The Aeon Labs MultiSensor is probably the best-looking of the currently available Z-Wave PIRs. It combines the functions of motion sensor, temperature sensor, humidity sensor, and light sensor into a single package. The MultiSensor can be powered either by internal battery or by external 5-Volt power supply, and it is rated for outdoor use, having a waterproof design. It has two mounting options (wall or ceiling) and it has an adjustable sensitivity level. The MultiSensor has a claimed battery life of 12 months under optimal conditions, and it will detect and report a low battery level condition.
The documentation that comes packaged with the MultiSensor and which is also available on the Aeotec site does a good job of describing how to physically mount the device. The sensor has two mounting options: a flat base for mounting the sensor on the ceiling, and a swivel base for mounting the sensor on a wall. The swivel base has a locking nut which can be tightened to hold the sensor in position once you have determined the best angle. The necessary mounting hardware comes packaged with the device. The documentation says that the MultiSensor is waterproofed for outdoor use as long as care is taken to mount the device so that the humidity sensor vent is facing downward.
Two options are provided for powering the MultiSensor. The documentation shows that the sensor face can be untwisted counterclockwise from the base, revealing a compartment for four AAA batteries inside. The documentation does not explain that the MultiSensor can also be powered by an external 5 VDC power supply via the mini-USB port also located inside the battery compartment.
In an email exchange with Chris Cheng of Aeon Labs, he says that he is working on a new document that explains the USB power option (the USB port is also used for installing firmware updates, which is also not explained in the current documentation). Chris’ new document will emphasize that it is important to determine in advance which power option will be used, and that option should be used at the time when the MultiSensor is first included into the Z-Wave network. Apparently there is some intelligence inside that establishes certain parameter settings during the inclusion process, and the power option used will have a bearing upon the values of those settings. Chris’ new document will also explain that when the MultiSensor is under USB power it will never go to sleep, whereas when under battery power, the MultiSensor will follow a sleeping/waking cycle, which is governed by parameter settings. Those settings will need to be optimized by the user to get the best combination of responsiveness and battery life. Of course, with USB power there will be the issue of hiding the external power supply and cable. The included documentation says that when properly optimized you can expect up to one year of battery life.
Updating the Firmware
Chris Cheng suggests that before including the MultiSensor into your Z-Wave network, you first update the firmware using the included USB cable. This process is not explained in the documentation included with the device, but Chris plans to detail the steps in the new document that he is working on. I became familiar with the firmware updates when I discovered that my MultiSensor was reporting temperature readings in Celsius degrees, whereas in the U.S. I would expect temperature in Fahrenheit degrees. Some web-searching turned up references to European MultiSensors being pre-configured from the manufacturer to report temperature in Celsius, and U.S. models being configured to report in Fahrenheit. Additional searching on the Aeotec site turned up separate firmware updates for the U.S. and Europe. Guessing that maybe the units of measure were established by the firmware, I downloaded and installed the U.S. firmware, and voilà, temperature readings in Fahrenheit. Chris says that you will first need to install the USB driver onto your computer, downloaded from http://www.silabs.com/products/mcu/pages/usbtouartbridgevcpdrivers.aspx. I skipped this step and was still successful in updating the MultiSensor firmware. Maybe I already had the driver installed and didn’t know it. The MultiSensor firmware can be downloaded from the Aeotec support site: www.aeotec.com/support. Just run the zipped executable while the MultiSensor is connected to the computer via the included USB cable.
There is a black button inside the battery compartment for including the MultiSensor into a Z-Wave network. The documentation explains how to add the MultiSensor to the network by using an Aeon Labs MiniMote and by pressing the include button on the sensor once during the procedure. Of course the documentation cannot be expected to explain how to add the MultiSensor using other controllers or gateways. For that you will need to refer to the instructions for your particular controller. Chris Cheng points out the importance of performing the inclusion at the physical location where the sensor will be mounted. This involves bringing the controller, gateway, or Z-Wave USB stick, to the sensor’s location, as opposed to taking the sensor to the controller. The reason for this is that at the time of inclusion, the controller will find the nearest neighbors in the vicinity of the sensor and will populate a list onboard the sensor of those nearest neighbors. Those neighbors in the mesh network are used by the sensor to relay notifications generated by the sensor. In my case I used a Vera 3 controller to add the MultiSensor to my network, but the Vera documentation alone did not seem quite adequate in the case of including the MultiSensor. However, I did find an excellent how-to on an Australian forum for adding the MultiSensor to a Vera network: http://www.smartliving.com.au/forum/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=75#p506 This forum posting also mentions the importance of updating the firmware first, before including the sensor in the network. The Australian forum posting says that the MultiSensor can be woken by pressing the black button three times in rapid succession. Chris Cheng confirms that this is true, although it is not mentioned in the included documentation. Chris says that is another detail that he will include in his new document. I found that this trick of pressing the button three times comes in handy during inclusion and when making configuration changes, because for some reason the MultiSensor seems to fall asleep during Vera configuration sessions. Vera will timeout with an error, saying “failed to transmit user settings.” After refreshing the Vera screen, Vera will indicate: “waiting for wakeup to configure device.” Pressing the black button three times will send the wakeup notification to Vera, and Vera will attempt again to send the configuration settings. In my experience I have had to wake the MultiSensor up more than once to complete the configuration process. I don’t know if Vera is putting the MultiSensor to sleep during the session or if the MultiSensor awake time is too short, but the sensor was going to sleep before the configuration was finished, and it caused me some frustration. Chris Cheng says that he has tested the wakeup time on multiple MultiSensors, and they all stay awake for approximately 10 minutes, so I suspect there is a problem on the Vera-side. By the way, Chris says that when the sensor is awake, pressing the black button three times will put it to sleep.
