Happy New Year and thanks for reading IFExpress, we have been providing free IFEC news for some 20 years now!

We want to start off 2014 like we do most years with some predictions, but first we thought you might like to see what other futurists predict 2014 might be like…  specifically the predictions of Isaac Asimov, the great American futurist. Over his long life (1920 – 1992) he was a noted author and biochemistry professor, but more famous as a futurist and science fiction writer. However, being a prolific thinker and futurist, he also wrote on astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, the Bible, and William Shakespeare’s writings. He was also the author of the famous “Three Laws of Robotics” that actually appeared in 1942 and definitely is a good read – while still being current today. We included his writings in this IFExpress because he was so far ahead of anyone. Some of Asimov’s predictions are relevant in the world of inflight entertainment and cabin developments and we thought it would be interesting to look at his productions some 50 years ago, as a result, we snagged an article he wrote for the 1964 Worlds Fair. We chose a few that relate to our industry so here we go:

“Gadgetry will continue to relieve mankind of tedious jobs.” – Think about the tablet revolution and on aircraft devices like Electronic Flight Bags and automated system tests on IFE LRU’s.

“Communications will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone. The screen can be used not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books. Synchronous satellites, hovering in space will make it possible for you to direct-dial any spot on earth, including the weather stations in Antarctica.”
– If there was ever a truism for today’s connectivity and onboard computer usage, this is it… spot on!

“By 2014, electroluminescent panels will be in common use. Ceilings and walls will glow softly, and in a variety of colors that will change at the touch of a push button.” If there ever was a testimonial to the Boeing Sky Interior on the B787 and B737 interior lighting, this is it – not to mention the forthcoming developments in the OLED world that promise aircraft interior spot and location panel lighting.

“Vehicles with ‘Robot-brains’ … can be set for particular destinations … that will then proceed there without interference by the slow reflexes of a human driver.” While aircraft autopilots (auto-takeoff and auto-land) have been around since at least the 1980’s, they have become an integral part of any new aircraft.

“Wall screens will have replaced the ordinary set; but transparent cubes will be making their appearance in which three-dimensional viewing will be possible.” Cabin TV 3D demo devices have been shown at IFE hardware shows for many years now (Thales and Panasonic, in particular) but this year there might be a new push on the plane for that technology.

“Kitchen units will be devised that will prepare ‘automeals,’ heating water and converting it to coffee; toasting bread; frying, poaching or scrambling eggs, grilling bacon, and so on.” OK, so he didn’t get all of them right but today’s galley has to be pretty technical for a crew of 6 people to serve 300 inflight meals. We note he did not mention who would pay for them either.

“All the high-school students will be taught the fundamentals of computer technology will become proficient in binary arithmetic and will be trained to perfection in the use of the computer languages that will have developed out of those like the contemporary Fortran.” Perhaps, this one slightly missed the mark but this writer can still write a Fortran loop but never a C++ loop!

And lastly, the one prediction that he missed completely but the one we are waiting for with great anticipation: “The most glorious single word in the vocabulary will have become work…” As he puts it “in a society of enforced leisure.”

Here are some IFEC predictions the IFExpress team dreamed up – and we mean “dreamed”!

  • The first US commercial meta-material microwave antenna will probably fly a test device this year.
  • Some US airline will debut a pay-to-use inflight cellphone test this year with a LOT of customer feedback.
  • Wearable technology will infiltrate the aviation business probably first in the stress detection/stress reduction area.
  • With Internet radio and TV, some hardware vendor will harness an IFE system based on the technology.
  • Unfortunately, the climate is right for a software hacking incident for inflight connectivity.
  • After seeing aircraft manufacturer relationship building with connectivity vendors (Boeing/Samsung) we see a future of airplane manufacturing that includes IFE/Connectivity in the delivered product… basic on the plane. What’s next, IFE?

While our previously mentioned Isaac Asimov prediction did not mention his comments on robotics – he did say: “Robots will neither be common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence.” This led us to thinking about the personal cleaning robots like Roomba from iRobot and Neato Robotics products. Who says a robot can’t clean an aircraft floor overnight if it is programmed correctly?

Keep your eye on the ambient backscatter technology as it may have an airplane application that promises some device control without any additional power, wiring, or RF emissions.

Lastly, we should also note that the next issue of IFExpress will feature a number of predictions from our readers… and if you have not sent any in to IFExpress yet you still have time, and yes, they can be anonymous.