Hallo window tint in an office-before and after

[Image above] Credit: Kinestral Technologies Inc.

Ah, the wonders of technology. It seems as though advances in research have made simple inanimate objects “smarter.” Just look at self-driving cars, doorbells that allow you to answer the door from your phone, clothing, smart homes—and even roads.

It was only a matter of time before someone decided windows need an IQ boost. Kinestral Technologies out of San Francisco has come up with a special type of tinted glass where the tint is controlled by the user through—you guessed it—a smartphone.

Kinestral’s smart-tinting glass product, called Halio, works to reduce the amount of light while still providing an outside view. The company installed its first windows in a skylight and two meeting rooms at Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc.’s San Francisco office, according to a recent press release.

The skylight installation reduced intense heat entering the employee lounge. The meeting room installation created windows that turned into walls when darkened, adding privacy with the tinted “partitions.”

Halio is essentially a light management system, enabling the user to control amount of light and privacy using a smartphone, tablet, wall mounted control, or voice activation, according to a description on the company website. The technology is built into the glass and blocks “up to 99.9% visible light,” the company claims, reducing buildings’ energy needs. Which makes it a perfect “green” technology—a strong selling point for both commercial and residential applications.

Kinestral’s “smart” windows are powered by electrochromics—a technology initially pioneered by companies like Sage (owned by Saint Gobain) and View.

Electrochromic materials can “change their properties under the influence of an electrical voltage or current,” as explained in the book Electrochromic Materials and Devices by Roger J. Mortimer, David R. Rosseinsky, and Paul M.S. Monk.

“Kinestral made numerous advances to the technology, so…we refer to Halio as smart-tinting glass,” Craig Henricksen, Kinestral’s VP of marketing explained in an email.

The differences in Halio’s technology include increased tinting speed, uniform tint transition, uniform color, and—what may be the most important feature—user control. While Halio can be automated to respond to various parameters, such as sun position, weather, or time of day, occupants can adjust the tint to their personal preference. Over a period of time Halio will “learn” what level of tint occupants prefer during a particular time of day.

Kinestral announced in March it will begin to mass-produce its Halio smartglass, but according to an article in Venturebeat, the company’s next challenge is to manufacture its windows at scale to bring down costs and create a reasonable price point for retail consumers.

At the moment, the company is focused on residential and commercial building interior and exterior applications, but other industries are in their sights, including the transportation industry.

There have been positive reactions to Halio so far. “They’re wowed when we can command it to tint,” Henricksen said. “Architects…tell us about projects they’re working on. Consumers…tell us which rooms in their homes need Halio.”

Perhaps window coverings may soon go the way of the typewriters, landline phones, and VHS tapes. Only time will tell.