During AIX, we had a long talk with Geoff and Claire Underwood of IFPL and traced out the tech steps and reasoning around NFC – Near Field Communication. When we got back, IFExpress reviewed a couple of articles that talked about the need for passenger identification on aircraft and realized that the passenger manifests are not the best passenger data device. The IFPL team noted that most people think of NFC as a payment device. Let’s face it, digitizing passenger data and having it available on the aircraft is probably one of the last parts of the airline network to be automated. While that is a true statement and someday, airlines will rely on some on-plane identification for things like security, passenger ID, sales, preference settings, etc., it certainly isn’t here yet. Geoff knows that and gave IFExpress an earful about the future of this technology. “Preferences” in the article we read were a reference too automatically set lighting, music, drinks, food… whatever. “But” Geoff noted, “NFC is a 2-way communication device, not just a credit card.” Good point. Certainly, upper classes need this to eventually keep those high value customers and provide 2 way communication with the airline. The concept of QR codes interfaces with passengers seems a little bit outdated with NFC around! And that is the problem, it is not around on many planes and an interface with passenger databases is a future need. NFC can open channels of service like Wi-Fi, IFE content, music streaming, GSM calls… there is no end to solutions once the infrastructure is in place. And that is the issue, the infrastructure. Lower in weight than crews, credit card readers, and who knows what, the light NFC sensors and circuitry in conjunction with a PIN number can open up a world of passenger spending and service… especially with a connection to the ground. A flier could put money on an iPhone or card (or whatever) from the ground for on-board purchases or eventual airborne or ground fulfillment. Today you can use the NFC only on a few seatbacks but someone has to integrate technology into the IFE based, passenger preference driven, iPhone supported, seatback installed and powered, electronic receipt dispensing, consumer interface system. Geoff and their IFE team is ready to talk your language. Geoff.Underwood@IFPL.com Call him about your passenger preference problem and see if NFC can help. Oh, and one last thing, NFC is supposed to be standard on all credit/debit cards starting in 2014!

Rockwell-Collins now offers three PAVES product lines: PAVES Broadcast (overhead), PAVES On Demand, and PAVES Wireless. The company has also begun the third generation of the product line. RC has selected Kontron servers and WAPS for the wireless version but is still working the software side of the mix. And speaking of software, while PAVES Wireless hardware clients and servers are owned by the airline, they also own the client software. This is significant because the software has to be constantly updated with programming and updates to talk with passenger PEDS. An aircraft that has to talk too 30 or 40 devices will need a lot of support and software updates each month. As Rockwell observed, “This is going to change the game because the business model will have to include software updates.” In fact, multiple, ongoing software updates with PED interfaces included will be the new business model. RC notes that traditional IFE may need a new model and the perception of getting into an inexpensive hardware solution may be supplanted by a new higher cost, software-based paradigm. Back to the hardware – Rockwell will be installing PAVES hardware on Thomas Cook in the May/June time-frame and the airline plans to launch PAVES in front of passengers in 2013.

The IFE Thought Of The Day – When will someone invent a drop-down overhead video display with built-in audio for regional jets so they can make money selling infomercials on short haul flights? For that matter, couldn’t the content exist resident in the PSU device (toggled on by the purser) and not on a server? And perhaps, audio might not be needed at all with clever images and graphics – what’s wrong with a moving billboard? Why couldn’t you send the audio via Wi-Fi to your smart device?

And Now For Something Completely Different… and Expensive!

One of the articles we wanted to do for sometime now is the definition of ancillary revenues that lie under airlines balance sheets of most carriers today. Ostensibly because of higher fuel costs, the airlines began a “pay-for-play” approach to incremental goods and services introduced around 2007 by Ryanair’s, CEO, Michael O’Leary (and others). And boy, has this concept caught on! Admittedly, paying higher ticket prices is the option but airline management has opted to charge, often for options, incrementally. Here are just a few: First Shipped Bag – Free to $100 – second and third bag up to $150; Pet Shipping – up to $200+; One Carry On Bag – up to $100 extra; Reservation Change – up to an extra $200, Pillow/Blanket – up to $10; Drinks – (alcohol & non-alcohol) another 10 bucks; Inflight Entertainment – free to $10; and Wi-Fi – up to $14. We won’t talk about GSM phone bill increases for talk and texting but they will show up on your card later. What’s next – Pay for Power? You just can’t blame the airlines for covering fuel increases because, in this case fliers do have options, up to a point. It is just that the ‘nickel and dime-ing’ is a term heard on almost every flight and it will not get better because prices do go up. No doubt, the future is bright (or dim depending on your view) for higher ticket prices as well.

Also, here are a few web links that you might not have seen and will find interesting:

Have your say in Teague’s ‘Take Travel Back’ campaign

Inside Alaska Airlines’ new Boeing Sky Interior – GeekWire

05-2013 : Time to hire a mobile strategist

New luggage blocks ID theft on the road

12 in-flight innovations to keep an eye out for | CNN Travel