection API returns many different properties. Every single one of these can either have a specified value or not.

Each language implements this differently but in all cases, there will be some form of HasValue method or property associated with each result property. Where HasValue is false, accessing the property value will cause an exception to be returned or thrown (depending on the language).

The detail associated with this exception will explain why the property does not have a specified value.

No Match Found

In some cases, the device detection algorithm can fail to find any match at all for the supplied evidence.

The AllowUnmatched setting can be used to control what happens in this situation.

If AllowUnmatched is false (default) then no result will be returned and HasValue will be false for the requested properties.

If AllowUnmatched is true then the default profile will be returned.

The default profile has specific values for properties but they may be incorrect. For example, the default hardware profile has IsMobile = false. In reality, if no match was found then we have no idea if the device is a mobile device or not.

Bad Match

The Difference value is used to measure how different a potential match is from the supplied evidence. The Drift value is used to measure how far a matching sub-string is from it's expected position.

The maximum allowable Difference and Drift values can be set when the engine is created. This is used to control how far the supplied evidence is allowed to differ from the real-world training data that was used to create the data file.

For example, if the maximum Difference value is set to 0 (default) then a match will only be returned if the difference value is 0.

If the maximum Difference or Drift setting prevents any result from being returned then HasValue will be false for the requested properties.

By default, Difference and Drift are set to 0. (I.e. no deviation from the expected sub strings is permitted). Setting them to -1 will mean that there is no limit. However, note that this often results in highly inaccurate results and does not guarantee a match will always be found.

Match Meta-Data

Regardless of the settings used, the result will return additional meta-data that can be queried to find out details about the match.

Difference - Contains the difference value between the supplied evidence and the returned match.

UserAgents - Contains a list of the matching substrings from the User-Agent.

Drift - Contains the drift value between the supplied evidence and the returned match.

MatchedNodes - The number of 'nodes' in the hash tree where a match was found. If this is zero then no match was found.

Method - The method used to find a match. 'EXACT' indicates an exact match. 'NONE' indicates no match. Any other value is the name of the technique used to find the result that best matches the supplied evidence.

The 'Unknown' Value

Previous versions of the device detection API were unable to indicate that a property did not have a value.

Therefore, in the past, the string values Unknown or N/A were used to indicate that the API did not have a value for a particular property.

These values are treated as distinct from HasValue. I.e. It is possible for HasValue to return true and Value to return Unknown.

In the future, this may be changed so that HasValue will return false if Value is Unknown, N/A or similar but this is not currently planned.


I only want a result if the API is reasonably sure it is correct.

Set AllowUnmatched to false.

Set Difference and Drift to 10.

I only want exact matches to previously observed User-Agents. (Default configuration)

Set AllowUnmatched to false.

Set Difference and Drift to 0.

These settings will mean that a result is only returned if it exactly matches a unique sub-string from a User-Agent that has been included when building the data file.

If there is no match found then I want the API to assume that the device is a desktop running an unknown operating system.

Set AllowUnmatched to true.

Difference and Drift do not influence this use-case.

This setting will cause the default (desktop) profiles to be returned if there is no match.

I'm migrating from 51Degrees V3 device detection and want to retain the previous functionality.


I want to keep my as code simple as possible. I'm not worried about some false positives.

Set AllowUnmatched to true. Set Difference (and Drift if using Hash) to -1.

These settings will mean that HasValue is never false. Each property will always have a value so you don't need to worry about dealing with a situation where they do not.