Cost-effective dynamic daylighting for existing buildings
IntelliShading™ Technology
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IntelliShading™ technology is a suite of patented and patent-pending innovations in sensors, algorithms, user interfaces, and mechatronics that work together to dramatically increase the cost-effectiveness, usability, and distributability of automated shading products.

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Automated Shading Reinvented

In refining an existing product category, developers usually have to settle for modest improvements in either capability or affordability, and it's generally very difficult to improve both at the same time. Indeed, developers are often forced to trade between capability and affordability (e.g., more features at a slightly higher price, or a more affordable product with slightly fewer features).

That's been the challenge in developing automated shading products for the mass-market: potential mainstream buyers demand products that are both more capable and much more affordable than conventional automated shading products—and simply adding features to existing products hasn't been even nearly enough to achieve that goal.

Instead, achieving the cost-effectiveness necessary to appeal to mainstream buyers required a complete re-thinking of automated shading technology. The result is IntelliShading™, which consists of patented and patent-pending innovations in just about every aspect of automated shading:

  • IntelliLux™ is an inexpensive sensor technology that's capable of sensing illumination as well as recognizing various types of human activity within its field of view. It's also capable of actually distinguishing between natural and artificial illumination, which is a key enabler for cost-effective daylight control in daylight-harvesting applications.
  • IntelliState™ automation algorithms enable an automated shading product to learn users' shading preferences by correlating manual shading adjustments with the history of changes in the ambient environment (as sensed by the IntelliLux™ sensor). This eliminates the need for the complex set-up process required by conventional automated shading products, thereby removing one of the major barriers to mainstream market acceptance. And it also drastically simplifies user interface requirements.
  • IntelliTwist™ user interface technology provides an intuitive and extremely cost-effective way for users to interact with automated shading products that use IntelliState™ automation.
  • IntelliDapter™ retrofit motorization technology allows commodity headrail-type window coverings to be motorized without tools and without need to modify (or even remove) the host headrail. That slashes installation labor costs in non-residential applications and enables end-user installation in residential applications, facilitating retail and direct online distribution.
Certain aspects of IntelliShading™ technology are protected by in-force and in-process utility patents, while others are protected as trade secrets. For more details on those aspects that we can currently disclose publicly, visit our sister site

These innovations work synergistically to slash the cost of automated shading while making it smarter and easier to use. These advantages are due partly to two signature attributes of an IntelliShading™-powered product: Intelligent Autonomy and Retrofittability.

Intelligent Autonomy

Intelligent Autonomy (IA) is the ability of a smart product to operate completely on its own, with no need for user intervention or connectivity to other devices.

IA is counter to one of today's hottest tech trends: distributed intelligence via the Internet of Things (IoT). One of the motivations for the IoT is that it will be easier and cheaper to deliver new functionality to consumers by leveraging devices and information already on the internet. In the first wave of this trend, smartphone and tablet apps began supplanting dedicated user interfaces on devices such as programmable thermostats; today, the focus is on apps that can turn groups of simple devices on the IoT into intelligent distributed systems. So, many smart products are evolving into "dumb" IoT nodes that rely partly on external devices, data, and apps to deliver value to users.

The full potential of this approach won't be realized until a critical mass of devices is on the IoT, which could take years. But even now, the IoT approach makes sense for many applications. For example, for a complex product, using a connected browser or app instead of a dedicated user interface is a no-brainer, because almost everyone has a smartphone, tablet, or computer—and a network interface is far cheaper than a complex user interface.

But the network interface isn't free. And all other things being equal, a distributed system costs more than an integrated system, because each distributed device requires its own network interface and often its own packaging.  These overhead costs aren't an issue for many smart-product applications, but they're deal-breakers for the most cost-sensitive ones. For many of those applications, IA represents the only hope of achieving the target price-point—but it's possible only with the right kind of sensors and algorithms.

Innovative Sensors and Algorithms for Cost-Effective Intelligent Autonomy

As inexpensive microprocessors become more capable, they can implement increasingly sophisticated algorithms, enabling increasingly useful information to be derived from even inexpensive sensors. And sensor technology itself is evolving just as quickly, becoming smaller and even cheaper while offering increased performance.

