As the aviation industry advances, we are seeing more and more airlines adapt to the changing times. Just a decade ago, many airplane seats were not equipped with the right technology to keep our personal devices connected and charged (except for maybe emPower outlets). However, that is no longer the case as many carriers now offer USB and AC outlets—sometimes both and sometimes just one or the other—across cabins. This is one airplane tech design that’s evolving.
So many of us now travel with devices that can charge via a USB or an AC socket—this technological design has paved the way for a lot of conveniences. In nine years, 86 percent of aircraft provided by Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier and others will have USB ports, said Craig Foster, a consultant for Valour Consultancy that provides market intelligence services for the aviation industry and more. What’s more, there are other electronics such as small portable battery chargers, wireless headphones and even tablets that use a USB-C instead of a USB-A port, yet airplanes don’t offer a USB-C charge. At least not yet. The same goes for wireless charging. More and more smartphones and smaller gadgets can now be charged via a pad, but this type of technology is still too new to be installed in or around the seat, and it comes with a few hurdles.
First, the amount of space is limited in economy cabins, whereas business and first class seats have a lot more room (so it might not work for economy seats). Second, the amount of power emitted by the wireless pads is about 30 percent lower than AC outlets and don’t charge devices as quickly. Third, the amount of money to install wireless charging pads is not as cheap as AC or even USB ports, according to Foster. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean that we will never see these in the future. It’s still possible, and manufacturers and airlines are not disregarding this airplane tech design altogether.
Another airplane tech design that’s evolving is the IFE system. In the near future, airlines will gradually discontinue installing seatback entertainment systems, replacing them with a wireless option where passengers can stream shows, films, music and shop from their own devices. Airlines like United, Etihad, Turkish Airlines and Delta (to name a few) already offer and are continuing to install wireless IFE systems as they are cheaper and easier to upgrade as technology advances. Although passengers may prefer built-in IFE systems, airlines are looking for ways to be more efficient. (Non-wireless IFE systems can quickly become outdated and break, which isn’t always cheap to fix.)
As the world develops new gadgets, airlines and airplane manufacturers are seeking ways to efficiently adapt in the modern, technologically advanced world that puts them at the forefront of the aviation industry. And travelers play a key role in these changes as demands grow and expectations for what airlines should provide, increases.
What do you think about the technological changes inside cabins? Would you benefit from a wireless charger?