First, we had planned to write this Hot Topic around the recent Las Vegas CES (Consumer Electronics Show) and tekkie love fest but our volunteer IFExpress reporter dropped off the face of the earth… we suspect that he is in some off-the-strip keno parlor still trying to win back the money we fronted him. Moving on, besides all the crapgadget laptops, apps, games, the one item we found IFE-friendly was the surge in Ultra HD “4K” displays. While the ones at CES were gigantic (which is where “4K” shines), better screen quality is always a class differentiator. No doubt, biz jets will get ’em first, but classy carriers will pickup the slack. Last year at CES Sony and LG brought the absurdly priced and oversized devices, this year, Toshiba, Samsung, Panasonic, and others were there delineating a trend. What is a Ultra HD display you say? Simply put it is a high res product with better everything… “4K” Ultra HD TV 3,840 X 2,160 pixel display (“4K” = 8 megapixel Ultra HD, while 1080p HD is 2 megapixel – 4 times the information… at that price ratio as well). Panasonic and Sony also showed a “4K” OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) display that really has future potential for applications that require lower power & lighter weight, and from what we hear they were terrific. You can probably guess who will have the first aircraft “4K” model but you heard it here first. Most likely only in First Class but at least in the beginning. Video display trends have a way of getting on to the aircraft but there are issues like increased bandwidth (fiber optics?), cost, size, etc. The real problem: “Where is the content?”

Today was a big day for Facebook as they rolled out “GRAPH”, their new private search feature. What has this to do with IFE? Not much; however, you can bet users on connected planes will be GRAPHing their Facebook accounts for the best lunch spots in airports, or hotels in San Francisco, or pickup bars in NYC, or possibly, what airline gave me and my friends the best deal on a flight to Hamburg last year! There, it does have IFE connections! While this development won’t make Google too nervous it does open the door for future e-commerce deals and gives the Facebook community a new term – Personal Social Network Search, or PSNS.

Heard about the Super Wi-Fi Summit? This meeting will explore and define the work in sorting out all the opportunities and ongoing FCC related initiatives to develop “white spaces” for ground Wi-Fi expansion. This effort is beyond the current developments to increase Wi-Fi throughput to at least 1 GB/sec, at 5 GHz (802.11ac). The “white spaces” are usually bulk unused RF spectrum between used bands, unused or previously allocated spectrum. Wikipedia says: “Most commonly however, these white spaces exist naturally between used channels, since assigning nearby transmissions to immediately adjacent channels will cause destructive interference to both. In addition to white space assigned for technical reasons, there is also unused radio spectrum which has either never been used, or is becoming free as a result of technical changes. In particular, the switchover to digital television frees up large areas between about 50 MHz and 700 MHz.” A lot of them are in the TV bands, and while we are not aware of aviation related onboard Wi-Fi conflicts, time will tell. “Houston, we may have a problem.”

Perhaps you have seen the latest Samsung advertisements pushing mobile phone bump technology. Well now there is a new high speed format developed by Sony. Basically it is a near field, high data rate communication tool and it certainly may have future potential on planes. How? What if your friendly carrier wants to send you a paid movie or a complete route schedule of their flights (and give you a deal in the process). Just “bump” the hot spot on your seatback. Now that almost everyone has a mobile device, all you need is an app and a plane so equipped. Link

And lastly, Panasonic’s announcement at CES outlining their intent to become a Web Broadcaster got us thinking about their potential to do the same thing through their onboard Global Communications Suite! Stay Tuned on this one.