Image: Vance Walstra

What happens when aircraft seats can talk to the galley and overhead bins can talk to the entertainment screens? Airbus is showing off its Connected Cabin concept at APEX EXPO this week, highlighting the possibilities available in an increasingly digital cabin environment. The system is expected to deliver benefits to passengers and to airlines, though what it ultimately looks like in service could be several years away.

Airbus’ vice-president, Cabin Marketing, Ingo Wuggetzer explained that the ecosystem is being provided by Airbus but that other vendors will build on top of it. “We connect all the elements of the cabin wirelessly, collect all the data and provide that to the airline to do data analytics to reduce costs and improve ancillary revenue opportunities,” he said.

Tracking whether seats are reclined or whether the life jacket is properly in place can improve safety on board while reducing the work burden for cabin crew. Such efforts are being tested in cooperation with Recaro, using the “iSeat” concept program.

From a sales perspective, real-time inventory management aids the crew in managing sales such as premium meals in the economy cabin. Rather than using hand signals and shouting across the cabin, flight attendants could consult a linked, digital sales system that keeps data current across multiple zones of the aircraft.

While these concepts are expected to evolve as airlines and passengers provide feedback, Airbus’ senior vice-president, Cabin and Cargo Programs, Geoffrey Pinner is clear that it is not vaporware: “We’re flying our A350 testbed (MSN002) with the galley monuments. It is emerging technology, but it is being flown.” That is currently a Rockwell Collins product but Airbus expects that the framework will extend to all vendors, across all types, as the program matures.