On the Road with USGlass

Not-So-Artificial Intelligence

No, this is not another article about artificial intelligence (AI). Give me two paragraphs to get there, and you’ll see.

AI has been in the news lately, primarily because Microsoft announced that it would offer AI-driven ChatGPT as part of its Bing search engine. Interestingly, Google has had similar capabilities but backed away from releasing them, saying that such programs did not meet its AI algorithms or safety standards. (If you are interested, the Wall Street Journal has a good article on this).

I found a concise story on page 60 of USGlass’ April issue that foretells the future of our industry’s interface with artificial, techno-automated intelligence. It’s called “Viracon for the VIN.” The innovative glass fabricator has created and is marking its insulating glass units (IGUs) with thermal spacers with a Viracon Identification Number (VIN). The 24-digit number, printed minutely within each unit, provides much data, including the thickness, size, substrate, print, heat treatment, and manufacture date.

You can read the full release here, but in the meantime, this is what Viracon says about its VIN:

“Future-proofing today’s buildings means architects and building developers need to anticipate future glass replacement needs of existing buildings or glass for a new building to match an existing one. Viracon envisions that future and provides an asset management tool that ensures the initial investment in great glass is protected with an easy way to obtain that insulating glass make-up in the future.”

Viracon instructs “architects and building owners who want to decode the VIN do so by completing an online form.” The form, too, is rich in data. It provides the inquirer’s name, contact info, affiliation, project location and reason for the inquiry. In an instant, Viracon has access to upcoming projects and glass needs.

Companies using this technology will have an easier time funneling work to their affiliated networks (think certified fabricators) or (dare I say it) selling directly to the end user. Or perhaps enterprising fabricators will link up with the small but growing number of labor-only companies to supply the glass directly and subcontract a workforce.

As technology advances, I wouldn’t be surprised to find a miniature GPS locator, or glass breakage detector, included in the unit, so the manufacturer will know if the glass is moved or broken. Sensors that tell you when the humidity in the unit is rising or when condensation appears are also possible.

Computer technology could seamlessly interface with the plant to order the glass, hire a labor crew and communicate with the architect or building owner. Think of glass as the ink cartridge in your printer. The manufacturer of your printer knows instantly when you need new ink—and it knows when you didn’t use their ink. In fact, it offers services that will send you more whenever that happens—seamlessly and automatically.

Viracon’s VIN system is just the beginning. The glass industry will be like every other in that technology will radically change and disrupt how things are done.

In some ways, the industry will be better; in others, worse, but in all, it will surely be different.


P.S.: I am heading out to Glass TEXpo in San Antonio this week. It’s going to be an amazing event and I hope to see you there. Registration opens Wednesday afternoon, May 10th and the show runs through Friday, May 12th. It’s free to (non-supplier) readers of USGlass magazine. Please stop by and say hello.