For the past few years, in-flight entertainment system manufacturers have faced a bothersome problem - how to stay viable when an increasing number of passengers are using their own portable electronic devices to entertain themselves on board. Add in the fact that personal handhelds boasting the latest in technological wizardry can make even the newest installed IFE look outdated, and system makers faced a conundrum.
The solution? Develop advanced interactive platforms that allow new technologies to be introduced on a plug-and-play basis. It's all rather genius in its simplicity. Major industry players have figured out that they don't need to compete with the bells and whistles of the newest personal devices. Instead, their IFE systems can act as a tool for passengers to enjoy their own play list and video libraries on bigger, better screens and for longer durations. At the forefront is Panasonic Avionics, which has met the Apple iPod craze head-on by developing a seat-installed jack and "smart" cable that makes using the massively popular device on aircraft as simple as plugging a lamp into a socket. Audio and video is sent from the iPod to the IFE system, which in turn sends power to the iPod. Rival Thales also envisages passenger services as a combination of the IFE on board and what the passenger brings. It's the type of symbiotic relationship that will transform the IFE industry, and ensure its survival.