The debate over whether wireless will one day eliminate the need for structured wiring has for years ended with some major sticking points—first and foremost that there are no wireless systems that can reliably run high-definition (HD) video. Plus, wired connections still offer the most secure and reliable voice and data communications.

Although wireless has made steady gains in the voice and data worlds, running HD signals over wireless is far from ready for production home building. And there's every indication that the next generation of Wi-Fi—802.11n—won't support HD either.

Still, some Seattle-area home builders are working with Seattle home automation software company Lagotek Corp. to roll out a wireless home-technology infrastructure system.

Ron Risdon, president of Lagotek, says the company's four founders have previous management-level experience at Microsoft Corp., Intel Corp., and Parametric Technology Corp.—and have about $2 million from local Seattle investors to help launch the company. Risdon says the first generation of the company's Home Intelligence Platform 100 (HIP) controllers support four applications: HVAC, surveillance cameras, lighting, and audio.

At press time, discussions to support's security system and Vonage's voice over Internet protocol service were in the works. Later this year, Lagotek plans to roll out a second generation version with a controller that supports Microsoft's Windows Media Center, Microsoft's platform for home entertainment and automation.

“As we replace the elements of structured wiring, we need to have the application be equal to or better than the wired solution,” Risdon says. “Now we can do most applications up to HD video,” he says, adding that for the initial rollout, the builders deploying the HIP controllers will use coaxial cable for video.

EARLY ADOPTERS The first builders to install the HIP controllers in a new home are the Construction Resource Group (CRG) of Redmond, Wash., and Redmond-based Tenhulzen Remodeling. CRG, a modular builder that builds roughly 45 homes a year, is the primary builder and designer, and Tenhulzen Remodeling was contracted to build the foundations and do the landscaping and trim work. The home is a 7,000-square-foot custom home for a Seattle businessman [who lives] in Kirkland, Wash.

“This gives us a cutting-edge kind of verve,” says Roger Stark-weather, CRG's vice president. “If all goes well, we could see Lagotek being a standard specification in all the homes we build.”

Jack Tenhulzen, president of the remodeling company, says people remember what a failure the building industry's “smart home” concept was several years ago, so the goal is to try to build up consumer demand slowly.

“The smart home never did gain traction,” says Tenhulzen. “But our office is one mile from Microsoft's main campus,” he notes, adding that “these people live and breathe computers, they are flooded with technology at their offices and places of work, and they want that same level in the home.”

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Seattle, WA.