Category Archives: Z-Wave Users

Whats the difference between Z-Wave and Z-Wave Plus?

There is a lot of confusion between Z-Wave Plus and older non-Plus devices.

Z-Wave_Plus_Badge_RGB_v3.1A product that is Z-Wave Plus means it has passed a rigorous certification process and thus is likely to be more reliable and have fewer issues than non-Plus devices. All Z-Wave devices are 100% interoperable and backwards compatible so a Z-Wave Plus device can communicate with any non-Plus device without issue. If you have a choice between a Z-Wave Plus device and a non-Plus device, I recommend you choose the Z-Wave Plus device because the Plus device will work better.

Z-Wave History Lesson

The timeline shows the technology trajectory that Z-Wave has traveled since its inception in 2002.ZWaveTimeLineThe timeline shows the constant improvement and evolution of Z-Wave. Initially the data rate was only 9600 bits per second. This was fast enough to turn a light or two on or off but as things progressed and you want to slowly change the color of a dozen or more bulbs, then you need a faster data rate. Thus, the increase to 40K with the 300 series and 100K with the 500 series. There are many other enhancements along the way including longer range, better RF sensitivity, lower power, more peripherals and in particular the AES encryption engine. The amazing thing though all of these improvements is that they have all remained 100% backward compatible. Even the latest chips can talk to the early 100 series chips. Granted it is only at the slower 9600 bps but it still works! So the lamp dimmer you bought in 2004 is still able to talk to the latest SmartThings hub.

The Curse of the Even Series

Z-Wave has had some mistakes along the way, after all no one is perfect. Much like the Star Trek Movies, all of the even series chips were flawed and quickly obsoleted. The developers became so fearful of the curse of the even series they skipped the 600 series and jumped straight to 700. The 200 series chips were simply buggy. Period. They had some significant power issues making them difficult to use as a battery powered device among other problems. The flaws were quickly fixed and the series replaced with the largely firmware compatible 300 series which had a long and plentiful life. Many 300 series devices are still in the market though the chips have reached end-of-life so there are limited inventories left. A small number of 300 series chip based devices are Z-Wave Plus – but that number is quite small and there are probably none left on the shelves though you could have one installed in your home. Fortunately, as we’ve seen they are all completely interoperable so no problem there.

The 400 series suffered from a marketing mistake early on – the memory that holds the firmware is One-Time-Programmable (OTP). This means the firmware cannot be updated – EVER. You burn it once, and pray it is good. This is a nightmare for developers as they have to replace the chip every time they make a new firmware build, which they typically do hundreds of times per day. While the OTP saves a fraction of cent in the cost of the chip, the drawbacks far outweigh that tiny cost.  Fortunately we developers didn’t have long to wait and the 400 series was replaced with the 500 series. The 500 series had plenty of FLASH and added the ability to update the firmware in the device even after it is installed in the field using a technique called Over-The-Air (OTA) firmware update.

Z-Wave Security – AES Encryption

One of the most important IoT devices is a door lock. Naturally, a door lock needs to be secure. Up until 2008, Z-Wave was “in the clear” meaning it wasn’t secure at all. The Security Command Class was added to encrypt all communication with banking quality AES-128 encryption which makes Z-Wave secure – or so the Z-Wave developers thought.

In 2013 it was widely published that the Z-Wave security has a weakness when a device is first joined to a network. During that process, the encryption “key” is sent to the device over the radio and it is encrypted, but the encryption key is 128 bits of 0. Since the encryption key is all zero, it is possible for someone with very sophisticated equipment to “sniff” the radio data and thus obtain the key to every secure device in the network. While this is a security hole, it requires a lot of equipment on-site at the short time when the user is adding a secure device to the network. Much easier for a burglar to throw a brick thru a window to gain access vs. hacking a Z-Wave door lock. But Z-Wave had to counter with an improvement and they did just that in 2015 – with the updated Security S2 command class.

Security S2 adds full diffe-hellman symmetric encryption to the key exchange. A number of performance improvements were also made which enables battery powered devices to be secure without spending extra time exchanging secrets back and forth. All devices certified after April 2017 are required to support Security S2.

The question of Z-Wave Plus vs. Non-Plus however is independent of Security. Since new devices have to implement Security and they are Z-Wave Plus certified, it seems like the two go together but in reality they are independent. But all new devices will have both which is good. Fortunately support for Security S2 isn’t required to be supported by Hub vendors like SmartThings, Vera, HomeSeer, etc. They will need to add support but all your older non-secure devices will remain 100% backward compatible.

