“Where am I? What is that? What’s the story?”
These are basic questions asked by all travelers. It’s not easy, however, to get satisfying answers at 35,000 feet while actually engaged in the act of flying from place to place. Our answer is geotainment: entertaining and informative content about the real world, customized for the airborne armchair explorer.
For us in the IFE world, think about geotainment as an absolutely fundamental concept
Why is the conventional moving map always one of the top five most popular components of every IFE system in which a map is installed?
Because, unlike every other component of IFE (with the possible exception of the safety video), a map is relevant to every single passenger on the plane. Even better, the answers provided by moving maps — Where am I? When will I arrive? — are constantly changing, driving passengers to revisit the map throughout the flight.
Now, what happens when you answer those two basic “where/when” questions with deeply engaging content? You’ve got geotainment.
That five-second “where/when” query about the flight turns into an entertaining experience that provides deeper insights about the Earth and the passenger’s own journey. That engagement can in turn translate into ancillary revenues through offers targeted around the geographic realities of location, destination, and time (of day/week/year), as well as the passenger’s individual profile and stated preferences.
Think of it as a platform in its own right and not just a flat map
We at MondoWindow have been hard at work building a platform specifically to serve interactive geographical content to air passengers. MondoWindow uses the aircraft’s real-time location and destination city as the building blocks for an entertaining and social experience built around the context of air travel.
We’re not alone in our efforts to delight and inform passengers with geotainment.
- Hidden Journeys, a project of the Royal Geographical Society, has curated gorgeous content from their own archives and from across the web corresponding to dozens of air routes around the world.
- Georadio is working on custom-produced, geo-coded audio snippets that provide real-time narration about the landscape below.
- Jetway Geographer is publishing guidebooks to the sights, stories, and histories unique to specific airline routes.
- Skyhook Wireless’ recent release of an airborne location feature in its Android SDK might enable a whole new batch of mobile developers to create geotainment apps for fliers (although the details of Skyhook’s implementation are murky and unproven as yet).
The geotainment trend is powered by many factors, including the ubiquity of location-aware personal devices, apps, and web mapping, which passengers are already accustomed to using for location-based services on the ground.
Another key part of the geotainment puzzle is the rollout of WiFi networks and connectivity on aircraft
Which provide methods of acquiring real-time location in-flight, and of delivering location-based content to all manner of devices in the cabin. WiFi and/or connectivity are important because consumer-grade GPS chips in smartphones do not work in the sky nor at jet speeds; geotainment applications require access to ARINC 429 data via an onboard server or access to the Internet in order to acquire real-time aircraft position.
(This is the most mysterious part of the Skyhook Wireless announcement, by the way — how are they acquiring location in the sky, where they can’t rely on the methods their tools use on the ground? No one seems to know, and Skyhook is not telling.)
With MondoWindow, we are creating the contextual platform for useful, beautiful, and profitable location services in the aircraft cabin, and we’re in increasingly good company as geotainment emerges as a distinctly fascinating world within IFE.