I have been getting fairly good battery life from the other sensors in my system by setting the wakeup interval to 14400 seconds. I have also configured Vera to not poll my sensors (polling interval = 0). But the battery level on my MultiSensor is down to 58% after being in service for just two months. I mentioned this in my email exchange with Chris Cheng, and he responded with a list of parameter settings that he recommends for optimal battery life. Chris says that he recommends setting parameter 3 to 480 seconds. Parameter 3 is “the timeout period of no-motion detected before the Multisensor sends the OFF state after being triggered.” In other words, this is the minimum interval at which the motion sensor can be re-triggered. I had parameter 3 set to 10 seconds, and my sensor is in a high-traffic area. Consequently, the MultiSensor was sending motion-detected reports every 10 seconds when people were present. Chris says: “the Multisensor uses the most power when sending reports to the primary controller (in this case, Vera).” Other than during the initial debugging and testing period, there is no need for me to have the motion sensor fire motion events every 10 seconds. The two scenes that my MultiSensor drives are an LED rope light (nightlight-on), which has its own timer to keep it on for 5 minutes after motion is detected, and the other scene is an alarm-on scene which is latched in after motion is detected. So there is really no need to send motion events at an interval much less than 5 minutes. I have now set parameter 3 to 240 seconds. Chris has additional recommended parameter settings, and he plans to incorporate these recommendations in the document he is working on. For a USB-
- Parameter 4: 1 (Enable PIR Motion Sensor)
- Parameter 101: 224 (Sets sensors reported in group 1) [report Temperature, light, and humidity]
- Parameter 111: 240 (Sets the interval of reports for group 1) [report group 1 every 4 minutes or 240 seconds]
For a battery-powered MultiSensor:
- Parameter 4: 1 (Enable PIR Motion Sensor)
- Parameter 101: 225 (Sets sensors reported in group 1) [report Temperature, battery, light, and humidity]
- Parameter 111: 480 (Sets the interval of reports for group 1) [report group 1 every 8 minutes or 480 seconds]
There are other parameter settings available, and there is a detailed document of those settings floating around out there, but Chris says that document is generally not made available to everyone. I’m sure that if you were developing a controller/gateway, and you wanted to fully support the Aeon Labs MultiSensor, you would need the information in that document. But to make that document available to the average user would be to open yourself up to having to field numerous support calls about settings that most people shouldn’t even be playing with. Nevertheless, it seems that Chris is willing to share that advanced technical document if you ask nicely. And there’s an outdated copy (the latest version is 1.18) of the technical document posted on Tronika’s SmartHus (Norway) store: http://www.smarthus.info/support/manuals/zw_sikkerhet/aeotec_multisensor_tech.pdf
Setting the Sensitivity
A knob for adjusting the MultiSensor’s sensitivity can be found inside the battery compartment:
I don’t have any pets running loose in the house with which to test the MultiSensor’s sensitivity adjustment. Instead I filled a mop bucket with warm water and dragged it across the floor on the end of the rope. The average internal temperature of a dog is about 101 degrees Fahrenheit, which is what I adjusted the temperature of the water in my bucket to be. The surface temperature of the water, measured by an infrared thermometer turned out to be about 90 degrees. I adjusted the amount of water in the bucket to approximate the mass of a medium-sized dog. With the MultiSensor set to maximum sensitivity, the warm-water bucket would trip the sensor no matter at what speed I dragged it. The bucket would still trip the sensor with the sensitivity turned down to the halfway mark. At about the one-third mark the sensor seemed to be mostly blind to the movements of the bucket, but at that setting the sensor’s range seemed to be diminished somewhat, and I had to be within 10 feet of the sensor to trip it with human movements. Pet owners would have to tweak the sensitivity, according to the size of their pets and possibly the type of hair and level of activity. With pets in the house I don’t know if you could ever get 100 percent reliable rejection of animals and 100 percent detection of humans.
With my MultiSensor mounted high on a wall, I found that it covers motion within a fairly wide arc – about 150 degrees in my case. At maximum sensitivity the detection range is about 13 feet, but this range is reduced down to about 10 feet as sensitivity is adjusted downward. The physical mounting of the device was straightforward, and I liked the adjustable swivel base. Inclusion into the Z-Wave network was a bit tricky and was complicated by the MultiSensor either going to sleep or being put to sleep during the configuration process. The documentation was a bit incomplete, but customer service is excellent. There is a promise of comparatively long battery life when the device is properly configured. I will have to see how long the batteries last with my latest changes to the settings. The fact that the MultiSensor comes with a USB connector and has upgradeable firmware reassures me that there will be long-term support for this product, and that it need not become outdated. My MultiSensor has performed consistently, not missing any motion events, and not reporting any false events during the two months that I have had it in service. I highly recommend the Aeon Labs MultiSensor.
Ease of Installation
Rants and Raves
Attractive appearance. Firmware can be upgraded by means of the included USB cable. Swivel base simplifies installation. Reliable operation. Excellent customer service.
Some features are not well-documented. Network inclusion did not go smoothly (in a Vera system).