The Future

Z-Wave continues to evolve and improve but continues to remain 100% backward compatible all the way back to 2002 and the initial release of the 100 series transceivers. The Z-Wave Certification program continues to be strengthened with new features and new tests that make every Z-Wave certified product better and completely interoperable with every other Z-Wave device on the market. Interoperability is the advantage Z-Wave has over the many other competing wireless protocols for IoT.

Newer devices have been tested more rigorously and use the latest chip sets for better RF range and mesh network routing algorithms. So given the choice it’s generally better to buy newer devices using the latest technology.

Conclusion

Choose a Z-Wave Plus device over a non-Plus device even if you have to pay a little more. A Z-Wave Plus device uses the 500 series chips with the latest RF technology and firmware and has been tested under the Z-Wave Alliance Certification program which is quite difficult to pass. Rest assured that the Z-Wave device you purchase today will continue to be interoperable with future versions of Z-Wave technology for the foreseeable future.

 

Z-Wave Saved My Fathers Life

My father is a cantankerous curmudgeon but at 89 years old he deserves to be a little crusty. In his infinite wisdom at the age of 79 he decided to move away from his family here in New England and purchased a home in warm sunny Florida. He was happy he no longer had to freeze in the cold of winter but I was unhappy because now he was 2,000 miles away and I worried something might happen to him. If someone broke in or if he fell no one would know potentially for weeks. To ease my worries I applied my technical expertise and deployed an inexpensive Z-Wave based system to keep an eye on him.

HomeSeer to the Rescue

HomeseerZeeS2

HomeSeer sells a Raspberry Pi based Home Automation system with a built-in Z-Wave interface called the Zee S2. This small box needs only 6 Watts of power but contains a complete Linux computer that can serve web pages and runs the HomeSeer HS3 application. My initial system was just the HomesSeer Zee S2 ($199) and two Express Controls EZMultiPli Multi-sensors ($99) for a total cost of $300 for my peace of mind.  No monthly charges, no “monitoring fees” or any other costs so this is indeed a low-cost solution. All of the Z-Wave devices just plug in with no wiring, no batteries and everything pretty much plug-and-play. In less than an hour the system went from the box to fully installed and the web interface up and running via my phone or computer.

The HomeSeer system is accessible 24x7x365 via their portal at myhs.homeseer.com. No complex router tunneling or anything like that – just plug the Zee S2 Ethernet cord into HS3the router and then login to it from anywhere in the world. The system is secure and password protected. The HS3 application serves web pages with a status of every Z-Wave device. The HS3 application runs on the Raspberry Pi so all processing is local which means temporary Internet connectivity outages are no problem.

The HS3 user interface shown here is utilitarian which is fine for this application. HomeSeer has an easy to use IF-THEN “events” page which is quite powerful. The HS3 system constantly monitors the motion sensors and depending on the time of day sends me a text anytime there hasn’t been motion detected in the house for more than 5 hours. I placed a motion sensor next to his bed and another in the kitchen. Since he typically would get up several times each night, my 5 hour time limit rarely false-triggered. The trigger was extended longer during the day since he would be up and around the house and not in the bedroom for more than 8 hours at a time.

Nothing is Perfect

When I first put the system together, it seemed to work reliably. However the Zee S2 unit was installed at the far end of the house near the cable box. The kitchen motion

ezmultipli200
Express Controls EZmultiPli Motion Sensor

sensor was about 25′ away and the bedroom one was another 20′ away and had to pass thru several walls, the HVAC system and a bathroom. With only 3 nodes in the Z-Wave network I violated one of the key rules of a mesh network – always have more than two routes to every device. In this case I had exactly one route to each device so I didn’t have a mesh and the result was a number of false triggers because the bedroom motion sensor occasionally couldn’t reach all the way back to the Zee S2.

I was frustrated because I left what I thought was a working system but soon turned out to be unreliable. Now I was 2000 miles away and had to suffer with this system for nearly a year before my next visit to Florida. The solution was to add a few lamp modules and another multi-sensor so now I had 7 nodes with several routes to all nodes. Now the system was reliable and did not false trigger. I added an event that automatically turned on a lamp in the family room whenever motion was detected. My father really liked this feature as he always had light as soon as he entered and it would automatically turn off when he had left the room.

