NBAA 2011, Social, Mobile and the Year of the iPad

By Ernesto Burden
By Ernesto Burden -

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: )

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:

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of Military & Aerospace Electronics and Avionics Intelligence. He can be reached at and on Twitter @ aero_ernesto .

Previous Blog Posts

Capital Hill budget deal could restore tens of billions of dollars to the Pentagon

Tue Dec 17 13:15:00 CST 2013

Hacker drone story a cautionary tale about the need for unmanned vehicle data security

Tue Dec 10 09:46:00 CST 2013

Lack of money for systems upgrades threatens to maintain wind-farm radar dead spots

Tue Dec 03 10:36:00 CST 2013

Engineering support contracts indicate the Pentagon is sinking into the Mothball Strategy

Tue Nov 26 06:57:00 CST 2013

The revenge of COTS: an ageing commercial technology base complicates military supply chain

Tue Nov 19 08:53:00 CST 2013

Navy's newest destroyers evolve to fill traditional battleship roles

Tue Nov 12 11:54:00 CST 2013

International suspicions of U.S. encryption technology putting defense companies in a bind

Tue Nov 05 11:24:00 CST 2013

Defense industry left guessing as Army struggles forward with an unclear mission

Tue Oct 29 09:45:00 CDT 2013

These are tough times for the combat vehicle and vetronics industries

Tue Oct 22 04:22:00 CDT 2013

Is the government shutdown a harbinger of more ominous things to come?

Tue Oct 15 11:21:00 CDT 2013

Government shutdown reduces military contracting, increasing pressure on U.S. defense industry

Mon Oct 07 12:17:00 CDT 2013

Potential good news: has U.S. defense spending finally bottomed-out?

Tue Oct 01 13:02:00 CDT 2013

Is robotics revolution the first glimpse of a fundamental change in human evolution?

Tue Sep 24 09:46:00 CDT 2013

Obsolescent parts: are we enhancing military readiness or creating a hollow force?

Tue Sep 17 15:46:00 CDT 2013

For the high-tech warfighter, the future of electronics-laden uniforms is here

Tue Sep 10 11:26:00 CDT 2013

New generation of embedded computing thermal management in development at GE

Tue Sep 03 09:44:00 CDT 2013

Trading bus stops for credit cards: how far embedded computing has come in three decades

Tue Aug 27 10:59:00 CDT 2013

Unmanned vehicle industry stands at the doorstep of a fundamental transformation

Tue Aug 20 11:09:00 CDT 2013

AUVSI 2013, one of the biggest unmanned vehicles shows in the world, opens this week in Washington

Tue Aug 13 05:35:00 CDT 2013

The Washington Post, under Jeff Bezos, could lead the way for media in the 21st Century

Tue Aug 06 09:47:00 CDT 2013

Are costs and vulnerabilities making military leaders nervous about satellite communications?

Tue Jul 30 11:07:00 CDT 2013

Unmanned aircraft carrier that travels beneath the waves may be in the Navy's future

Tue Jul 23 05:20:00 CDT 2013

Electronic warfare programs kick into high gear with a flurry of contract activity

Tue Jul 16 08:03:00 CDT 2013

How vulnerable are U.S. Navy vessels to advanced anti-ship cruise missiles?

Tue Jul 09 07:03:00 CDT 2013

First came VHSIC, then came MIMIC, and now comes ACE to push electronics technology

Tue Jul 02 09:16:00 CDT 2013

The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

June 2015
Volume 26, Issue 6

All Access Sponsors

Download Our Apps




Connect with Us


Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information

Cyber Security

Monthly newsletter covering cyber warfare, cyber security, information warfare, and information security technologies, products, contracts, and procurement opportunities

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers

Electronic Warfare

Quarterly newsletter covering technologies and applications in electronic warfare, cyber warfare, optical warfare, and spectrum warfare.

Embedded Computing Report

Monthly newsletter covering news on embedded computing in aerospace, defense and industrial-rugged applications

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles