Can Smart Windows Operate Efficiently to Use Auto-Tint That Optimizes Outside Light?

View Smart Windows at W Hotel San FranciscoThey are more efficient, but at what cost?

A Silicon Valley startup unveiled a smart window product that gives building designers a promising new tool and improves building efficiency. View (formerly called Soladigm) officially introduced its auto-tinting window system made of a dynamic glass that tints based on building light and temperature. There have been many attempts to make windows that can change color to adjust light and temperature indoors, but these glass products are rarely used.

View says that its electrochromatic glass is durable and provides a reasonable payback on energy reductions and eliminating blinds. But shaving energy bills—typically, a 20 percent reduction in HVAC and lighting—aren’t the only draw. “The energy savings are tremendous but this is much larger than that. It’s a truly intelligent window system that allows for a fantastic user experience,” says CEO Rao Mulpuri. The glass allows people to sit in comfort next to the windows by reducing glare and heat when tinted and allowing as much natural light in as possible.

In a commercial setting, such as a hotel or store, the glass is connected to a building management system through a Wi-Fi network that measures occupancy & temperature and uses light sensors. A person can manually adjust the tint from a wall switch or a networked device or the system can be set to automatically adjust the low-voltage windows.

The core technology is a electrochromatic material and how it is applied to glass. Using physical vapor deposition techniques common in the thin-film solar or display industry, it sputters metal oxide gases onto glass to create a ceramic coating. The finished window includes wiring and a second glass pane. Using a ceramic material (which is abundant) makes the window coating durable, which has been a problem for other auto-tinting technologies.

View’s windows cost 50 percent more than plain windows, so it’s a premium product building owners need to be willing to pay more for. Building designers and architects will no doubt have many ideas on how smart glass can be incorporated into building facades or skylights. The key is demonstrating that its energy-saving features can justify the new technology. Existing electrochromic window designs cost around $100 per square foot. View has not disclosed how much its windows will cost, but it is estimated that View’s smart windows will cost around $20 per square foot.

More comparative analysis needs to be done of the cost savings on utilities as compared to the cost of the windows plus the additional electricity used to run the system.

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Most Efficient Charities Picked by Forbes

Who deserves your charitable dollars?

To help you decide, Forbes has calculated the financial efficiency of the 100 U.S. charities that received the most private donations last year. We’ve also picked five all-stars–charities that are reasonably efficient (compared to their peers) and do fine work in their areas. In their tables, fundraising efficiency shows the percentage of gifts left after the expense of soliciting them. Charitable commitment subtracts other overhead, too. Donor dependency? That’s the share of donations needed to break even; charities with a ratio above 100 had to dig into reserves and really need your dollars.

Brother’s Brother Foundation

Run from a graffiti-scarred neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Brother’s Brother delivers medicine and educational supplies worldwide, a mission that hasn’t changed much since its start in 1958. This is a family-run affair: Luke L. Hingson, the current chief, is the son of the organization’s founder. Brother’s Brother has been leading a push among gift-in-kind charities–nonprofits that receive more resources as donated goods than they do cash–for greater truth when accounting for those donated goods. (Among the problems, as reported by FORBES last year, some charities were wildly inflating the value of donated pills, making their operations look deceptively efficient.) Brother’s Brother is efficient, with only 16 full-time workers. Donations ($241 million last year) were steady through the recession, even as donors pulled back from many charities. “We haven’t had a lot of financial pressure, so it’s allowed us to take on some harder projects,” says Hingson. It’s now delivering supplies to 100 African hospitals, up from 4 two years ago.


Some single-disease charities spend a lot of money soliciting contributions by mail. JDRF (it recently renamed itself from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to reflect the varied ages of Type 1 diabetes patients) holds down costs by relying on a network of volunteers–everyone from International Chairman Mary Tyler Moore to “advocates” who lobby Congress for diabetes funding to elementary school kids taking part in the fundraising walks that helped it raise $198 million last year. CEO Jeffrey Brewer touts new Web tools for volunteers. Meanwhile, JDRF directs its big bucks to medical research.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America

Ads featuring celebrity alumni, including Denzel Washington, Magic Johnson and Cuba Gooding Jr., helped the clubs raise $658 million last year relatively efficiently. “They have a real-life story to tell,” says Jim Clark, the group’s CEO. “And we’ve capitalized on that.” BGCA is now building a national tracking system–based on surveying kids when they join and before they leave–to help clubs use money most effectively, by figuring out which programs have the most impact.

