The past 18 months has seen in-flight entertainment (IFE) conferences focus on the opportunities and significance of in-flight internet connectivity and wireless IFE. There’s no question that its potential could change the face of in-flight entertainment and the overall passenger experience but there’s another development which looks set to have its say on the industry’s future.
Android-based IFE systems, the latest in in-flight entertainment hardware technology, will give passengers access to apps via their seat-back screen. For passengers familiar with downloading and using apps on their mobile devices, especially those that use an Android operating system, the learning curve for this technology will be gentle. As a result, the arrival of Android-based IFE systems 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 proven to be useful for in-flight systems. While there may be opportunities to provide access to a larger portion of the app market in the future, the firm is keen to ensure performance and compatibility is as high as possible – which means apps that require a camera, GPS or Bluetooth are likely to stay off 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 an opportunity to create their own apps for airlines.
Meanwhile, for airlines, there are suggestions that the system could help create fresh revenue opportunities through branded apps or by hosting retail partner applications. More is likely to be revealed when Thales and other hardware companies discuss Android IFE systems at the APEX show in Long Beach, California this September.
Another of the big taking points will be whether the arrival of Android systems will conflict with or support internet connectivity through a passenger’s own device. One theory is that passengers will be given the opportunity to enjoy content from their devices through the larger, arguably better-positioned seat back screens.
Another possible scenario could see passengers synchronising their own devices to the Android systems to access a more personalised in-flight entertainment experience. For people who travel regularly, this could open up considerable opportunities for a more helpful and informative flying experience.
According to Thales, there may even be opportunities for airlines to provide passengers with previews of the in-flight entertainment prior to boarding via an app for their mobile device. It could give them the opportunity to create playlists of in-flight content that could be enjoyed during the flight.
The outlook for passengers, airlines and in-flight entertainment providers is undoubtedly very exciting. Both Android IFE systems and in-flight Wi-Fi look 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 that provide it.