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Key Takeaways

  • Hundreds of billions are at stake as cities look to encourage the design and construction of smart buildings. Smart windows will play a key role and will offer a range of investable opportunities.
  • Competing technologies are being perfected, so this is a good time to start handicapping the eventual winners.
  • Where to look: The efforts of industry start-ups as well as the entrenched building suppliers.

Trillions of Windows Could Power Cities of the Future

For the smart cities of the future, buildings will need smart windows that can respond to technology. And when that future comes, we’re talking about a lot of windows that will need replacing: If you count just the office buildings, homes and cars in New York, that’s 50 million windows.

Worldwide, we’re talking about billions of windows. And every single one of them is an opportunity for a healthy dose of green technology. In fact, you can stop thinking of them as windows and start thinking of them as “smart glass.”

Windows become smart glass by harnessing solar power. Engineers have made considerable headway in turning a basic, transparent piece of glass, plexiglass, plastic or other material into a small power plant. It helps to know some of the industry jargon. Tomorrow’s windows will embed dye-sensitized solar cells, which don’t convert as much solar light to energy as other technologies, but which are one of the most cost-effective solar technologies currently available.

Still, it’s anyone’s guess which smart-glass technologies will dominate the future. A good investor will study their scientific terms: Electrochromic, thermochromic, suspended particle, polymer-dispersed liquid crystals and peroskite windows are all being explored as part of smart glass technology.

Architects are also beginning to think about how to make smart-glass windows into good design. And they’re even beginning to alter room layouts based on the ability to adjust pass-through light from these smart windows.

To be sure, this market is still getting going. But we’re already seeing some fascinating examples emerge. Mercedes-Benz now offers a smart glass technology on its premium sedans that can provider better security through instant tinting, while also keeping interiors cooled and heated as needed. Aircraft makers hope to put smart glass in every jet they build in coming years.

So where to invest? Well, it’s still a highly-fragmented field and the technology will likely change. That said, keep an eye on small firms such as Raven Window and SageGlass, along with legacy brands such as Andersen Windows and Masonite. They look like potentially early winners in the smart window revolution.