Tough Time Flying? There May be a Patented, Digital Pill For That Soon

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If you ever have a tough time flying, struggle with how to combat potential jet leg, or just wish that the flight attendant would bring you water or snacks when you need them, British Airways may be developing the digital pill for you. In March 2014, British Airways filed a patent application entitled “Travel Environmental Control” with the intent to personalize the travel environment to the individual passenger. So how would this work? A flight passenger ingests a digital pill or is otherwise connected to one or more sensors. Through the digital pill and/or sensors, data about the passenger can be collected. This data could include, among other things, information about body movements, sleep phases, heart rate, eye movements, body temperature, and even stomach acidity. Using this data, the system may determine an event timeline for the passenger’s optimal wellness and then dynamically adjust the timeline in response to passenger and environment data collected from the sensors. Accordingly, if a passenger needs a specific sequence of events to assist with overcoming the effects of jet lag at a destination, predefined events may be established including when to sleep, wake, stretch, exercise, eat, drink, engage in in-flight entertainment, etc. And the timeline can be adjusted in response to data received from the digital pill and/or sensors, such as indications that the passenger is awake, asleep, hungry, hot, cold, or even nervous.

This patent-pending digital pill/sensor technology may be a first step to an improved travel experience. But British Airways is not the only airline attempting to use technology to enhance in-flight customer service. In fact, Air New Zealand is evaluating how augmented reality (AR) smart glasses may be used to anticipate passengers’ needs. According to Air New Zealand, the flight attendant would wear the AR headset and use facial technology to recall details about each passenger including his/her destination, allergies, time when he/she last received a beverage, and even the passenger’s mood. So, if you have ever said or thought, I wish the flight attendant could just read my mind, perhaps these proposed technological advances will bring you one step closer to that happening.

More from this series: Where Do Airline Trademarks Go When They’re Grounded? Possible IP Limits to Flight Information Availability on Third-Party Travel Websites

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