New Airbus plane knows when you go to the bathroom

Airbus A350
The new widebody version of the Airbus A350 aircraft, the A350-900 (not shown here), incorporates an extensive sensor network to monitor onboard passenger behavior. (Pixabay)

When one thinks of connectivity in transportation, cars and trucks probably come to mind first. But connectivity is also pervading the skies in the aircraft we fly on.

Going well beyond just Wi-Fi for passengers, Airbus’ new A350-900 wide-body aircraft takes connectivity to new heights, to pardon the pun. According to a CNBC report, the plane incorporates a massive network of sensors that gather data on passenger behavior and consumption on-board. The airline is reportedly using the data to save money and potentially relieve pain points on-board.

“It’s not a concept. It’s not a dream,” said Airbus’ vice president of cabin marketing, Ingo Wuggetzer, at a recent industry conference in Los Angeles.

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The data is gathered from the sensors placed throughout the plane through an on-board Wi-Fi system, and then shared with flight crews. The information will be shared with airlines once the plane lands.

The vast sensor network extends to an area that some might previously think was off-limits: the lavatory.

According to the CNBC report, Airbus plans to track how many times the lavatory latch is opened and closed so the airline and cabin crews know how often the bathrooms are being used, and have a better idea when to restock items, such as toilet paper or soap. That will also give airlines a better sense of how many lavatories they need on-board, Wuggetzer was quoted as saying at the conference.

Airbus will reportedly also add small cameras on-board to monitor how many people are waiting for the bathrooms, and then let travelers know the approximate wait times or which one they should use. To minimize privacy concerns, Wuggetzer noted passengers’ faces will be blurred out.

The report also noted that how you sit in the plane will also be monitored. Airbus will also track how often seats are reclined, to better alert airlines of when they need maintenance, so airlines aren’t suddenly left with a nonworking seat that could potentially lose revenue.

Sensors will also track food purchases and orders on-board, so airlines can stock the right number of items to order.  

Wuggetzer said commercial carriers still need to test these features through the end of the year before shelling out money for them, so it’s not yet certain how soon these features will be on the new planes.  

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