Panasonic Avionics has revealed details of NEXT, its forthcoming in-flight entertainment and communications (IFEC) platform which will appear on B777X aircraft from 2020.
Although it hasn’t built the hardware yet (otherwise it would be out of date), features of the cutting-edge IFEC system, which can be controlled via an app on your smartphone, will include 4K screens, Light ID (more on this later), Bluetooth, wireless inductive pads charging for devices and wifi (up to 250 megabytes per second).
Panasonic is looking to create an “Internet of Me” for passengers by creating hyper-personalised systems that connect with personal devices allowing you, for example, to finish watching a movie you started on the plane, in your hotel room on your iPad.
Jon Norris, senior director of corporate sales and marketing for Panasonic, said: “We will have seat-back screens that are augmented by connectivity so you can have a dual screen experience.”
NEXT will allow you to login into Facebook, used location-based services and submit you to targeted advertising based on your browsing history.
Answering concerns about privacy, Norris said: “Data from people’s smartphones is not stored on the system. When the plane lands, anything on it is wiped. We are not falling foul of any privacy rules.”
I attended a demonstration at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg and was shown how, upon sitting down in your business class seat, you could hold you smartphone (with the companion app) up to the built-in 24-inch screen and a unique code would be transmitted (via Light ID) to pair the two.
After syncing, you are provided with the option of using you phone to control the entertainment system, order food and drink, shop from duty-free, set “do not disturb” or wake-up calls, and even customise the colour of the mood lighting in and around the confines of the seat. Upon arrival, your itinerary will pop up and you can book an Uber using a unique discount code provided by the airline.
Panasonic also demoed a new set of Serenity 1 headphones for use in-flight. They have active noise-cancelling, digital audio and telephony, and even “Open-ear Talk Through”, which is a function that allows you to hear and speak normally without taking the headphones off.
Not only have Panasonic engineers built stunning high-contrast 4K screens, but prototype 8K screens (these may or may not ever enter the airlines industry as they are as sharp as the human eye can possibly detect). They are not even on the market yet. But the result is imagery that looks more vivid, detailed and crystal clear than in real life.
Leaning towards the sci-fi, another innovation from Panasonic is “emotion mapping”, whereby facial-recognition cameras could be fitted above IFE screens to transmit alerts to crew about how you are feeling – happy, anxious, depressed, fearful, or even aroused.
Panasonic’s NEXT platform will be available on all wide-body and narrow-body airframes, with the first being the Boeing 777X. Whether or not all these features will appear, remains to be seen.