Hi-tech in-flight entertainment technology
It takes around 11 hours to fly from London to Las Vegas, the home of the massive, annual Consumer Electronics Show so we take a keen interest in anything to do with in-flight entertainment technology. We were surprised to discover that Japanese electronics giant Panasonic apparently holds a 72% share of the market for the entertainment systems built into airline seats.
Panasonic fits the screens and the related backend technologies into the back of plane seats in close collaboration with both the specific airline as well as the seat manufacturer and the plane manufacturer (typically either Boeing or Airbus). Panasonic both retrofits older planes and equips new ones during construction. Panasonic's brand doesn't appear anyway on any of the technology or onscreen, which is reserved for the airline's marketing use.
Read more: CES 2013 news
Panasonic demonstrated the 11, 12 and 18in high definition displays it fits into the cabins of Air New Zealand planes. Although small, the displays were a far cry from the fuzzy, non-widescreen displays often used in older plane entertainment systems. In business class, the displays are mounted on retractable, adjustable stands also designed by Panasonic to the airline's specifications.
We were also surprised to discover that Panasonic also manufactures on-board Wifi equipment. Panasonic uses a terrestrial-based internet service beamed from the ground to the plane via radio waves, thus limiting the service to the continental United States. Deploying a similar ground-based internet service elsewhere in the world can be tricky, as transmitters would need to be deployed in the countries flown over on each route – this can be a complex web of logistical, legal and regulatory requirements depending on the route and countries in question.
Despite this, Panasonic is still pushing for the deployment of Wifi in planes even when internet service isn't available. The wireless technology can still be used to serve entertainment content to passenger's own computing devices, but hopefully not new episodes of the X-Factor.
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