International Rescue Committee

This New York-based charity was formed in 1933, after Albert Einstein asked Americans to help refugees from Hitler’s Germany. George Rupp, a former Columbia University president, became president and CEO of the relief group in 2002 and has tripled its total budget. IRC now operates in 40 countries, helping to care for (and sometimes resettle) refugees from conflict zones. The key to affording such expansion, says Rupp, is training local hires to do the work. “It’s much cheaper to operate with locals than it is to support expatriates or an entire international team,” he says. As conflicts drag on, savings mount. The IRC first started helping Afghan refugees in 1980 after the Soviet invasion; today it’s still in Afghanistan, with a 99% local staff.

United Way

The largest charity in the U.S. by donations ($3.9 billion last year) United Way has a built-in efficiency edge, since 57% of its donations come through payroll withholding and another 20% from corporate donations. Still, when CEO Brian Gallagher took over a decade ago, the sprawling organization was recovering from a nasty scandal (a previous CEO went to jail) and suffering from a lack of focus (it was simply sprinkling money around to every group). Gallagher has turned what was a “loose confederation” into something more akin to a global franchise operation, with 1,800 chapters worldwide, including 1,200 in the U.S. The domestic chapters, and later foreign affiliates, were required to agree to independent review boards, audits and limits on marketing tactics. “Just as McDonald’s would, we needed to ask ourselves, where do we have to be consistent and where do we allow innovation on the ground?” says Gallagher. U.S. chapters now pay 1% of funds raised to the parent organization. About a quarter of what United Way takes in domestically is directed by donors to other charities. Money that stays with United Way is now used for one of three focus areas: education, income and health (particularly obesity prevention).

Forbes Picks 5 All-Star Charities: Top Rankings For Efficient Groups – Forbes

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Google Says Computer-controlled Drivers are Safer and More Efficient than Humans

In September, California’s governor Edmund Brown signed the bill that legalized autonomous vehicles or self-driving cars. Doing so wasn’t just about space-age headlines but a response to the findings of initial research by companies such as Google, which suggest computer-controlled drivers can be safer and more efficient than humans.

Some might see such developments as the machines taking over, but the rest of us should be able to embrace this example of technology making efficient use of our time and resources. Here’s the proof… Nissan recently unveiled early developments from its own autonomous vehicle research program. One part of the technology uses sensors and cameras to understand the spatial terrain around the car and respond accordingly, so drivers can’t mistakenly move into too-small spaces, bump into unseen objects, and won’t have to correct driving lines. The second key innovation is the replacement of all the mechanical components between steering wheel and front wheels with electronics, for a much quicker, more responsive, and driver-aware experience.

Back in the early 60s, Marshall McLuhan wrote an essay called The Gadget Lover: Narcissus as Narcosis. In it he surveyed the new boom in consumer electronics in America over the previous decade and identified a new archetype: the gadget lover. McLuhan wasn’t overly enthusiastic about this emerging obsession, seeing it as a way for consumers to offload the information overload and psychic stress of modern life. The gadget was kind of cyborg extension of the individual that helped them cope by putting them into a kind of trance (narcosis). Though the gadget lover sang the praises of the latest gadget for its innovations, he or she actually, unwittingly, loved it because it reflected his or her own interests and personality back, like a mirror.

We often want help, because we like to do things more easily and quickly, to better manage our resources and activities. We invest ourselves and our personalities in our technology – that’s when it becomes interesting and relevant. We like technology to help do more useful and fun things, to make boring things less painful, to save us time, money and misery.

People have become accustomed to having hardware and software working for them, and the internet has made everybody accustomed to having their say and expecting solutions at speed. If we love gadgets and software, it’s precisely because we know they reflect our lives. We’re not the deluded slaves of new gadgets, we’re their impatient masters. New technologies give us more knowledge and control than we are used to. If I go to a firm like 23 And Me and pay $299 (£185) to get my genes analysed, that’s not because I want to outsource my identity to machines – it’s because the information they give me from a saliva sample will help me learn all sorts of interesting things, from past ancestry to future health problems, that I couldn’t have accessed before.

Put technology to work for people and you’re already taking steps towards that inspirational near-future aspiration: creating an operating system for our lives.

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