You hop on board, fire up the entertainment screen, impatiently wait for take off and finally – the seatbelt sign dings. It’s time to get up and stretch the legs. If you’re like most people, the next step is finding the perfect recline position and settling in for the journey. Soon, your airline will know the moment that you do, how deeply you recline, and even if you’re fibbing when you say that your seatbelt is buckled.
Meet the Recaro BL3530, your new best friend, or worst data driven nightmare…
If there’s one thing airlines are honing in on, it’s data. From how many of each meal to load all the way down to how many clicks it takes you to book an airline ticket, airlines are using hedge fund-esque data departments to smarten up their businesses. One area that’s never seemed very “smart” – the seats.
Recaro, a leading seat manufacturer, has installed a “smart” seat onto an airplane for the very first time, with launch customer TAP Portugal on its short haul Airbus A321. The seat comes equipped with sensors that can track and monitor passenger behaviour, with uncanny precision, and for some, a amount of data too.
The intelligent seat, billed as part of the Airbus “connected cabin” suite; allows airlines to learn from passenger behaviour, such as how many times the average passenger stands up, if they use their tray table or arm rest, and how much they recline their seat; and undoubtedly, there will be more as well.
For crews, it allows the airline to see whose seat is fully up and seatbelt fastened with just a glance at an iPad, which is an obvious benefit for time and safety. For maintenance issues, it will be a dream, allowing airlines to potentially receive notifications when and if there’s an error detected.
According to Economy Class & Beyond, the data will be pulled and analysed every two months, which means that in theory, individual passengers won’t be tracked, just bigger picture elements of how passengers interact, and how seats perform.
However, the framework is clearly laid for an era where an airline knows everything about you, your journey and how you interact with the airplane. Used the right way, the new Recaro seat could clearly lead to an era of improved design. But used the wrong way, it could create awkward moments, like when a member of the cabin crew walks over to say “Ah, Mr. GSTP, we’re 23 minutes in – I assume you’ll be getting up to use the lavatory now”.