Fu­ture in-flight en­ter­tain­ment will know when you’re asleep

The China Post - - LIFE - BY ERIC RAN­DOLPH

The next gen­er­a­tion of in-flight en­ter­tain­ment will in­clude screens that know when you’ve fallen asleep, while new apps will very soon let you sync your per­sonal de­vices with the on­board sys­tem.

At the Paris Air Show this week French man­u­fac­turer Thales has been show­ing off its pro­to­type for the next gen­er­a­tion of busi­ness class seat, which in­cludes iris­track­ing to tell when pas­sen­gers are look­ing away.

The screen can be set to pause a film or go into standby when the pas­sen­ger’s eyes are closed, and restart au­to­mat­i­cally when they wake up.

“The eye- track­ing tech­nol­ogy ac­tu­ally came from the hand­i­capped mar­ket, and we’ve reap­plied it to air­lines,” said Brett Bleacher, di­rec­tor of in­no­va­tions for Thales.

Bleacher said it was “still five to 10 years off” be­fore the tech­nol­ogy is ac­tu­ally in­stalled in busi­ness class cab­ins.

“We are just start­ing to build re­la­tion­ships with air­lin­ers to get this into pro­duc­tion,” he said.

Mean­while, the mar­ket leader in in-flight en­ter­tain­ment, Pana­sonic, was dis­play­ing its own tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tions which will soon be avail­able.

Hav­ing al­ready brought touch screens and high-def­i­ni­tion video to many ma­jor air­lines in the last cou­ple of years, the Ja­panese com- pany is now of­fer­ing a range of smarter soft­ware that al­lows pas­sen­gers to browse the films on of­fer from an app on their per­sonal de­vice be­fore they travel, and then sync the de­vice once on­board.

Mar­ket­ing man­ager Mario Grima said the soft­ware would be in­tro­duced to air­lin­ers “very soon.”

The sync means pas­sen­gers can use their iPad or tablet as a sec­ond screen, brows­ing the In­ter­net and shop­ping op­tions with­out rupt­ing the film.

It has taken a while for air­plane screens to catch up with the sort of qual­ity that have now be­come rou­tine in smart­phones and tablets.

“Air­line screens have to go through a lot of cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and test­ing. They have to be much more rugged to make sure noth­ing goes wrong,” said Grima.

“If your iPad bursts



the flames on the ground it’s not the end of the world, but if that hap­pens on a plane, it’s ob­vi­ously much more of a prob­lem.”

Com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Pana­sonic and Thales also have to “fu­ture­proof” their com­put­ers to make sure that they can han­dle tech­nol­ogy and soft­ware im­prove­ments.

“You don’t want to change the en­tire fleet’s en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem ev­ery time some new soft­ware comes out, so we’ve had to make these much more pow­er­ful than an iPad,” said Grima.

Get­ting More from Cus­tomers

The other im­por­tant de­vel­op­ment has been to en­cour­age more spend­ing from cus­tomers — a fac­tor that has be­come in­creas­ingly im­por­tant for air­lines as their profit mar­gins are squeezed.

Air­lines are keen to en­cour­age pas­sen­gers to book ho­tels, hire cars or buy tick­ets from part­ner com­pa­nies at the des­ti­na­tion.

“An­cil­lary rev­enue from selling tick­ets or team­ing up with ho­tels and rental com­pa­nies has be­come a huge and grow­ing part of air­line rev­enue,” said Scott Easter­ling, di­rec­tor of in-flight en­ter­tain­ment for Thales.

The new tech­nol­ogy al­lows air­lines to gather large amounts of com­mer­cial data on pas­sen­gers, from what time they do the most shop­ping to what kind of prod­ucts they fa­vor.

And there are more prac­ti­cal uses to the in­creas­ing con­nec­tiv­ity, too, with air­lines able to send in­for­ma­tion from the plane to main­te­nance crews at the des­ti­na­tion, in­form­ing them of mal­func­tions so they can be ready with the cor­rect parts and crew as soon as the plane ar­rives.

“Now that we have this re­ally good per­ma­nent con­nec­tion to the ground, we can do all sorts of things — we are only just scrap­ing the sur­face,” said Easter­ling.


A Fouga Mag­is­ter CM170 per­forms dur­ing the In­ter­na­tional Paris Air­show at Le Bour­get on Wed­nes­day, June 17.

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