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Let There Be Light or Not

Our homes and our offices are getting smarter by the day as the Internet of Things -- the internet of everything -- becomes increasingly ubiquitous. Soon we'll be able to control even the heat and light that streams through our windows with just the push of a button.
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Our homes and our offices are getting smarter by the day as the Internet of Things -- the internet of everything -- becomes increasingly ubiquitous. Soon we'll be able to control even the heat and light that streams through our windows with just the push of a button.

New Smart Window technology, under development by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, uses the same liquid crystals in our smartphones and televisions to regulate the sunlight passing through a pane of glass. Who doesn't love a big picture window? They bring the outside in, but along with the view comes heat and glare. Traditionally, the only way to control it is to block it with shades or blinds. But that's about to change.

Smart Windows regulate light as needed, and offer tremendous flexibility in the shape, size and color of windows -- opening up endless design possibilities. The transitions are seamless from light to dark and back again -- low voltage bursts bringing changes in fractions of a second. Like setting DVRs or thermostats, light can be regulated with automated controls -- or even with your smartphone -- using indoor and outdoor sensors.

Studies show that Smart Windows can result in serious energy savings -- up to 16 percent in winter and 13 percent in summer (or 30 percent overall). And Smart Windows will eventually double as transparent displays. I for one am titillated by the idea of opening up new design possibilities that simultaneously improve comfort and environmental output.