About a year ago, a number of companies in the digital home space signed on with Z-Wave. Developed by Zensys of Fremont, Calif., the wireless radio frequency (RF) networking protocol promises to allow communication between all kinds of devices. Leviton, the Long Island, N.Y.–based supplier of lighting fixtures, systems, and wiring, rolled out its Vizia-RF line, based on Z-Wave technology, last year.

Zensys is starting to move Z-Wave into its second phase: the development of alliances among manufacturers that will produce simple, customized solutions for home automation. One of the more interesting announcements from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month was the news that Lagotek's wireless home-control systems will work seamlessly with Leviton's Vizia-RF lighting systems.

Ron Risdon, president of the Bellevue, Wash.–based Lagotek, says his home-control system, as it is now, works right out of the box with Vizia-RF. "With the Leviton product, we have pretty much clear sailing," he reports. As the companies work together to develop new functions, many more applications will become available.

E-Z WAY TO COMMUNICATE: Thanks to Zensys' Z-Wave wireless technology, home-control systems by Lagotek (left) and Leviton (right) work seamlessly with one another. Left Photo: Courtesy Lagotek; Right Photo: Courtesy Leviton "We are in full launch mode now," Risdon says. The Lagotek system will work with any Z-Wave–enabled product as well as with Windows and Vista media products. In addition to working with Leviton's products, the Lagotek system also operates several home security and HVAC systems, with more on the way. And it costs less than other full-featured control systems: $8,500 for a two-controller system in an average-size home.

"We are now working engineer-to-engineer ...on the integration," says Ian Hendler, director of automation products for Leviton. The key benefit from this is the two-way communications enabled by Z-Wave: Lagotek's touchpads will not only operate Leviton's Vizia-RF but will also report back to the homeowners that what they asked the system to do has indeed been done. For example, closing the garage door or turning on a lighting sequence. Instead of trekking to the garage to make sure the door is closed, the owner only needs to get the confirmation from the system. If the door is still open, it will say so. Other uses include selecting a customized lighted pathways, for example from the driveway to the kitchen.

Of particular interest to Leviton was the simplicity of the Lagotek system, which installs in any double-gang electrical box. It also is redundant; each controller contains the software to operate the entire system.

Hendler believes that production builders–which are not likely to be equipping new homes with home entertainment, security, HVAC, window-treatment, and lighting control systems–might be willing to invest in a Lagotek system linked to a Vizia-RF lighting package that could be expanded in the future. "For new construction, chances are that the homeowner is not going to get everything into their mortgage that they would like. They can start small, but they can retrofit. This can scale from a very simple installation."

William Gloede Even with simple installations, homeowners can set up to 255 lighting "scenes" such as wake-up, mid-day, holiday, movie watching, kids to bed, and outdoor lawn party. In homes equipped with just the Vizia-RF system, these scenes have to be set room by room. With Lagotek and Vizia-RF, the whole house can be controlled from one touchpad. The system will also work with occupancy sensors that must, by law, shut down lights in unoccupied rooms in California.

The arrangement with Leviton is a big boost for Lagotek because of Leviton's heft in the production builder channel. "They are in an elite group of companies that we will work with out in the market because we have confidence in their products and vice versa," says Hendler.

–William Gloede, Big Builder's Digital Home editor-at-large, lives and works in Camden, Maine. E-mail: billglode@adelphia.net.