I thought things were pretty robust at this point but my next Achilles heel turned up rather quickly. Something caused the Raspberry Pi to crash. I couldn’t log into it and it was no longer sending me the daily emails telling me what time my father had gotten up in the morning. After nearly 2 months the system just suddenly started sending me the daily emails again. Apparently a power outage had in effect rebooted the HomeSeer system. On my next visit I put the entire system on a power strip that my father could reach so he could reset the system. I still want a power strip that has a watchdog timer function and if it doesn’t get some sort of “ping” every hour or so, it reboots everything downstream.

He Takes a Fall

At 2:39am one morning in mid-November 2017, my father fell in his bedroom. He was unable to get up. He was unable to call for help. My HomeSeer system sent me a text at 7:39am stating he had not gotten up. That seemed like an odd time for him to not get up so I tried to call him. After several calls with no answer and checking the HomeSeer system to see that there has been no changes since 2:39am I became concerned. I had the Sheriff stop by and check on him and it turns out he was on the floor, awake but unable to move. The EMTs were called and he was taken to the hospital. In just 5 hours he was already dehydrated and would have slowly died a painful death in a day or so if my system had not been in place. The Z-Wave system saved my fathers life.

Looking back on it now, I had noticed that his morning schedule had started to vary significantly from day to day. For years he had been getting up at a pretty predictable time of around 10am. But in the months prior to his fall, his schedule had started to vary from 8am to as late as 1pm in the afternoon. When we talked on the phone he said he was fine but clearly he was struggling. He enjoyed being warm in Florida and he was happy and I was confident that my Z-Wave system would alert me to any major problems which it did.

CES 2018

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is THE trade show for smart home technology and all things cool and new and geeky. It’s a massive show and I only spent one day there and never made it out of the Sands convention center which is one of the smaller venues. If you’ve never been to CES it is something to see. The crowds are enormous and the tech is brand new. So new, some of it will never actually make it to market as there is plenty of smoke and mirrors.

Eric Ryherd wireless IoT consultant expert

My purpose is obviously to seek out the latest news about Z-Wave and chat with my clients. The Z-Wave Alliance invited me to man the “Ask the Expert” desk at the show for a few hours which I was happy to do. My expert knowledge of Z-Wave answered simple questions like “what’s Z-Wave?” (It’s like wifi but low power) to complex questions about the rules around Security S2 and SmartStart.

The most common question is always what’s the difference between Z-Wave and Zigbee? My short answer is that Zigbee is like silos. If you can develop an app, gateway and all the devices you need, then Zigbee will work OK. Z-Wave however was a mesh network from day one and every Z-Wave device can talk to every other Z-Wave device regardless of the manufacturer. Z-Wave is built around standardized command classes so every hub knows precisely what format a temperature sensor is sending the data. Is it in celcius or Fahrenheit? Tenths of a degree or hundredths? With Z-Wave, the format is fully specified. The other protocols let you decide the format which is fine if you have the huge budget to do it all. But if your investors have you on a shoestring budget then Z-Wave is the way to go. I have much longer answers to the Z-Wave vs. Zigbee question but much too long to keep your interest in a quick blog post.

The big announcement for Sigma (other than the acquisition by Silicon Labs) is the announcement of the 700 series. Unfortunately details remain shrouded in secrecy but Sigma has put a stake in the ground of having developers kits by summer 2018. Finally having a real 32 bit ARM processor will be a huge productivity improvement for us IoT developers.

I had limited time to walk the floor but it does seem that smart home has finally taken off. There are so many companies making cool gizmos it’s overwhelming. From sun tracking solar powered umbrellas to cameras of every size and resolution to lots of new hubs there is no way one person can take it all in. You’ll just have to see for yourself.

The Z-Wave Alliance booth is even bigger this year filled with companies hawking the latest IoT thingamagiggy using Z-Wave. Every one of them able to talk to all the other Z-Wave doodads. The booth was busy all day long. I did wander past the tiny Zigbee booth buried in the back of the hotel with a few people in it but nothing like Z-Wave.

SiLabs acquires Z-Wave – Good or Bad?

On Friday of last week Silicon Labs signed an agreement to purchase Sigma Designs for $282M.

