By Katy Tomasulo. In the future, residential windows may not just be openings that let in light and views. At least not if Andersen Windows has anything to do with it. In addition to researching and developing windows that are stronger, more efficient, and better-looking, the company also is constantly studying how windows can be used in ways we've never imagined, from incorporating audio and video to climate control to fire safety.
For the past two years, Andersen has showcased its efforts at trade shows under the name Project Odyssey, a sort of World's Fair of windows. The project features a variety of concept window products that incorporate new technologies and some yet-unknown innovations.
Several of the forward-looking products use solar panels integrated directly into the glass. In one unit, a solar cell powers an emergency strobe light. When activated by a smoke alarm, the motion-detecting device can alert firefighters if there are people in the room.
Solar cells also may be used to collect and store energy for an integrated climate control device. When the home is unoccupied, a climate control sensor monitors the room air. If the room becomes too stuffy, the sensor will activate a solar-powered trickle ventilation fan.
The company also is trying to integrate electronic features into window glass, such as a built-in radio-controlled clock or speakers. A video display unit, built into a small portion of the glass, would allow for an unobstructed view while offering homeowners high-resolution images for monitoring the Internet or watching closed-circuit video from another room.
Like many concept projects, it's far too soon to say which, if any, of the Project Odyssey ideas will become reality. But the company believes it's important to keep the momentum going, regardless. "It's all about how to put more function in the home," says Kurt Heikkila, senior vice president of research and technology. "This is part of our ability to drive innovation back into the window business."
The company plans to display Project Odyssey for a third time at next year's International Builders' Show in Las Vegas and should have some never-before-seen concepts. Designed as an inspiration to product inventors and homeowners alike, Project Odyssey is aiming to make the lives of consumers easier and more efficient.