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Airlines

On the waterfront

A joint venture between Panasonic Avionics, B/E Aerospace, Teague and the Formation Design Group, the Waterfront seat is a business class seat concept designed to show how the future may look in the near term
 

Neil James, Executive Director of Corporate Sales & Product Management at Panasonic Avionics, says the idea behind the Waterfront concept includes “bringing first in to business” and providing an environment that is “calm, comfortable and captivating”.

 

The key elements include: turning the passenger’s smartphone into the controller for all IFE and seat functions, via an app downloaded from the airline’s website before travel; giving much greater control over the environment of the seat; and maintaining contact with the passenger throughout the entire journey.

 

This begins with sending the boarding pass ahead of departure. Arriving on board the aircraft, the passenger synchronises to the system using the Connect Now button. Light ID technology is used to establish the connection with the phone. This has been developed by Panasonic Corporation and uses a flashing white LED of several thousand Hertz to provide transmission rates that are several kbps. The signal is detected by the device’s camera and the system generates a personalised welcome. For frequent flyers, the system will also hold details of preferences for food, drink and entertainment.

 

The menu display on the phone mimics that of the system and can be used as a secondary screen, perhaps with the map while a movie plays on the seatback monitor – a 24 inch Ultra High Definition 4K screen with edge-to-edge coverage; the first time this technology has been used in an aircraft project. Personal content from the phone can also be displayed. In addition, it is possible to attach other personal devices to the system, such as a laptop or tablet, using the main screen as the display.

 

Designed for a reverse herringbone pattern layout, the seat is contained within a pod, with a sliding door for privacy. It takes up about the same floor area as a B/E Aerospace Diamond seat, meaning it can be used in relatively high density layouts. It is also 12% lighter and uses 15% fewer parts. Use has been made of anthropomorphic data from B/E Aerospace and the Formation Design Group, taken from the Jazz economy class design shown at the 2015 Aircraft Interiors Expo. It can be converted into a 79 inch lie flat bed, but the system allows a much greater range of options than were previously available. Those include pre-programmed combinations of seat position and LED lighting, as well as individual controls for neck and back positions, offering more variability. There is even a ‘do not disturb’ sign and a wake up call function.

 

Integrated in the design is a PED pocket for any items that are being charged using the in-seat power, which allows the large table to be extended without having to disconnect items first. Alternatively, there is an inductive charging facility just to the side of the screen where items can be placed. The charging system will locate the battery automatically.

 

Lighting around the seat can be adjusted in brightness and colour, including the footwell, shoe storage, literature pocket and water bottle storage. In addition, the backlight for the screen, which is there to reduce eyestrain, can be dimmed. Further environmental control includes two heating pads in the seat cushions and cooling air in the footwell and walls.

 

During flight, food and drink can be ordered from the seat. On landing, there is destination information or details of transfer flights, as well as a reminder to collect passenger luggage.

 

Practicality has not been forgotten. There are easily changeable panels, either for repair or as part of a future upgrade or branding change. The IFE box is completely integrated into the seat and is unobtrusive, while built-in test equipment can advise of any technical issues with the system.

 

James says the Waterfront seat could be available in 2019, and there is already serious interest from airlines. This date means the timing is right for the Boeing 777X, although the concept is not aimed specifically at that particular aircraft.


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