The question is: is this good for Z-Wave or bad? 

logoSilicon Labs is a well respected semiconductor manufacturer with an array of microcontroller products  from 8-bit 8051s thru modern low-power ARM CPUs. Silicon Labs has been chasing the IoT market since before IoT was a “thing”. Their low power micros have industry leading features often integrating the latest connectivity solutions like USB, Zigbee and now Z-Wave.  With a market cap of nearly $4B, Silicon Labs (SLAB) has a lot more financial muscle than Sigmas (SIGM) mere $265M could provide. All Z-Wave licensees should rejoice that a much larger company is now  supporting Z-Wave with the accompanying increase (we hope) of resources.

sigma-logoIn my opinion, the most interesting part of the announcement is that SiLabs is buying Z-Wave and not Sigmas primary business of Set-Top-Box processors. The announcement states: “Sigma Designs is in active discussions with prospective buyers to divest its Media Connectivity business”.  The announcement goes on to say that if Sigma can’t unload its “Media Connectivity business” then SiLabs will buy just the Z-Wave portfolio for $240M thus making the rest of Sigma worth only $42M assuming someone is willing to pay that much for it.

The Past

logo_zensyszwaveZ-Wave was originally invented by Zensys based in Copenhagen Denmark in 1999. Originally the Z-Wave protocol used Chipcon radios (acquired by TI) and Atmel processors (acquired by Microchip). In 2003 Zensys announced its own custom designed “100 series” Z-Wave transceiver which was a complete Z-Wave capable IoT System-On-Chip. In 2008 Zensys was struggling financially.  Fortunately Sigma stepped in an purchased Zensys for an “undisclosed amount”. Nine years later, Sigma has sold Z-Wave for a very nice ROI of perhaps 100X. Mergers and acquisitions in the semiconductor industry are frequent as technology and markets shift in unforeseen ways.

The Present

Z-Wave is growing like crazy as the number of 100% inter-operable mesh networked Z-Wave devices on the market continues to increase. There are now over 600 Z-Wave licensees with over 2100 products already on the market. With the recent addition of the AES-128 encrypted Security S2 communication and SmartStart to simplify the building of the Z-Wave network, Z-Wave shows it is continuing to evolve while still being completely backwards compatible with all the existing devices all the way back to the 100 series.

The Future

The future is nearly impossible to predict. I certainly don’t claim to have a clearer crystal ball than the next guy. But this acquisition bodes well for the future of Z-Wave. The additional resources should accelerate the introduction of the ARM Z-Wave microcontrollers which in turn will bring more Z-Wave products to market faster and cheaper. The soon to be announced next generation transceivers are expected to utilize modern ARM processors and make a significant leap forward in debug capabilities that are not present in the current 8051 8-bit CPUs. Z-Wave developers will finally be able to single step through their code instead of relying on printf to output a few cryptic characters giving you meager clues where your code has gone wonky.

Conclusion

The acquisition of the Z-Wave portfolio by a financially strong IoT silicon manufacturer is a “good thing” for the future of Z-Wave.

Z-Wave Challenges in MDUs and How to Resolve Them

Deploying a robust Z-Wave network in MDUs (like apartment buildings or hotels) can be challenging unless you follow a few basic rules.
The most common problem in MDU deployment is that many installers fail to take advantage of Z-Wave’s number one technical advantage – the mesh network. Every always-on (wall powered) Z-Wave device adds a node to the mesh. But battery powered devices like door locks, sensors and many thermostats do NOT add nodes to the mesh – they merely benefit from other devices on the mesh network. A system where there is one Z-Wave hub and a door lock in each dwelling unit will result in a poorly performing system because there is no mesh! To build a reliable mesh, every device in the network needs at least two routes between the hub and every device on the network. This means you need at least one Z-Wave repeater or lamp module in every network.
An MDU can easily have dozens or even hundreds of units all within Z-Wave range of each other. If each unit has just a single Z-Wave hub and a door lock, then each unit causes interference with every other unit resulting in a cacophony of Z-Wave traffic. A better solution is to have one hub serve 5 or even 10 units with each unit having at least one always-on device within it to provide a good “mesh” node to access the battery powered devices. Always-on devices in adjacent units help provide routing pathways to improve the robustness of the network. The installer needs the proper tools to evaluate the best location for these always-on devices to ensure a high-quality mesh network with plenty of alternate routes.
Another challenge in MDUs is that things are always changing. An owner might install a mirror (which is a metal plate on glass) or a metal appliance that significantly alters the Z-Wave quality within the unit. Even though the mirror or appliance is not in between the hub and the door lock does not mean that it won’t cause connectivity problems. The solution to this issue lies again with the mesh network and having alternate routes. Since things are always changing, the hub needs to have a policy to “heal” the network occasionally to adjust to the changes in the environment.
If some door locks seem to have short battery life then you might be suffering from limitations in older, pre-500 series Z-Wave devices. Early generations of Z-Wave would wake up battery powered devices like door locks using only their NodeID to request which node to wake up. This works fine in single family homes since every node on the network has a different NodeID, but in an MDU with multiple adjacent Z-Wave networks, if the door lock in each unit is NodeID=2, then every hub will wake up every door lock in the building any time a unit needs to check on the battery level of any door lock. The solution is to ensure each adjacent installation has a different NodeID for door locks or battery powered nodes. Thus, apartment 101 will have the door lock as NodeID=02, apartment 102 will have the door lock as NodeID=03, and so on. The latest generation of Z-Wave solves this problem so as these newer locks come on the market this issue will disappear.

