Smart and immersive glass

Will smart glass technology for buildings grow rapidly?

Smart and immersive glass technologies are showing up in building interiors as well as facades. Will their use expand rapidly? What are they and what do they do? Where are such technologies in New York City?

Tinted, smart and immersive glass

The simplest form of smart glass technology is tinted glass. Such glass can switch between transparent and opaque states.  Newer technologies use artificial intelligence to automatically adjust transparency and tint levels in response to the sun’s movement and intensity.  With the proliferation of digital media, smart glass technology has evolved into immersive glass technology that can transform glass windows or partitions into transparent digital screens.  With the touch of a button, you can create any ambience to match your mood, whether it is a view outside the window or a view outside an imaginary place.  View overlooking the Pyramids in Cairo?  No problem.  View of Niagara Falls?  Sure.  View of a quiet seaside beach?  Absolutely.  An immersive exhibit of Van Gogh? Wow. There is no limit, and the screen can be programmed with ease. 

Vincent Van Gogh immersive exhibit. Photo by 4nitsirk, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Manhattan Buildings with smart glass technology

Newly renovated 40 story office tower at 825 Third Avenue in Manhattan uses immersive glass technology.  This technology transforms exterior windows into transparent digital screens that enhance immersive communications, user interface, content sharing and user experience.  Such immersive technology can also control natural light and views, reduce energy consumption by blocking heat and glare and improve human health.  Other structures include the Equinox Hotel at 35 Hudson Yards, The Edge at Hudson Yards and South Street Seaport Pier 17. Google’s newly completed Hudson Square campus uses floor to ceiling smart windows. Other projects under construction include 4650 Broadway and 181 East 121st Street.

Smart glass technology in building’s interior can create an opaque partition on demand for places such as shower partitions and office interiors. Recently completed Equinox hotel at 35 Hudson Yards in Manhattan uses such partitions to separate shower area from guest room suite.  With a click on a handy remote device the transparent partition can turn opaque for needed privacy. When the shower is not being used, the partition becomes transparent enhancing spaciousness and comfort.  The technology has been approved by UL as switchable privacy smart glass

Smart glass technology market

Smart glass and smart window market is likely to grow rapidly from $5.1 billion in 2020 to $19.6 billion by 2030 according to an industry forecast by Allied Market Research.  The applications will expand to automotive, aviation and marine markets as well. 

Smart glass technology is more expensive than ordinary glass but it eliminates the need for blinds or curtains, lowering cleaning costs and energy use.  A cheaper product in the market is a switchable film that can convert any glass surface into smart glass.  “Some effects can be obtained by laminating smart film or switchable film onto flat surfaces using glass, acrylic or polycarbonate laminates.” per Wikipedia page on smart glass.

Building and electrical code compliance

Smart glass installations require electrical work and must be handled by qualified technicians and contractors in compliance with applicable electrical, building and fire safety codes.  Typical components include a wall switch, remote control, wireless connection to home automation system, timer and voice command via smart phones.  In moisture prone areas, special care is required to seal the edges with waterproof sealants.  All electrical components need to be sealed and protected from exposure to moisture.  An extension of smart glass technology would be to combine it with solar cells that can soak up energy during the day, store it in batteries and power lights and other electronics at night.  It is worth noting that smart glass cannot be fully transparent and at the same time absorb solar energy for later use.  There will need to be a trade-off between transparency and solar energy.

Next steps
Explore immersive glass design ideas.
Explore DIY smart glass products for home and office.
Explore active new building projects in Manhattan that could benefit from smart glass products

Title image: Photo by Mario Mendez on Unsplash

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