The world is increasingly full of smart things: smart phones, smart TVs, smart watches, even smart refrigerators.
Now there’s one more item to add to the list: smart glass. And it comes with a host of benefits.
Silicon Valley-based View (formerly Soladigm), which today announced a $100 million funding round, makes “dynamic glass” that reacts intelligently to outside conditions, automatically tinting to reduce glare and energy usage from interior lighting and air conditioning. Occupants of buildings outfitted with View’s windows can also manually adjust the glass settings with mobile apps or wall switches.
According to View CEO Rao Mulpuri, the company’s dynamic glass eliminates the need for blinds or shades — and more importantly, it reduces annual HVAC and lighting energy consumption by around 20 percent in a typical commercial installation.
“The concept is very simple: It’s like wearing sunglasses and adjusting them to how bright it really is,” explained Mulpuri.
The company’s core technology is its electrochromatic material. In a process that takes six to eight hours, it sputters metal oxide gases onto a glass pane to create a ceramic coating about a micrometer thick, or about two percent the width of a human hair. Then it adds low voltage wiring so the window can connect to a building’s central management system, followed by another glass pane sandwiching everything together.
For a typical commercial installation, View’s dynamic glass costs about 50 percent more than regular glass windows — though it lowers energy costs over time.
“While you spend more money on the window, you spend less money on the air conditioning system,” said Mulpuri. “In some cases, it’s cost-neutral on day one.”
The savings are leaner in residential buildings, which tend to have less window space and less efficient HVAC installations, so the key draw there is user experience. For now, though, View is focused on corporate buildings, hospitals, hotels, schools, and government facilities.
Above: View glass at the Clovis Community Medical Center in Clovis, CA.
View competes with a few other smart glass companies, including Sage Glass and Heliotrope Technologies but considers itself one of the most mature companies in the market, with more than 50 deployments across the country. But “there’s clearly room for more than a few players in this space,” said Mulpuri. “Someday, every glass window will be built this way.”
On Tuesday morning, View announced a $100 million investment from Madrone Capital Partners. The growth capital will enable View to ramp up production efforts in its Olive Branch, Miss. manufacturing facility and build out its sales and marketing team.
“We’re going to take the company to a level where it’s able to pay for its own bills,” Mulpuri told VentureBeat. “We’re not there yet, that’s why we continue to raise financing, but we will continue to grow in terms of number and size of the projects that we put our glass in.”
Including the new $100 million funding round, View has raised more than $300 million in equity from investors like Khosla Ventures, Sigma Partners, and GE Capital. It currently has about 300 employees, said Mulpuri.
Before joining View in December 2008, Mulpuri spent a decade at Novellus Systems, a maker of semiconductor equipment. He said that industry taught him how to rapidly innovate on hardware technologies.
“[Hardware] is not easy, but if you can do it, you can really have a big impact,” said Mulpuri. “We’re ready to go out and grow this into a big phenomenon.”