A few quick rules for deploying Z-Wave in MDUs:

  1. Always build a Z-Wave mesh
  2. Install fewer hubs
  3. Use tools like IMA to validate mesh networks
  4. Don’t build the same network in every unit
  5. Network must be flexible due to changing environments

EZMultipli How-To for SmartThings

SmartThings, now part of electronics giant Samsung, is a popular home automation platform and with the recently published Device Type fully supports the EZMultipli multi-sensor. Samsung_SmartThings_LogoSmartThings (a.k.a. ST) relies on the Cloud for processing which makes it flexible but is a little slower executing commands compared to a system with local processing. The ST user interface is exclusively thru a smartphone or tablet, there is no web interface for desktop computer access.  The system is easy to use with good support and an active user community.  SmartThings requires a $99 hub to interface to Wifi, Zigbee and Z-Wave devices. This post will show you how to get the most out of Express Controls EZMultipli Z-Wave MultiSensor. Refer to the EZMultipli User Manual for more details.

EZMultipli Multisensor

ezmultipli200The EZMultipli performs five functions:

  1. Motion Sensor
  2. Temperature Sensor
  3. Light Level Sensor
  4. Color LED indicator
  5. Z-Wave Range Extender

What sets the EZMultipli apart from the typical battery-powered motion sensors is that it is wall powered so you never need to change the batteries! Because EZMultipli is wall powered it functions as a Z-Wave range extender which adds another routing node in the Z-Wave mesh network. If your Z-Wave network is a little flakey and you have some nodes that are having trouble communicating reliably, adding an EZMultipli or two will provide additional routes for every Z-Wave node to talk to every other node. Then the sensors are a bonus!

Because EZMultipli is firmly plugged into an outlet, there is no mounting required. No screws, no tape, no mending of the wall when you move. This makes EZMultipli ideal for apartments, offices or other short-term uses where you’ll want to take it with you when you leave. But what if you don’t have an outlet in the right spot for detecting motion? Ah… that is a problem and not every device can solve every problem. EZMultipli was specifically designed with a wide-angle lens to capture motion in any direction out to about 12 feet. So it doesn’t have to be placed in the perfect location to be able to detect motion where you need it. It is ideal for kitchens, bathrooms and garages which often have unused outlets in handy locations. You can also put it in unused outlets under a table or chair. Obviously it isn’t much good behind a couch or other solid furniture. Some locations like hallways will have to use a battery-powered motion sensor because the sensor has to be in just the right place and there are no outlets nearby.

STEZMAddThingAnother placement problem involves pets. If you put the sensor down low in a typical wall outlet, virtually any pet from a cat to a small dog will trigger the motion sensor. You have to either put the sensor up on a higher outlet or in a room that pets are not allowed in when you need to detect if a burglar is in your home. In my case we always close off our home office from the pets during the day when we are not home. Only the EZMultipli in the office and the one in the garage will send us a text when the home is in Away mode.

Setup and Configuration

STEZMfullInclude EZMultipli into the ST hub in the normal way: Just click on the +Add A Thing button on the ST app. Next then press the button on the side of EZMultipli. You should get a device called “EZMultipli” which is the default name.
Rename the device if you want then click on Save and then OK.
You should now have the screen shown here. The main Tile at the top will turn the LED behind the lens on and off or if you click on the color circle you can change it to be any of 8 different colors. The motion sensor, temperature sensor and luminance sensor are on the next row of tiles. The REFRESH button will force the ST hub to poll EZMultipli to be certain it has the latest sensor readings. We’ll get to the CONFIGURE tile in the next section.

