The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) recently announced a standardization project to facilitate the managed use of wireless devices brought on board commercial aircraft and used by passengers during flight.
"With the busy summer travel season underway and the increasing popularity of wireless portable electronics with both business and leisure travelers, now is an perfect time to reiterate the importance of creating a new industry standard that will help manage the use of these devices on board commercial aircraft," said Douglas Johnson, senior director for technology policy at CEA. "Some airlines are beginning to liberalize their policies regarding usage of wireless devices, and CEA hopes to work with the airlines and other organizations as they develop and implement these changes."
A CEA working group, involving more than 35 representatives of wireless device and component manufacturers, airlines, pilots, and flight attendants, is developing an industry "recommended practice" that will provide a standard way of showing that a wireless device's transmitter is disabled. The group aims to complete and distribute the recommended practice by fall 2004.
"On many wireless consumer electronics products, there is no consistent way to demonstrate that the device's transmitter is switched off," said Johnson. "Ensuring that a device's wireless transmitter is disabled is important in certain environments, such as aboard aircraft, but also in some hospital locations."
During certain phases of commercial flight, present regulations and airline policy typically require all portable electronic devices to be turned off and stowed. It is foreseeable that during certain times, some wireless technologies might be permitted for use on board some commercial aircraft in the future. However, other wireless technologies might not be.
"Many wireless devices can operate without transmitting, such as the use of a game player on a mobile phone, or the use of a personal organizer on a wireless PDA," added Johnson. "In these and similar cases, we expect it will be useful for airline passengers and others to know and be able to verify whether the wireless part of their device is enabled or disabled."
CEA's working group, which meets regularly, was formed in late 2003 to address three issues related to the use of wireless devices. The first is to develop a consistent and easily identifiable symbol, which indicates that a wireless device's transmitter is disabled; the second is to make it easy to disable and enable a device's wireless transmitter; and the third is to encourage consistent terminology across the airline and technology industries with regard to portable electronic devices.
Several times I ran into discussions with flight attendants when I was using my xda I, my Xda II or even my Smartphones. While mostly nobody cares my current i-Mate Phone Edition (because it doesn't has an external antenna and therefore it doesn't looks like a mobile phone), I had a lot of stress using my xda I in the past and even more stress to use my Smartphones during flights. I found just one flight attendant who asked me if "I've already switched of the radio of my Pocket PC Phone Edition" (maybe he is a reader of PPCW.Net) but around a dozen comments like "switch off you mobile phone" and when I replied it's switched of and in flight mode the flight attendants was completely confused what I was talking about. Off but functional? So far I've seen just one airline: SAS (the Scandinavian Airline System) who clearly knows what they are talking about since they board magazine tells travelers that the use of mobile phones is allowed if the are in "flight mode". But I can understand airlines that it become harder and harder for them to identify which device might includes a radio module and if this radio module is switched of. Therefor I wish the CEA good luck to find a way here and hope that all electronic vendors will participate in this standardization!