The convergence of these technologies has enabled a new class of smart products that achieve a high IQ without needing IoT connectivity or a complex user interface. For products that need resources (such as sensor data) that are not already on the network, the result can be a substantial decrease in complexity and cost:

Intelligent Autonomy can be much less expensive than Distributed Intelligence for applications that require hardware or information that is not already on the network
Chart 1: Intelligent Autonomy can Significantly Reduce Product Cost and Complexity

For example, the Roomba® vacuuming robot by iRobot® uses simple sensors and innovative algorithms to pack a surprising amount of robotic autonomy into a simple platform, eliminating the need for connectivity and slashing costs. There are probably some people who won't buy a Roomba® because it can't be monitored or controlled over the internet. But they're vastly out-numbered by buyers who don't care if their vacuum cleaner is connected to the internet—as long as it makes their lives easier at a reasonable price.

Another breakthrough product that leverages sensors and algorithms is the Nest Learning Thermostat by Nest Labs. The Nest does offer internet connectivity, along with elegant apps and an appealing design aesthetic. However, its core benefit—that it saves energy without having to be programmed like a conventional programmable thermostat—is due mainly to on-board sensors and proprietary algorithms, not internet connectivity. The Nest is a hit, and internet connectivity obviously facilitates distribution of firmware upgrades (while giving Nest and Google access to sensor data that can be leveraged to provide other products and services). However, from the typical purchaser's point of view, a lower-cost version without internet connectivity might be even more appealing.

IntelliShading™ sensors and algorithms do for automated shading what the Roomba® and Nest sensors and algorithms do for robotic vacuuming and adaptive temperature control: they enable intelligent, autonomous operation with simple, inexpensive hardware. And the resulting cost savings are even more crucial for automated shading than for vacuums and thermostats because mainstream buyers aren't willing to pay as much for an automated shading product as they're willing to pay for an iRobot® or a Nest.

But with IntelliShading™, the benefits of IA go beyond cost savings: the sensors and algorithms provide a level of automation intelligence that's difficult—if not impossible—to achieve with conventional automated shading products, regardless of cost.

Best of Both Worlds

Of course, IA and distributed intelligence aren't mutually exclusive: a product that's smart enough to operate autonomously can also serve as a "dumb" IoT node, providing sensor data to (or reacting to commands from) the network. IntelliShading™-powered products can do that, too.

So an IntelliShading™-powered product provides the best of both worlds: the capability to operate autonomously now, without need for user intervention or external devices—but also the ability to interoperate with the IoT when a critical mass of devices has joined the network.


Despite their low cost, headrail-type window coverings like miniblinds and cellular shades provide excellent control of admitted daylight. So the most affordable automated shading products usually take the form of a drivetrain and control electronics that are retrofitted into the headrail of a miniblind or cellular shade. Because the retrofit requires access to the inside of the headrail (and, often, minor modifications to components within the headrail), it's usually done by a distributor, rather than by the end-user.

IntelliShading™ takes retrofittability a step further: because its innovative sensors and algorithms drastically reduce hardware complexity and size, an IntelliShading™ product can be implemented as a device that is retrofitted outside the host window covering's headrail. That eliminates the need to modify—or even remove, if already installed—the host window covering, drastically reducing installation labor.

To further exploit that advantage, IntelliShading™ includes innovative electromechanical features that make installation even easier and ensure compatibility with a broad range of ordinary window coverings. The ease of installation means that an IntelliShading™ product can be installed by the end-user instead of a distributor, and the broad compatibility means that existing window coverings can often be used instead of new ones, slashing cost even further. And together with their small size, their ease of installation makes IntelliShading™ products far more amenable to retail and direct distribution than conventional automated shading products.

Exploiting the Technology's Full Potential

We've prototyped several products based on IntelliShading™ technology, including IntelliShading™ controllers for conventional motorized window coverings as well as complete IntelliShading™ automation modules for manually operated miniblinds and cellular/pleated shades. All of these prototypes use identical control electronics, user interfaces, and software, and differ only in packaging and mechatronics. And all offer significant advantages over existing automated shading products.

However, market research shows that retrofittable IntelliShading™ modules for conventional miniblinds—which we call IntelliBlinds™ intelligent miniblind actuators—offer the fastest and most lucrative way to exploit the mass-market potential of IntelliShading™ technology. We've developed versions of IntelliBlinds™ optimized for each of the two largest segments of the latent mass-market:

Together, these two products alone offer the potential to increase the market penetration of automated shading by an order of magnitude.

Cost-effective dynamic daylight control for non-residential daylighting
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