STEZMConfigAt this point, the best thing to do is to click on the Gear icon in the upper right corner. This brings you to the configuration screen where you can adjust various parameters to suite your needs. Generally the defaults will work fine for most applications. The next section will get into more details.

The temperature and luminance sensors are set to send a report every 6 minutes which is fine for an average sized Z-Wave network. However, if you have a lot of nodes (more than 50) in your network and specifically more than a few EZMultiplis, it would be better to reduce the frequency of sensor updates just to keep the traffic from getting clogged up. If you set the report frequency to 0 then that sensor will never send an update so if you’re not interested in a sensor then make its value 0. Click on DONE and then CONFIGURE to push the configurations down to the EZMultipli.

Initially the temperature and light level sensors may not have a value but in a few minutes the sensors will send readings the values will update.

For the first several minutes after joining the sensor to the ST hub the LED will blink white anytime is detects motion. You can use this to make sure it will detect motion where you want it too. If it is not detecting motion, try flipping it around in the outlet as this will change the orientation of the lens elements. Remember that EZMultipli detects MOTION, not people. So the people have to be moving within range of the sensor otherwise the lights will turn off while they are still in the room!

Configuration Parameters

Screenshot_20170410-125808EZMultipli has five configuration parameters that change how the device responds to various events.

  1. OnTime – Number of minutes the light will stay on when motion is not detected
  2. OnLevel – Dim level sent to Association Group 2 nodes
  3. LiteMin – Number of minutes between luminance reports
  4. TempMin – Number of minutes between temperature reports
  5. TempAdj – Temperature adjustment and 1/10ths of a degree F

Generally ST works best with a fairly short OnTime parameter of 2 minutes. This allows a SmartApp to control the amount of time a light stays on after motion is no longer detected. The current Device Type doesn’t provide access to the Z-Wave Association command class so that feature of the EZMultipli is not available. Thus, it is best to leave the OnTime at 2 minutes and configure your SmartApps to do all the other work. Refer to the EZMultipli User Manual for details on the other parameters.

After changing any configuration settings, be sure to click on the CONFIGURE button to push the configuration settings to EZMultipli.

SmartApps

STEZMSmartAppNow that you have a motion sensor, the most common thing is to turn a light on or off when there is motion or not. In ST that is done using a SmartApp. Go back to the home screen and click on Automation at the bottom. Then click on + Add a SmartApp and select Lights and Switches and then Smart Lights. You can then easily pick the light(s) you want to control and which sensor will trigger which lights as shown here. Turn on the Turn Off After Motion Stops and then pick a reasonable amount of time for the lights to turn off then no-motion is detected. In a hallway, this number can be quite short like 2 or 3 minutes. In a kitchen it needs to be more like 15 minutes and if sitting in a living room reading you might want it to be more than an hour. You can also set different timeouts using multiple SmartApps that are only active at certain times of the day. For example, I significantly extend the OFF time during meal times because while sitting at our kitchen table I don’t want the lights to turn off while we’re eating but no one has moved enough for the kitchen sensor to detect motion (which is next to the sink, not the table).

Color LED

The color LED of the EZMultipli is easily controlled using the phone app. But the more interesting use is to display things like when your garage doors are open or what the weather will be today (Blue for nice blue sky, Yellow for sunny and warm, Red for blistering HOT, White for snow, Green for rain, etc.). I’ll follow up later with more posts on how to do fun things like this with SmartThings and EZMultipli.

EZMultipli How-To for Vera

vera_logo_tmVera is one of the more popular home automation platforms and with the UI7 release it fully supports the EZMultipli muli-sensor. The main selling points of Vera are “no monthly subscription fee, no contracts and no hassles” which pretty much sums Vera up. Vera is an easy to use system with good support and an active user community who are often quicker to respond to questions than the Vera technical support team.  Vera has several platforms to choose from. I’m using the VeraEdge in this How-To which for only $69 is a good deal. This post will show you how to get the most out of Express Controls EZMultipli Z-Wave MultiSensor and specifically how to use it with Vera UI7. Refer to the EZMultipli User Manual for more details.

