Networking: Getting Wired Right On-Q

With a new product lineup like that, it's no wonder that On-Q Home and its integrator partners would like nothing better than to see every new home hitting the market fully wired with Cat 5 or better cable.

The vendor, which along with sister company Greyfox Home Systems, was recently acquired by Limoges, France-based Legrand, offers technology and programs aimed at making use of structured wiring, which is cable run through the walls to connect multiple rooms to a central wiring location in a home or small business.

> Intercom system using standard double-gang and triple-gang boxes


> Modular video system for distribution of video signals to multiple rooms


> Video camera for security and room monitoring


> Whole-house audio system with an optional remote control to control the entire system from one room

On-Q just rolled out a full line of home electronics that connect to standard low-cost Cat 5 cable, eliminating the need to run different types of proprietary cables throughout the house, says Avi Rosenthal, national program manager at Harrisburg, Pa.-based On-Q. The move comes as the homebuilder market is causing a corresponding boom in home technology sales. Parks Associates reported in late August that homebuilders sold $11 billion worth of technology products in 2004, and it expects sales to increase another 10 percent to 12 percent this year. About 62 percent of homebuilders are looking for new products and capabilities to help them differentiate themselves, according to the research firm.

All that suits Vintage Security, a Jessup, Md.-based digital integrator that sells and integrates security, intercom, camera, whole-house audio, home theater, Internet and broadband equipment. About 90 percent of Vintage's business comes from new homes, making it important that it have access to as many Cat 5-compatible products as possible, says Robert McDonald, operations manager at the integrator. "We pull a lot of Cat 5 in the house," he says.

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Frank Potoczak, president of Secure Technologies, a Kutztown, Pa.-based digital integrator that works with 35 local homebuilders, said the main barrier to exploiting the potential for technology sales is the homebuilders themselves.

"Homebuilders think Cat 5 is only good for phones," Potoczak says. "But we can do phones, home theaters and computer networking including Media Center extenders. Putting Cat 5 in really is the backbone for all these technologies. The problem is there really is no common campaign to understand Cat 5. There's not enough education to have consumers understand why they should pay $75 to $100 per run of Cat 5."

With that in mind, On-Q lifted the curtain on a model home program whereby home buyers who see interesting On-Q technology and ask for details can qualify for a rebate for products and services they order through the homebuilder/integrator team.

On-Q also is now providing equipment to homebuilders and integrators that help them set up their own showrooms for hands-on demonstrations of the technology.

New products include an intercom solution consisting of a main console along with two different room units and an outdoor patio unit that fit in standard double-gang boxes, all of which connect via Cat 5 instead of the proprietary cabling many other intercom units require, Rosenthal says. For home entertainment, On-Q released wall-plate-type volume controllers and audio connectors for distributing music throughout the house over Cat 5. Audio in all the rooms can be controlled from one location via an optional infrared remote.

Also new are video amplifiers and video hubs for distributing HDTV, digital cable or interactive TV to multiple rooms over Cat 5. And on the security front, On-Q now offers bullet, infrared and flush-mount cameras, as well as an LCD display, all of which fit standard single-gang boxes and are connected over Cat 5 cable. A number of home lighting controls via Cat 5 cable also are available.

Tying all this together is On-Q's AnyLine Data Module, a wiring hub that allows two phone lines and one data line to run over Cat 5 to a central location. It is aimed at integrators looking to tie together multiple devices over the Cat 5 cabling, Rosenthal says.