Teague partnered with B/E Aerospace to reinvent the user experience of galleys with intuitive digital interfaces. Image: Teague

APEX Insight: Your home refrigerator, thermostat and vacuum can be smart; so can airplane galleys. B/E Aerospace and Teague have codesigned a connected ecosystem of seven galley inserts capable of collecting and recording operations data, while Diehl is conducting a deep feasibility study for its Smart Galley platform.

The airplane galley is one of the most challenging and costly environments to update with new technology. Nevertheless, manufacturers and designers are improving this part of the aircraft, while also taking a hard look at business cases for developing and adopting smart technology.

“Airlines are looking for tools to improve ancillary revenue,” says Chris Pirie, senior director of Business Development at Teague. “This could be achieved through a smart ecosystem that communicates which products are available to the crew, creating a clearer path for passengers to order products and an efficient method of delivery in the cabin.”

Connected Catering

In 2012, Teague and B/E Aerospace codesigned Essence Inserts, a collection of seven smart (and smart-looking) galley inserts that are capable of collecting and recording operations data. But as airplanes become more connected, smart technology will enable an active inventory that pairs with smart appliances to communicate critical information between machines and to the cabin crew and passengers, “improving flow time, decreasing errors and, importantly, eliminating forgotten passenger requests,” Pirie explains.

According to Claudius Wahl, vice-president of Marketing and Business Development, BFE/Retrofit at Diehl Aerosystems, the call for smart galley development has never been louder. The modular Smart Galley concept from Diehl features a touch screen that would relieve cabin attendants from running to a passenger’s seat to retrieve an order. “It will be shown in the galley already: the seat and the product,” he says.

The Internet of Wings

Put into practice, Smart Galley would enable the galley architecture to recognize and integrate itself with any insert. Overnight reconfigurations would be possible, allowing rapid adaption to an aircraft’s route or mission – a costly endeavor with traditional galley architecture and inserts.

“Leasing companies are increasingly buying aircraft without an operator in mind, or they identify the operator on very short notice,” Wahl says, adding that new aircraft types, such as the long-range Airbus A321neo, are creating a demand for versatile cabin configuration.

“Designing smart products is much more than just connecting data channels.” – Brian Conner, Teague

Diehl is currently conducting a deeper feasibility study of Smart Galley, with the goal of designing a cross-platform product so airline operators can have galley commonality across mixed OEM fleets.

“Designing smart products is much more than just connecting data channels,” says Brian Conner, creative director at Teague. “The Internet of Things is now extremely important in the back-office operational management of many industries. Smart galleys are full of possibilities. This, combined with mobile crew devices, would be a game changer in the quality of service offered in the cabin.”

“Smart Galleys” was originally published in the 7.1 February/March issue of APEX Experience magazine.

Maryann Simson has been covering the airline passenger experience since 2008. Today she contributes to many of the aviation industry’s top publications and provides PR and communications support to companies in the #PaxEx space.