By Amy E. Lemen. Trying to choose tech suppliers in the builder market is a lot like deciding what paint color looks best in the kitchen.

"There's a lot of energy and excitement around this, but everyone's still trying to sort out the right application," says Mark Callin, principal of Real Foundations, a consulting group focused on builder operations. "If you can't make a universal offering, you can't negotiate a deal with a large provider."

Callin says most builders end up partnering with tech-savvy firms, or sophisticated electrical contractors, but he says it varies from division to division. "We're seeing some providers, but there is just no national network -- just like every other contractor," says Callin.

Here's a smattering of providers to the building industry -- for now. There are sure to be more (or less) as the market matures:

Ustec is a supplier of structured wiring and networking solutions that has a three-year preferred supplier agreement with D.R. Horton, and agreements with Centex Homes and Hillwood Residential (Texas).

Home Director Inc. of Morrisville, N.C., sells "Intelligent Home" networking systems for Internet, entertainment, and communications applications.

Best Buy Home Networking is providing wiring kits builders can install in new homes in the $250,000 to $750,000 price range. A brand-new venture for the retailer, it's currently testing in the Minneapolis/St. Paul and Dallas markets.

Cisco's Internet Home Gateway enables home users to communicate via data, voice, and video over a single broadband connection; connect computers, telephones, and fax machines; and network smart appliances such as DVD players, digital cameras, security systems, climate controllers, lights, utility meters, and kitchen appliances.

FutureSmart has provided structured wiring and home networking for approximately nine years. Based in Utah, the company sells systems to builders, installers, and homeowners.

OpenHouse Systems sells a structured wiring system, which was introduced in 2000, for the building industry.

Published in BIG BUILDER Magazine, February 2003

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