Aircraft Cabin Interiors Evolve with IFE

Rapid advances in technology and materials, along with intensified competition for passenger loyalty, are driving a wave of innovation and investment in aircraft interiors . The hallmarks of today’s newest cabins are improved materials, hardware design and technologies that enable faster, more effective maintenance.

Today’s aircraft interiors market , excluding IFE , is valued at just under $6.5 billion, according to a report released recently by Frost & Sullivan . The report predicts 3.5% annual growth to $7.6 billion in 2020. “ Airlines are enhancing first class and business class with pods , but that has a net effect of slowly shrinking space in economy , which is driving economy-class redesigns,” says Wayne Plucker, aerospace and defense industry manager at Frost & Sullivan . “This is why seating continues to be the most robust market in interiors.”

Still, the most stunning growth is happening in IFE, a sector in which Frost & Sullivan forecast revenue will increase to $5.3 billion in 2020 from $1.8 billion in 2011, a compound annual growth rate of 12.8%. Vendors are scrambling to meet this demand

Consumer expectations of 24/7 Internet accessibility and explosive growth in mobile technologies are driving connectivity growth. Research by predicts that mobile phones and tablets will overtake desktop computers for Internet browsing in 2015.

IFE will evolve to embrace personal devices that work with wireless network to provide an environment in which passengers can connect to an inflight portal for second-screen entertainment, including games and interaction with other passengers.

While the number of internet protocol-equipped aircraft ( IP ) is expected to grow from 10% of the global fleet today to 50% by 2021, according to IMS Research , IFE makers argue that connectivity speed limits and other factors will keep the bulk of entertainment on board . That’s particularly true for widebody aircraft, where inflight connectivity (IFC) is beginning to supplement, but not usurp, IFE. Panasonic, which has approximately 70% of the IFE market share, sees the combination of IFE and IFC as the spark that could ignite a new kind of continuity experience in the cabin. Whether or not airlines opt for IFC, IFE, or both, the need for on-board power for PEDs will remain constant.

Another trend to consider with IFC is an aircraft becoming a node on the network using ground-based tools to allow maintenance crews, from their seats, to see everything happening across a fleet in real time and flag anything that requires action. Improved connectivity will provide the next leap forward in viewing aircraft system status in real time. In this way, maintenance will become more about monitoring the health of a system and assessing where potential problems could crop up rather than simply performing reactive repairs.

As technology makes cabins smarter, advances in materials and design are making seats lighter and slimmer. This is prompting a wave of investment in seating, including widespread modifications in economy classes to maximize every inch of cabin real estate. the future for aircraft seats will be even lighter-weight products ; more efficient maintenance due to self-cleaning , self-healing materials and surfaces ; and more sleeping comfort due to support features .