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Aug 4, 2017,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

FlightBeat: Smart airplane seats capable of detecting stress

Dutch airline KLM, French aerospace group Zodiac and students from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have joined forces to design a smart airplane seat. Fitted with sensors that measure passenger heart rates in real time, the seats send data on stress levels to the flight crew. Dubbed FlightBeat, carriers hope the system will prevent them from having to divert planes should passengers suffer an anxiety attack.


Airplanes can be diverted for any number of reasons, from damage incurred mid-flight, low fuel and dangerous airspace to bad weather and bomb alerts, all of which are a major inconvenience for carriers, who are ever keen to control each and every parameter to ensure their flights are incident-free

A passenger suffering a panic attack is another reason why planes can sometimes be diverted. In seeking to prevent such an outcome, Dutch airline KLM has teamed up with French aerospace group Zodiac and students from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands to develop FlightBeata smart seat system that measures passenger stress levels in real time.


Electronic sensors embedded in seats


While they might not look out of the ordinary, FlightBeat seats are fitted with a number of small electronic sensors that measure the heart rate of the passenger sitting in them. The heart rate is a good indicator of stress levels, with all the data collated by the seats being sent to a tablet used by the flight crew.

A colour-coded seat map points stewards to unwell passengers, at which point they can help them by offering them a drink or giving them a few words of reassurance to calm them down.

Carriers hope the system will enable them to reduce the costs incurred by having to divert planes on account of passengers suffering an anxiety attack. By anticipating such situations, flight crews can deal with them before they get out of control.


Mood management


The FlightBeat sensors are also designed to improve passengers’ flight experience through mood management. They can detect the right moment to dim the cabin lighting by picking up slowing heart rates, a sign that passengers are ready to nod off. Information can also be used to gauge how receptive they might be to watching a film during the flight, with some possibly deemed too stressful for them.

This is not the first such mood-sensing initiative. British Airways is experimenting with blankets that change colour depending on the stress levels and mood of passengers., according to BFM.


A third of french passengers feel ill at ease when they fly


According to Philippe Goeury, a psychologist at Air France’s anti-stress centre, a third of French passengers feel ill at ease to some extent when they fly. The fact remains, however, that flying is still the safest form of transport of all, with accidents occurring at an average rate of one every 1.2 million flights, according to francetvinfo. Statistically, a passenger would have to fly every day for 123,000 years before dying in an air crash.

A trainer at Peur de l'avion, a French centre that offers courses for people who suffer from a fear of flying, Nicolas Coccolo explained that turbulence, which can cause some distress among passengers, has never been the cause of an air crash.


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