The construction industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by an increased focus on environmental sustainability and workplace safety, and the growing importance of technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and robotics. In the last three years alone, there have been over 425,000 patents filed and granted in the construction industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in construction: smart glazing. Buy the report here.

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However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilizing and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

80+ innovations will shape the construction industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the construction industry using innovation intensity models built on over 232,000 patents, there are 80+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, self-healing concrete, waterproof floor drains, and construction 3D printing are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Smart glazing, regeneration control hydraulics, and floating breakwaters are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are wall surface temperature controls and embossed floor panels, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the construction industry

Smart glazing is a key innovation area in construction

Smart glazing, also known as switchable or dynamic glazing, denotes a glass or glazing system with adaptive properties that respond to environmental or user-specific conditions. This innovative technology allows the glass to modify transparency, reflection, and thermal characteristics to suit changing conditions, offering advantages such as energy efficiency, enhanced privacy, and improved comfort.

The technology encompasses various types, including electrochromic glazing, which adjusts its tint in response to an electric current, providing control over light and glare. Thermochromic glazing adapts its tint based on temperature, regulating heat gain and enhancing thermal comfort. Additionally, photochromic glazing automatically darkens in response to ultraviolet light, serving applications beyond eyewear, such as architectural uses. Smart glazing stands at the forefront of advancements, contributing to the creation of responsive and efficient building environments.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 190+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established construction companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of smart glazing.

Key players in smart glazing – a disruptive innovation in the construction industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.   

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.  

Patent volumes related to smart glazing

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Panasonic 633 Unlock Company Profile
KGIC Merger 402 Unlock Company Profile
AGC 282 Unlock Company Profile
VKR 173 Unlock Company Profile
LG 171 Unlock Company Profile
Nippon Sheet Glass 143 Unlock Company Profile
AGC Glass Europe 138 Unlock Company Profile
Lutron Electronics 115 Unlock Company Profile
Springs Window Fashions 106 Unlock Company Profile
Luoyang Landglass Technology 97 Unlock Company Profile
Compagnie de Saint-Gobain 95 Unlock Company Profile
Cardinal Glass Industries 62 Unlock Company Profile
Corning 60 Unlock Company Profile
3M 43 Unlock Company Profile
State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council 40 Unlock Company Profile
Dover 36 Unlock Company Profile
Resonac 30 Unlock Company Profile
ShreddedTire 28 Unlock Company Profile
Yazaki 25 Unlock Company Profile
Hall Labs 24 Unlock Company Profile
MARIAK INDUSTRIES 23 Unlock Company Profile
Eversealed Windows 23 Unlock Company Profile
Horizons 23 Unlock Company Profile
Sunsetter Products 23 Unlock Company Profile
LIXIL 23 Unlock Company Profile
Kingspan Group 21 Unlock Company Profile
Genuit Group 19 Unlock Company Profile
REHAU Automotive 19 Unlock Company Profile
Koninklijke Philips 18 Unlock Company Profile
Prince International 18 Unlock Company Profile
HORTECH 17 Unlock Company Profile
Grenzebach Maschinenbau 17 Unlock Company Profile
Unilux 17 Unlock Company Profile
China State Construction Engineering 16 Unlock Company Profile
Holcim 16 Unlock Company Profile
Rockwool International 16 Unlock Company Profile
DELTA DORE 13 Unlock Company Profile
G 13 Unlock Company Profile
GED Integrated Solutions 13 Unlock Company Profile
Legrand 12 Unlock Company Profile
Crestron Electronics 11 Unlock Company Profile
Shimizu 11 Unlock Company Profile
BASF 11 Unlock Company Profile
Tachikawa Blind Manufacturing 11 Unlock Company Profile
SAES Getters 11 Unlock Company Profile
Carl Zeiss Stiftung 11 Unlock Company Profile
ABG 10 Unlock Company Profile
Gebr Knauf 10 Unlock Company Profile
Roto Frank 8 Unlock Company Profile
Takenaka 8 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Of the companies that have filed patents for smart glazing, Panasonic takes the lead, followed by KGIC Merger and AGC.

AGC, formerly known as Asahi Glass, is a global leader in glass, electronic components, chemicals, and ceramics. With a diverse product range, including automotive glass, architectural glass, and specialty glass, AGC operates globally under renowned brands. Headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, the company, established in 1907, has a rich history and a significant presence across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, the Americas, and Europe.

AGC is a pioneer in smart glazing technology, investing in research and development to offer innovative solutions for modern applications in architecture, automotive, and electronics. Committed to sustainability, AGC's smart glazing solutions, such as SunEwat technology, harness renewable energy, contributing to reduced reliance on fossil fuels.

As a forward-thinking multinational corporation, AGC continues to lead in smart glazing technology, emphasizing innovation, sustainability, and customer satisfaction. Ongoing research and development efforts aim to advance the performance, functionality, and applications of AGC's smart glazing solutions, shaping the future of this transformative technology.

In terms of application diversity, Rockwool International leads the pack, while Gebr Knauf and ShreddedTire stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Genuit Group held the top position, followed by Prince International and Unilux.

Gebr Knauf, a prominent building materials manufacturer headquartered in Iphofen, Bayern, Germany, specializes in plasterboard-based solutions, encompassing ceiling, dry lining, and interior wall services. With more than 80 years of industry leadership, Knauf is globally recognized for sustainable lightweight construction.

As part of its commitment to innovation, Knauf is actively investing in smart glazing development, acknowledging the technology's potential to enhance energy efficiency, comfort, and sustainability in buildings. Knauf's extensive product range includes modern dry construction systems, insulation materials, plasters, paints, flowing screeds, and flooring systems.

Gebr Knauf is positioned as a key player in advancing smart glazing technologies within the construction sector. Leveraging its expertise in building systems and dedication to application-driven innovation, the company aligns with the rising demand for sustainable and technologically advanced solutions. As smart glazing evolves, Gebr Knauf is anticipated to deliver innovative and practical applications that elevate the performance and sustainability of buildings.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the construction industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Construction.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.