Product Reviews

The Aeotec Minimote Revisited

Posted January 3, 2017

The strength of the Aeotec Minimote has always been its compact size, affordable price, and its ability as a primary inclusion controller to create a standalone Z-Wave system, featuring scenes and device associations, without the need for a gateway controller. The Minimote can also serve as a secondary controller to activate scenes in a system controlled by a gateway.

Scenes
With the use of gateway controllers becoming widespread, perhaps we need to be reminded that Z-Wave scenes and associations can exist without the need for a gateway. In a system in which the Aeotec Minimote is the primary controller, one or more Z-Wave devices may be assigned to be controlled directly from any one of the four Minimote scene buttons. The Minimote will even “remember” the dim level of each Z-Wave dimmer or smart Z-Wave bulb assigned to that scene button.

Associations
The Minimote can also be used to associate one Z-Wave device with another. This is especially useful when it comes to Z-Wave sensors. The Minimote can program a sensor, such as a motion detector to turn on one or more associated devices when it senses motion. This sending of commands directly between Z-Wave devices, without the need for a gateway controller can be very desirable for critical functions such as sounding an alarm when smoke is detected or when there’s an intruder in the house. Gateway controllers have been known to crash from time to time, and gateways that rely on cloud-based smarts are vulnerable to loss of service, but direct Z-Wave associations will continue to work even when the gateway goes down. The Aeotec Minimote can set up these Z-Wave associations.

Inclusion and Removal of Z-Wave Devices in the System
In a standalone system, without a gateway controller, the Minimote will function as the primary inclusion controller. Inclusion is a simple process of pressing the “Include” button on the Minimote and then pressing the Z-Wave button on the device to be added to the network. Note: the Minimote does not support high-power inclusion, and must be within a few feet of the device being added.

Documentation
Instructions for including Z-Wave devices into the network, creating scenes, and setting up associations can be found at Aeotec’s site. However, it appears that those instructions are a bit outdated, referring to labels for programming buttons, such as “Include,” “Remove,” “Learn” and “Associate” that do not appear on the current version of the Minimote. Those labels appeared on an earlier version of the Minimote:

The programming buttons still physically exist on the latest version of the Minimote, hidden under a sliding panel, and they still function according to the documentation; only the labels have changed.

Status LEDs
A nice feature of the Minimote is the use of LEDs to indicate status. There is a blue and a red LED hidden inside that indicates when the Minimote is communicating and when an operation has failed or has completed successfully:

The meanings of the different flashing patterns generated by these LEDs are described in the online documentation.

The Minimote comes with a USB cable that is used for recharging its battery and for updating the firmware. A third status LED changes from red to blue when the Minimote is done recharging:

Depending on usage, the Minimote can go three or four months between charges.

Using the Minimote with a Gateway Controller
The Minimote can be included into a gateway controller’s existing Z-Wave network as a secondary controller. In this case, the Minimote can no longer function as an inclusion controller, neither can its scene buttons be used to directly control Z-Wave devices, but the Minimote can still be used to setup device associations (in some cases using the Minimote to set an association may be easier that using the gateway controller to set the association).

When the Minimote is part of a gateway controller’s network, the four scene buttons take on a new personality: they now report “button pressed” events to the gateway controller. Each of the buttons can report a “short press” or a “long press” event back to the gateway, for a total of eight possible events. The gateway controller can then use those events to trigger scenes that are controlled by the gateway.

The Minimote integrates nicely with the Vera Edge. Vera scenes can be assigned to Minimote buttons by selecting the “Select Scenes for Device Buttons”option from the “Devices” menu of the Vera Edge user interface screen. The button assignments will appear as follows:

HomeSeer HS3 also supports the Minimote. The following Minimote events can be used to trigger HomeSeer scenes:

Conclusion
The Aeotec Minimote works well as either a primary Z-Wave controller in a standalone system or as a secondary controller in a gateway-controlled system. Its small size makes it easy to carry in a pocket or purse, and it is so inexpensive that you can have several Minimotes scattered about. The Minimote is available in white or black, and it has a built-in rechargeable battery. The Minimote comes with brief instructions on how to add it to an existing network and how to include and exclude Z-Wave devices from a network; more thorough documentation is available online. Status LEDs give good feedback as to what the device is doing. Having the LEDs shine through the plastic case was a nice touch – very cool.

Ratings

Overall Strength

Ease of Installation

Documentation

Value

Quick Reference

Product Name
Minimote

Company
Aeotec

Price
$24.99

Rants and Raves

Raves
Compact size, ability to create a standalone Z-Wave system, sends button-pressed events to gateway controllers.

Rants
Documentation a bit outdated.

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