NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN home automation will drive costs down from in excess of $50,000 to about $10,000 for an average 2,000- square-foot house in the year ahead. Here are a few companies with systems that come in at right around that amount:

Control 4 lets homeowners manage audio, video, security, lighting, and HVAC over a ZigBee-compatible wireless controller. ZigBee is the long-awaited standard from the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers that manages home control for low-bandwidth applications. While Zig- Bee makes sense, applications in the residential business have been slow to get to market. Control 4 believes it is a major exception and says it will announce more deals with home builders in 2006.

Home automation stalwart Honeywell has a system that lets home buyers manage security, audio, video, Lutron lighting, and HVAC applications over Internet protocol (IP), the common language of the Internet. The crux of the system is an Internet control module from In2 Networks. The device converts standard household lighting, security, and HVAC protocols into IP.

Another exciting possibility in 2006 is the emergence of Seattle-based Lagotek, which has a wireless controller that in its first release will manage HVAC, lighting, audio, and security cameras. The technology is interesting, but the company will have to move mountains to win over skeptical builders who were promised smart homes that work once before.

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