New wiring system may give homeowners remote control of lights and appliances.

By Charles Wardell

Narrowband home control may lack the sex appeal of broadband Internet technology, but it has a potentially huge market. That helps explain how Zensys (, a Danish-American technology firm, recently snagged $15 million in funding for Z-Wave, a radio frequency (RF) communications protocol. According to Michael Dodge, the company's vice president of marketing, Z-Wave will give homeowners wireless control of power outlets, alarms, and HVAC devices.

The system will consist of a handheld remote control and Z-Wave enabled outlets, or "nodes." The node system addresses one of RF's biggest weaknesses: the fact that Federal Communications Commission limits how much energy a device can transmit, which restricts range and makes it difficult to transmit through walls and floors. Zensys' answer is to make each node a transmitter and receiver. Each node passes the signal to the next, so range is unlimited.

Dodge, who works in the company's U.S. office in San Francisco, says Z-Wave will complement existing control technologies, such as X-10. "We want to provide the last few feet from the residential gateway connection to the devices in the house," he says. That could include wireless enabling an X-10 system.

The company wants to build the technology into wall outlets and appliances and hopes to announce partnerships with existing companies (Leviton, Honeywell, etc.) later this year.