We live in a world where smart is the new black. Smart phones, smart energy generation, smart metering, smart buildings, smart lighting, smart cars…. Smart cities even. Lets face it, if you aren’t developing something that can be wrapped around buzz words Smart or Digital your business isn’t drinking the kool aid and Silicon Valley VCs don’t want to know you.
In our obsession with making ourselves and businesses more productive, energy efficient, environmentally friendly and lifestyle savvy, industries have scrambled to get in the smart race. With one visible exception, until now, that is. Smart glass. Ironic given the proliferation of environmentally efficient building materials and technology globally, and the push for the construction sector to deliver net zero energy buildings.
But thanks to cutting edge Silicon Valley cleantech companies like View Dynamic Glass (formerly known as Solardigm Inc) the industry finally got the memo on the need to innovate and smart, energy efficient glass is finally here. And the benefits are many.
Smart glass you say? Yes intuitive, dynamic glass that listens to you and the weather. View’s glass is underpinned by clever nano and electrochromic technology responds intelligently to outside weather conditions and plans accordingly. Its special coating (alas, not even Colonel Sanders would give me their recipe) allows its windows to self or automatically tint anywhere from transparent to opaque, to your preferred choice. In the space of seconds. Pretty cool. And thanks to the internet of everything and the proliferation of smart apps, occupants and users can control the tinting of entire windows, or sections of them, at the push of a button – onsite or remotely. View does have a few competitors who are also in the market for developing glass with sex appeal, like Sage Glass and Heliotrope Technologies, but having been to their headquarters in Milpitas, CA, and seen their work first hand they are probably the more disruptive and mature of the bunch. And lead by a team who know what they’re doing.
The benefits of smart glass are clear. With self tinting glass gone are the days of struggling with glare first thing in the morning, sweating your butt off in a sweltering stuffy afternoon office, or wrangling with hideous shades or venetian blinds (so last year) that are blocking your view of the real world.
But a key selling point is energy efficiency and cost savings. Smart glass can heat, cool and light buildings naturally – significantly reduce electricity spend on aircon and HVAC. View’s CEO, Rao Mulpuri, says the company’s dynamic glass reduces annual HVAC and lighting energy consumption by around 20 percent in a typical commercial installation.” So while smart glass comes at a premium, the potential savings over the life time of a building are huge if you’re thinking large scale. And long term. “In some cases, it’s cost-neutral on day one.” Energy efficiency – tick! Cost Savings – Cha Ching!
Moreover, if you paid top dollar for a site with an epic view, then it’s a no brainer to pay a small premium allowing you to actually enjoy it!
Efficiency asides, smart glass has some pretty attractive productivity, and health and wellbeing spinoffs too. Negating the need for old school blinds or curtains, smart glass provides occupants with day long natural lighting. A natural sanity check for those working long hours indoors making them feel less like caged animals. A massive key drawcard for companies and organisations now operating in an increasingly “wellbeing” and “mindfulness” focused world.
Research has shown that in environments where people are exposed to natural light verses dark confined spaces or florescent lighting, they are more happy, productive and alert. A bonus when you need to crank out a deadline and your project team is suffering from snickers-o-clock energy slumps. And a god send for teachers struggling to teach a bunch of unmotivated kids their afternoon timetables. In the medical realm, the healing and mental health rate of patients in hospitals and has also been shown to significantly rise in environments with ample natural light.
Enhancing both user experience, energy efficiency and cost savings, smart glass is a winner. And its potential application across industries to enhance energy efficiency and wellbeing is widespread -from the corporate world to healthcare, education and governmental sectors.
Mulpuri told Forbes even capturing a small portion of this overall pie, they could create a market worth $100 billion. While the uptake of smart glass, thus far, has been slow due to the risk adverse nature of the architecture and construction sectors, the tides are changing. “Nobody gets fired for using regular windows”. But if the exponential adoption rate of smart devices and energy efficiency buildings is anything to go – smart glass is about to join the cool kids club.