WE ARE JOINED TODAY BY GEORGES FIGURA, TECHNICAL MANAGER OF SMART LITE (A DIVISION OF VISION SYSTEMS) TO TALK ABOUT HOW SMART GLASS HAS IMPACTED THE TRANSPORT SECTOR.
Thank you for joining me today, Georges.
What is the Nr 1 problem that Smart Lite aims to solve for its customers?
Smart Lite is a division of the Vision Systems group, world leader in shading systems, which is dedicated to smart windows.
Its purpose is to find innovative solutions such as Electronically Dimmable Windows (EDWs) allowing you to change the opacity of a window to solve solar protection and privacy issues.
They make it possible to eliminate shades that clutter up the space, block the view and require regular maintenance. They provide solar protection and privacy on windows where shades could not be installed.
Behind a Vision Systems customer lies more than one type of user. Our Nr 1 goal is to respond to all the wishes of our OEMs, Operators and passengers:-
- OEMs trying to convey a modern high-end image and looking for brand differentiation,
- Operators looking to reduce maintenance costs and air conditioning costs with a reliable solution and
- Enhancing passenger experience with customized and comfortable solutions.
To meet their wishes, Vision Systems is the only competitor to design and offer a complete solution via HMI, electronic control, and glazing function, where the other actors of the market offer only bricks of the solution.
What are your main markets today?
Apart from the aeronautic market that is taken over by Vision Systems Aeronautics, Smart lite serve the rail, marine, VIP automotive, special vehicles and high-end motorhome markets.
What does your role involve at Smart Lite?
Smart Lite was born 3 years ago in response to the growing demand for smart glazing solutions, relying on experts who bring together many skills developed since 2010 on EDWs technologies at Vision Systems.
It is quite natural that I evolved from my role of R&D project manager since 2010 to technical manager responsible for a department composed of R&D and engineering staff.
Our solutions cannot function without electronic expertise and know-how brought from the beginning of this venture by our electronics architect Olivier Racaud.
The skills of our material, mechanical and electronic engineers contribute to the success of our developments.
What are the similarities between the Electronically Dimmable Window technologies that are integrated into aviation, marine and land vehicles? Are there any differences between these end-applications?
Electronically Dimmable Window is a generic term, as you know.
Our R&D DNA’s makes us test and still test a multitude of technologies from electrochromic to liquid crystal solutions or other inkjet solution for example.
We chose to develop our own solutions based on the most mature worldwide existing technology, the SPD (Suspended Particle Device) from Research Frontiers International.
For solar protection, SPD technology allows to change the opacity of a window from transparent to dark, and sometimes combine with PDLC technology for privacy to change the opacity from transparent to opaque white or dark.
Our solutions include an in-house developed interlayer and electronics that make them unique on the market in terms of optical quality, heat blockage, acoustic insulation, weight, switching speed, ease of maintenance and ability to retrofit.
How do Electronically Dimmable Windows help the drivers or passengers in an aircraft, yacht or a land-based vehicle?
Either in planes, trains, boats or cars, the passengers want to be able to enjoy the view, use their smartphone, watch a movie, read a book, sleep and they might also need privacy.
Vision Systems provides dimmable solutions that allow to control daylight without blocking the view, that let enough light entering in when needed while protecting from the sun, that turn dark enough to sleep, that protect from glare and heat, and that provide instant privacy.
And when there are various passengers who don’t want to do the same thing at the same time or when the sun impairs the visibility of the driver for instance, then we propose a multi-zone solution, where each zone can be dimmed independently.
Vision Systems’ electronically dimmable solutions offer enhanced visual, thermal and acoustic comfort, for a greater wellness atmosphere.
The importance of our know-how in terms of electronic driving takes all its pertinence with the use of different thermal or brightness sensor or integration of sunflower mode for multizone solution to allow automatic operation.
Where do you think the smart glass industry will go next? Can we expect integrations with other technologies, such as Augmented Reality or Internet-of Things?
Where there is energy consumption to be reduced, smart glazing will be present. The market is now ready for smart glass solutions and so are we, with smarter products and more useful products for the customer.
The smart glass industry will always go smarter, and Smart Lite will continue to provide new functions, such as integrated information display, video projection, lighting… to increase the passenger experience and provide brand differentiation.
Augmented Reality or Internet of Things could be integrated into wider concepts that don’t limit themselves to the glazing but that mingle and intertwine smart glass with other smart products.
What do you consider to be the next big challenge for the sectors in which you operate?
The next big challenge might be to provide a specific solution for a specific market taking into account profitability, differentiating features and environmental impact assessment.
And how is Vision Systems Smart Lite positioning itself to tackle this challenge?
Smart Lite has invested since last year in new industrial means, buildings and machinery, in the recruitment of new employees, and has developed a new process to produce its high quality products in medium series.
Based on this new industrial process, Smart Lite’s EDWs offer unprecedented optical quality, reliability and competitiveness.
Smart Lite relies on a partner network with complementary specific skills, to offer customized and complete systems.
Vision Systems is also working on a dedicated business model for glassmakers to integrate the dimmable solution under Smart Lite’s supervision, for large-series projects.
New players are entering the market, like Gauzy that recently chose a strategic implantation in Germany to address the European market. That helps in making the technology more visible and attractive to big industrial players, and that will help to reduce the costs of such solutions.
They also come with wider films, which will allow us to provide new solutions for the yacht or train markets.
Concerning the impact on the environment, Smart Lite’s innovative solutions help reduce the environmental impact of a vehicle in its use.
For example, a panoramic roof with dimmable glazing on a car allows a reduction of heat in the passenger compartment up to 18ºF/10ºC, a reduction in air conditioning needs and therefore a reduction in fuel consumption, CO2 emissions of about 4g/km, and an increase in the range of an electric vehicle up to 5.5%.
In addition, they darken automatically when they are not powered, which keeps cool inside the vehicle when parked. And they are lightweight solutions compared to motorized shades also improving fuel efficiency.
We are ISO 14001 (2015) certified and “Planet Respect” is one of the themes of the year: the growth of our activities and site implies new building and facilities allowing us for a reduction of our energy consumption and better waste management. Besides, we are embracing an eco-design approach of our future products.