EZMultipli Multisensor

ezmultipli200The EZMultipli performs five functions:

  1. Motion Sensor
  2. Temperature Sensor
  3. Light Level Sensor
  4. Color LED indicator
  5. Z-Wave Range Extender

What sets the EZMultipli apart from the typical battery-powered motion sensors is that it is wall powered so you never need to change the batteries! Because EZMultipli is wall powered it is a Z-Wave range extender and adds another routing node in the Z-Wave mesh network. If your Z-Wave network is a little flakey and you have some nodes that are having trouble reporting in reliably, adding an EZMultipli or two will provide additional routes for every Z-Wave node to talk to every other node. The sensors are just a bonus!

Because EZMultipli is simply plugged into an outlet, there is no mounting required. No screws, no tape, no mending of the wall when you move. This makes EZMultipli ideal for apartments, offices or other short-term uses where you’ll want to take it with you when you leave. But what if you don’t have an outlet in the right spot for detecting motion? Ah… that is a problem and not every device can solve every problem. EZMultipli was specifically designed with a wide-angle lens to capture motion in any direction out to about 12 feet. So it doesn’t have to be placed in the perfect location to be able to detect motion where you need it. It is ideal for kitchens, bathrooms and garages which often have unused outlets in handy locations. You can also put it in unused outlets under a table or chair. Obviously it isn’t much good behind a couch or other solid furniture. Some locations like hallways will have to use a battery-powered motion sensor because the sensor has to be in just the right place and there are no outlets in that place.

Another placement problem involves pets. If you put the sensor down low in a typical wall outlet, virtually any pet from a cat to a small dog will trigger the motion sensor. You have to either put the sensor up on a higher outlet or in a room that pets are not allowed in when you need to detect if a burglar is in your home. In my case we always close off our home office from the pets during the day when we are not home. Only the EZMultipli in the office and the one in the garage will send us a text when the home is in Away mode.

Setup and Configuration

The first and most important step is to make sure you are running Vera Firmware Version 1.7.2406 or later. Check the firmware via Settings->Firmware and the screen will show you which version you currently have and if there is an upgrade available. You can include the EZMultipli into Vera but previous firmware versions didn’t understand the Z-Wave Notification command class used by EZMultipli so it isn’t very usable without at least this version.

Include EZMultipli into Vera in the normal way: Devices->Add Device->Generic Z-Wave Device->Next->Next then press the button on the side of EZMultipli. You should get a device called “EZM” which is the default name. Pick a room. Then click on FINISH.

You’ll then have three new devices:

  1. vera3sensorsEZM which is the motion sensor
  2. _Temperature Sensor which is obviously the temperature sensor
  3. _Light Sensor which is the light level in the room

Initially the temperature and light level sensors don’t have a value but in a few minutes the sensors will send readings the values will update. Rename the devices to more meaningful names  by clicking on the > and entering a new name. These three sensors are the main sensors – but where is the color LED? Currently you have to load a Plug-in to use the color LED. Hopefully in a future release Vera will add support for the Z-Wave Color Command Class and we won’t need the plugin anymore. To add the plugin click on Apps->Install Apps and then enter “EZM” into the search bar and the EZMultipli Color Utility will come up. Click on DETAILS and then install the app. While you’re at it, search for DataMine2 graphing plug in and install that too.

vera4sensorsWith the plugin installed there are three more devices but the only one that is interesting is the EZM Light 2 which has the 8 LED color buttons as shown here. Assign that device to the same room as the other EZMultipli sensors. I create a virtual room called ZZZVirtual to put all the extra stuff I don’t normally want to see so it’s at the bottom of the screen.

If you wave your hand in front of the motion sensor, the EZM device will go red indicating the sensor has detected motion. If there is no motion for 10 minutes it will go back to being grey which means no-motion. NOTE! The motion sensor sends a MOTION command when motion is initially detected. Then, only after the OnTime number of minutes of there being a complete lack of motion will the No-MOTION command be sent. The sensor does NOT send a motion command every time it detects motion (though you can enable it to do that).

