Smart solutions are the future

Digitalisation and the ‘Internet of Things’ is rapidly gaining in importance, becoming the touchstone for the future viability of many companies in the window and facade building industry.

‘What radical changes are already happening?’ was the subject for several experts’ discussions at Swisspacer’s ‘fenestra-vision: smart windows, facades and innovative materials’.

With the symposium in its third year, Swisspacer invited leading industry experts to Salzburg including window and facades builders, window systems companies, planners and scientists to discuss the looming changes to the industry. All agreed that digitalisation is inevitable.

Keynote speaker Dr Eckhard Keill, chairman of the board of Roto Frank, discussed the technology behind the latest smart homes, and the potential obstacles and risks. According to a recent study by Gartner, the demand for smart homes and the public perception and understanding of them is approaching its peak – yet the market will not be ready for new developments for another five years.

Particular emphasis was placed on the abilities of the individuals involved along the value chain, all the way down to the window installer. Experts at the symposium were all in agreement that new, attractive professions will be created in this new era, such as ‘system integrators’.

Andreas Bittis, product manager at Saint-Gobain Building Glass, discussed intelligent products and processes during his presentation. The focus is not only on smart solutions, such as switchable glass, but primarily on communication between components, disciplines and users, as well as the availability of more information resulting from this.

An intelligent RFID chip, for example, makes seamless documentation of the process possible – from the production of a window, to user behaviour, maintenance cycles, all the way to disposal. Based on this information, Andreas is convinced that new business models can be created.

“The window industry will not be able to enjoy the stability of recent years for much longer,” warned Jochen Wilms, founder of W Ventures. He highlighted just how quickly a market can turn: within five years, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and more have replaced industry heavyweights like Shell or Texaco as the most valuable companies in the world.

The window and facades industry will take on special responsibility here as it could control buildings via the building envelope. Jochen encouraged the construction industry to form a ‘Star Alliance’ to adequately address the pending upheavals.

The final panel of experts, moderated by Professor Sieberath, head of the ift Rosenheim Institute, discussed possible developments in relation to PVC as a profile material. There was a strong consensus that this is one material will not be replaced even in the coming decades.

Arno Bender, head of system support at Aluplast, said: “The benefits of recyclability are great – ultimately, all PVC frames removed can be recycled in full.”