Sunday, 7 July 2013

ICE on Emirates: Information, Communication, Entertainment, Amazement.

I must have serious technophilia right now if while on my holiday in India, the first thing I want to blog about is the in-flight entertainment system! But I do, and I can't help it.

The ICE system on Emirates (an acronym for Information Communication and Entertainment) continues to exceed my expectation of what's reasonable. A small bit of background - I've been flying Emirates for years, since their connections to different Indian destinations are fantastic. They are frequent, comfortable flights, and have always had incredible entertainment.

Today, ICE features what looked like an 11" touch screen with the same collections of big Hollywood blockbusters, classics, international movies, TV shows, music etc. I'm used to being spoilt for choice, but I was not expecting the high level hardware that houses this service. The screen was responsive - more like an iPad that what you'd expect on-board a flight - and the interface was intuitive and simple. I remember being amazed by the choice of ICE in it's early days, but the UI was difficult so I often opted for my laptop instead. Now I find myself wondering what use my iPad and computer possibly serve on a plane.

Below the main screen was another new addition - a touch screen controller styled like a games controller. It's not a necessity, but when hoisting your arm to navigate the main screen starts to ache, you thoroughly appreciate the easy of use this remote device offers. Solid feeling buttons, a nice screen again, and a surprisingly well designed mobile UI of the main OS.

If all this isn't enough, seats on this Emirates flight came with mains power and USB ports too. This means little to most, but my phone battery was a genuine concern for me, till sitting on the plane. I've recently become somewhat of a shutter-bug with my phone camera, and like to keep GPS tagging on when on holiday. This had me whipping out the charger at the departure gate, desperately trying to keep enough juice in my phone to get me to Hyderabad and last me a little while there. That's all I hoped for, but I landed in Dubai on a full charge, and played Temple Run for hourrrs throughout the flight.

I'm amazed, and so excited for the next wave of improvements. The bar that Emirates sets is one of continual improvement, so I have to look into the future. Internet is notably missing, although some micro updates are being delivered in the form of news headlines (I kept up with the Murray match at Wimbledon). Emirates have nailed the hardware and software,  so if their next iteration can deliver even simple social media access and YouTube, I'd be thrilled. Some airlines now offer wi-fi too, although I'm not convinced this is worth doing until it is reliable and fast enough. To me, simple internet apps and integration is the obvious next step. I'm thinking a 'Share' button: "El Kanagavel is watching Life of Pi on his Boeing 777, Emirates flight to Hyderabad - with Stacey Cass", complete with location tagging and relevant links. A bit of polish and design and you've got a compelling and engaging social media marketing tool. Regardless, however Emirates choose to further improve ICE and the tech that goes with it, they can count on me being there to see it!