Vera Scenes

The most common thing you want to do with a motion sensor is to turn on a light when motion is detected and turn it back off again when no one is in the room. With Vera, we do this with Scenes. Click on Scenes->Add Scene. This will open up a wizard that will guide you thru the process. Step 1 picks the device which in this case is EZM and we’ll choose “Whenever EZM detects motion whether is armed or disarmed”. Step 2 is to pick a light to control. In this case we’ll chose the EZM Color and chose the green color. Click on Next step, scroll down and name the scene then click Finish. Next click on the RUN button just to be sure the scene works. There are tons of other options you can choose as part of the scene so try them out and experiment. You can set the scene to only run at certain times of the day or certain days of the week. This is handy for example to set the brightness of a dimmer to be only 20% late at night when all you really want is a night lite to get down a hallway without stepping on the toys your kids left in the hallway.

Configuration Parameters

EZMultipli has five configuration parameters that change how the device responds to various events.

  1. OnTime – Number of minutes the light will stay on when motion is not detected
  2. OnLevel – Dim level sent to Association Group 2 nodes
  3. LiteMin – Number of minutes between luminance reports
  4. TempMin – Number of minutes between temperature reports
  5. TempAdj – Temperature adjustment

The most important parameter is the OnTime parameter. As the name implies, OnTime is the number of minutes the lights will be ON after motion stops being detected. When you walk within range of the motion sensor, Vera receives a Motion event immediately. Vera can then turn lights on or if you configure association group 2 EZMultipli can control the lights directly. Let’s say you then walk around the room for 5 minutes and then walk out of the room. Then 10 minutes later, Vera will be sent a No-Motion event. Why 10 minutes and not 5? Because OnTime is set to 10 minutes which starts counting down when you left the room, not when you entered. Here are some recommended values for the OnTime parameter:

  • OnTime=0 disables sending OFF commands. Only ON commands are sent. This setting is not recommended.
  • OnTime=1 is the minimum setting. For example, late at night you could set the timeout to be only the 1 minute since you’re probably just passing thru. But at dinner time you want a much longer timeout of 30 minutes to prevent Vera from turning the lights off at the dinner table while you are eating dinner. Having to wave your arms in the air in the middle of dinner to turn the lights back on will lower your Wife-Acceptance-Factor (WAF).
  • OnTime=5 minutes is generally a good setting for hallways or other places that you are actively moving thru and only need the lights on while moving thru the space
  • OnTime=10 default setting which is OK for most use cases.
  • OnTime=30 minutes is recommended for rooms where people might be sitting for some time such as in an office or watching TV.
  • OnTime=60 minutes or more might be necessary for a room where someone might be sitting for a long time perhaps reading.

Remember that EZMultipli detects MOTION, not people. So the people have to be moving within range of the sensor otherwise the lights will turn off while they are still in the room!

veraconfigTo change parameters, click on the > on the EZM device and then the Device Options to get the screen shown here. If there are no configuration settings shown, click on the Add Configuration Settings button and one will be created. Select “1 byte dec” in the Data Size field then enter the desired value for the OnTime parameter in the Desired Value field. Then click on Save Changes.

Refer to the EZMultipli User Manual for details on the other parameters. The challenge with the Vera parameter user interface is that it only uses unsigned integers whereas many parameters are signed values. For example, parameter 5 is the TempAdj parameter which is in 1/10ths of a degree Fahrenheit and is a signed number. So if you want to adjust the temperature readings of EZMultipli up by 1.2 degrees you enter 12. But if you want to lower the readings by 1.2 degrees you have to enter the number of 256-12=244. The other parameters are unsigned 1 byte integers so they don’t require this crazy math.

Z-Wave Association Direct Control of Lights

EZMultipli also supports the Z-Wave Association Command class. Associations are used to tell EZMultipli to send ON/OFF commands directly to other Z-Wave devices with out requiring a scene or even talking to Vera. The advantage of Associations is that it results in very fast response times and even if Vera isn’t running the lights will come on and off automatically. Note that if EZMultipli controls a device via Associations, the Vera UI won’t show the new state of the controlled device until it gets around to polling it which can be several minutes later.

Setting associations in Vera involves first clicking on the EZM device and then Device Options. Associations are just below the configuration parameters. Enter a 2 in the Group ID field and then Click on Add Group. Refresh the screen and there should now be Group ID 2. Click on SET and choose the device you want to directly control using EZMultipli. Finally click on Apply Changes. Once this is set, the device that is now associated will automatically turn on when motion is detected and turn off after OnTime minutes when motion is no longer detected.

 

Well that should get you started using EZMultipli with Vera. Future posts will include more advanced usage of the color LED and how to use the other sensors. If you have an interesting use case for the EZmultipli please add a comment or send an email to DrZwave at ExpressControls.com.