NBAA 2011, Social, Mobile and the Year of the iPad
Walking the floor at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) show last week in Las Vegas, it was hard to miss just how much mobile devices have influenced the conversation - from the exhibits and technology showcased to the operations of the show itself. iPads were literally everywhere - used as tools within the displays, on display themselves to show off electronic flight bag (EFB) and cabin control technologies, and as props to demo a plethora of mounting systems and cases.
There was a utility aspect to the mobile-friendly tone of the event as well. The NBAA's own conference and expo application was available for the iPad, iPhone, Android and Blackberry platforms, and if for some reason you couldn't use one of those, there was a mobile Web site that you could browse from the floor. The show app was a pretty good one - beyond the basic map and directory of exhibitors (handy at such a huge event), it included a schedule of sessions, news updates, live Twitter feed capturing the #nbaa2011 hash tag. This last was particularly interesting, because even as great conversations were happening on the show floor, attendees were conducting parallel discussions via mobile social media tools. These conversations were aggregated and displayed streaming on large screens in the registration and concession area between the two halls - a constant reminder of how much sales, marketing and business in every industry are changing under the influence of social media and mobile technology.
But while mobile and social media were prominent, the iPad was the star of the mobile show. I chatted with folks who are using the iPad in all kinds of ways, from the folks at AIS, Inc. who are rolling out an iPad app that will allow a mechanic under a plane to search out and order a part without leaving his position, to iPads as EFBs and even, as in the case of Heads Up Technologies ' Lumin Cabin Management System, as a method of passenger-specific cabin environment control and communication - on their own devices! (For an in-depth roundup of iPad and other mobile apps for flight and cabin tools, check out this story at AIN: http://bit.ly/oe5I1H )
I'll leave the debate over what all this infusion of Steve Jobs' technology vision (yes, I know touch screens and mobile devices weren't all and only him) will mean in terms of aviation and avionics, and simply point out that however you interpret that meaning, it's big and getting bigger. It has changed our expectations of how we interact with technology - whether we are aircraft passengers, pilots, technicians. How many of us have instinctively reached out and touched a display only to realize its one of those old fashioned things that has to be interfaced with via a keyboard and mouse? It's also changing our expectation of connectivity. WiFi on an airplane? De rigueur. We don't want to sit in the cabin and watch the same movie everybody else is watching. We've become an iPod species and have an expectation that the content we consume will be curated, packaged and delivered just to us. Turn off the light above my seat or hit the call button for a flight attendant? You can bet that pretty soon, there's an app for that.
By the way - miss the show? One interesting Tweet that caught my eye as I reviewed the app to write this - @ludozone (Ludo Van Vooren) posted this video on YouTube, the entire show floor, two halls and 900 exhibitors, in 124 seconds: http://youtu.be/kcZknjHz9z4
Ernesto Burden is the publisher of Military & Aerospace Electronics and Avionics Intelligence. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ aero_ernesto .