In-flight entertainment (IFE) conferences over the past 18 months have focused on the opportunities and importance of in-flight Internet connectivity and wireless IFE. There’s no doubt that its potential could change the face of in-flight entertainment and the overall passenger experience, but there’s another development that’s ready to have its say on the future of the industry.
The Android-based IFE system, the latest in in-flight entertainment hardware technology, will give passengers access to apps through their seat-back screens. For travelers familiar with downloading and using the app on their mobile devices, especially those who use the Android operating system, the learning curve for this technology will be gentle. As a result, the arrival of an Android-based IFE system seems like a natural fit.
Thales, one of the companies pioneering this technology, says the system will start with a small pool of apps that have been tested and shown to be useful for in-flight systems. While there may be opportunities to provide access to a larger segment of the app market in the future, the firm is keen to ensure that performance and compatibility are as high as possible – meaning apps that require a camera, GPS or Bluetooth is, they are likely to remain out of the list.
For IFE content service providers, there will be an opportunity to partner with app developers to bring their content to the Android platform, while they will have the opportunity to build their own apps for airlines.
Meanwhile, for airlines, there are suggestions that the system could help generate new revenue opportunities through branded apps or by hosting retail partner applications. More is likely to be revealed when Thales and other hardware companies discuss the Android IFE system this September at the Apex Show in Long Beach, California.
Another big issue will be whether the arrival of the Android system will oppose or support internet connectivity through the traveler’s own device. One theory is that passengers will be given the opportunity to enjoy content from their devices via a larger, arguably better positioned seat back screen.
Another possible scenario could see passengers synchronizing their own devices to the Android system to achieve a more personalized in-flight entertainment experience. For those who travel regularly, this can open up great opportunities for a more useful and informative flying experience.
According to Thales, there may also be opportunities for airlines to provide passengers with previews of in-flight entertainment prior to boarding via an app for their mobile device. This can give them the opportunity to create a playlist of in-flight content that can be enjoyed while in flight.
The outlook for travelers, airlines and in-flight entertainment providers is undoubtedly very exciting. Both the Android IFE system and in-flight Wi-Fi are set to play a major role in shaping the future of the airline industry, enhancing the passenger experience and opening up new opportunities for those who offer it.