What Happened to Window Technology?

What happened to the grand dreams of advanced window technology we heard about 30 years ago? We were all told to expect window innovations that would revolutionize our lives. We were told to expect such things as windows that would open and close themselves according to a schedule or by some smart technology that would regulate inside temperature more effectively. There was also speculation of windows that would darken or lighten to filter out light, heat and UV by merely turning a knob or flipping a switch. Yet here we are decades after those promises were made with limited window technology available.

About the only window technology available to consumers that is readily available and cost effective is low e glass or multiple thermal pane windows. Sure we can apply electric motors to some types of windows, or add different films to windows to achieve different degrees of darkening but we don’t really consider these as high technology promise fulfillment.

When I think of high tech windows I tend to think of such things as star trek. OK so Star trek might be a little over the top but when the idea of high tech windows comes to mind I tend to think of more than a simple window that opened with a crank handle or sash pull. Granted windows have come a long way in technology that we don’t see. Low e glass is one that we often don’t think about. A technology that has been around for many years, it cuts down on the harmful UV light that enters our homes fading our carpets and furniture, it also reduces the amount of excess heat during warmer weather cutting cooling costs by a large percentage. It can also be used, depending on how the film is applied to the window, to reflect heat back into the home during cold months thus saving on heating costs.

I can remember as a child seeing those late fifties early sixties news real type shows that depicted the home of the future with smart appliances as well as smart windows and doors. Much of those shows that dealt with early concepts and early ideas about how technology might be used in the future have seen those ideas come to fruition.

You can go into almost any home and find smart appliances such as refrigerators and ranges, heating and air conditioning systems, even water heaters and washing machines. All of these types of appliances have come of age and adopted some type of smart technology. But what happened to the innovations we were told would be coming for windows?

S P G or switchable privacy glass was one innovation that was predicted to be commonplace in the home by the year 2000. That technology does exist but isn’t commonplace. Photo gray windows such as the glass used in optical lenses were believed would also be commonplace by now but are not.

John Thompson

Peter Thompson: Peter, a futurist and tech commentator, writes about emerging technology trends and their potential impacts on society.