Using passenger data to improve in-flight experiences 

Anyone who has travelled on a long-haul flight will be familiar with the discomforts of sitting for hours in aeroplane seats, breathing recycled cabin air, and being physically confused by dramatic time zone changes…  

Recently, the British Airways patent entitled “TRAVEL ENVIRONMENT CONTROL” (Priority Number: GB20160000548) was granted in the US. When the GB application was published in 2016, this patent received a lot of media attention, with most articles drawing attention to the mention of an ingestible “digital pill” to collect data on passengers’ physiological health on a flight. However, upon closer inspection of the full text on PatBase, the global patent database that simplifies patent search and review, the “digital pill” is mentioned only once in claim 34. It is listed as a possible passenger sensor to monitor physiological states of passengers to improve customers’ in-flight experience.  

The focus of this particular patent is really to improve air travel experiences using customer data. This includes data input on an app of the passengers full itinerary from home to airport and any connecting flights, data collected from environmental or wearable sensors which trigger scheduled events such as in-flight lighting changes, serving of meals, or temperature adjustments. The idea is for this data to be used seamlessly to improve passenger experiences of travelling by aeroplane. 

Exploring backwards citations

 

Using the Citation Explorer on PatBase to view backwards citations, the ideas described in the British Airways patent are not completely new. This backwards citation entitled “Device and Method for Reducing Jet Lag In-Flight” (Patent Number: WO12156654 A1), describes some similar ideas of using sensors in-flight to collect customer data in order to reduce the effects of jet-lag on long-haul flights. Specifically, sensors to monitor sleeping passenger’s REM cycles, collecting data on body temperature and motion, and an app controlled by the passenger to collect data on individual sleeping patterns would allow airline staff and aircraft technology to better schedule lighting to stimulate sleep or to naturally wake passengers, diffuse scents for a calming effect, schedule meals and reduce noise. 

PatBase Citation Browser

Another backwards citation is Boeing Co.’s patent “Aircraft Passenger Health Management” (Publication Number: US2013338857 AA) which also explores monitoring passenger’s physiological conditions in aeroplanes using sensors. This patent suggests sensors could be placed in passenger seats to monitor body temperature, position, movement and heart rate. Data collected would then immediately trigger changes in cabin conditions. Unique to this patent is the suggestion that with the passenger’s permission, this data could be used off-board, for example, if the passenger experiences a health condition event in-flight, this collected data could be sent to medical professionals. 

PatBase Citation Browser

Checking what the patents say helps us understand new tech

 

This investigation into British Airways’ patent which was featured in the media for perhaps the wrong reasons demonstrates the importance of patent research. Using PatBase’s intuitive search engine, the patent of interest was quickly found, and a better understanding of the overall idea and claims was achieved by reading the full text 

PatBase is a powerful patent database that includes over 125 million patent and patent-related documents, that can easily be searched across using intuitive search forms. The database spans across 106 jurisdictions including 74 full-text collections, making PatBase one of the most comprehensive patent data collections available. Track backwards and forwards patent citations easily using the in-built tool, Citation Explorer, an easy method to find similar or related patents to a patent family. Many other functions and tools are available on PatBase to ensure you have the best chance of finding all relevant information. 

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