Is Smart Glass a Smart Investment Yet?

Does it seem like everything is becoming smarter? Soon even your toothbrush will have more computing power than the space shuttle. One smart technology that’s been around well before the term came into vogue is smart glass. But is it a smart investment yet?

Smart glass, also referred to as dynamic or switchable glass, is glass that can change tint and transparency manually or automatically, usually when electricity, heat or light is applied. It’s used in everything from construction to automobiles to aircraft. These days the technology has gotten even smarter, allowing users to change opacity with an app.

There are a number of smart glass technologies, but the three main electric-controlled ones include:

  • Electrochromic (EC): Uses a small electrical charge to change the transparency of a medium capable of changing color.
  • Suspended particle devices (SPD): Relies on nanoscale particles in a liquid that change alignment based on the amount of voltage applied, which changes the tint.
  • Polymer dispersed liquid crystals (PDLC): Somewhat similar to SPD, PDLC uses liquid crystals encased in a polymer. An electrical charge changes the alignment of the crystals, allowing more light to pass through as the voltage increases.

A couple of years ago, we came across a startup called View Inc. and the publicly traded company Research Frontiers, which has apparently been around nearly as long as the Beatles. View was trying to work its way into the construction industry. Meanwhile, Research Frontiers’ business model involved licensing its SPD-SmartGlass technology to about 40 companies, mostly in the automotive industry.

At the time we found the technology engaging, noting that View was beginning to scale up

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