Wednesday June 19, 2019
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Beware! As The Seat-Back Entertainment System on Your Flight Can Watch You

A passenger on a Singapore flight posted a photo of the seat-back display last week, and the tweet was shared several hundred times and drew media notice. Buzzfeed first reported that the cameras are also on some American planes.

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American Airlines aircraft sit at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, June 16, 2018. Newer seat-back entertainment systems on some airplanes operated by American Airlines and Singapore Airlines have cameras, and it’s likely they are also on plane. VOA

Now there is one more place where cameras could be watching you — from 30,000 feet.

Newer seat-back entertainment systems on some airplanes operated by American Airlines and Singapore Airlines have cameras, and it’s likely they are also on planes used by other carriers.

American and Singapore both said Friday that they have never activated the cameras and have no plans to use them.

However, companies that make the entertainment systems are installing cameras to offer future options such as seat-to-seat video conferencing, according to an American Airlines spokesman.

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Newer seat-back entertainment systems on some airplanes operated by American Airlines and Singapore Airlines have cameras, and it’s likely they are also on planes used by other carriers. Pixabay

Cameras standard features

The airlines stressed that they didn’t add the cameras — manufacturers embedded them in the entertainment systems. American’s systems are made by Panasonic, while Singapore uses Panasonic and Thales, according to airline representatives. Neither Panasonic nor Thales responded immediately for comment.

As they shrink, cameras are being built into more devices, including laptops and smartphones. The presence of cameras in aircraft entertainment systems was known in aviation circles at least two years ago, although not among the traveling public.

Seth Miller, a journalist who wrote about the issue in 2017, thinks that equipment makers didn’t consider the privacy implications. There were already cameras on planes, although not so intrusive, and the companies assumed that passengers would trade their images for convenience, as they do with facial-recognition technology at immigration checkpoints, he said.

“Now they’re facing blowback from a small but vocal group questioning the value of the system that isn’t even active,” Miller said.

American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein said cameras are in “premium economy” seats on 82 Boeing 777 and Airbus A330-200 jets. American has nearly 1,000 planes.

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The airlines stressed that they didn’t add the cameras — manufacturers embedded them in the entertainment systems. American’s systems are made by Panasonic, while Singapore uses Panasonic and Thales, according to airline representatives. Neither Panasonic nor Thales responded immediately for comment. Pixabay

“Cameras are a standard feature on many in-flight entertainment systems used by multiple airlines,” he said.

Also Read: Samsung to Launch Tablet Folded Smartphone for $2000

Singapore spokesman James Boyd said cameras are on 84 Airbus A350s, Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s and 787s. The carrier has 117 planes.

Cameras not turned on

While the airlines say they have no plans to use the cameras, a Twitter user named Vitaly Kamluk, who snapped the photo of the camera on his Singapore flight, suggested that just to be sure the carriers should slap stickers over the lenses.

“The cameras are probably not used now,” he tweeted. “But if they are wired, operational, bundled with mic, it’s a matter of one smart hack to use them on 84+ aircrafts and spy on passengers.” (VOA)

Next Story

U.S. Researchers Develop A Vacuum-Assisted Toilet for Flight Passengers

They added additional pipe to increase the distance between the toilet bowl and the flush valve and made the pipe attachment at the bowl more of a gradual bend as opposed to a sharp 90-degree angle. 

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The new vacuum-assisted technology can also be used for toilets on cruise ships, trains and even in new green building projects where people are looking at ways to reduce water usage. Pixabay

Airplane toilets are loud. For kids, they could be downright terrifying. Now, a team of US researchers has invented a vacuum-assisted toilet that is about half as loud as the regular airplane commode.

“People have told us they don’t want their kids to be scared to use the bathroom on a flight,” said lead researcher Kent Gee, Professor at the Brigham Young University. “We’ve used good physics to solve the problem.”

It’s been a really hard problem to solve because getting airplane toilets to flush with very little water requires a partial vacuum, which at 38,000 feet, pulls air at nearly half the speed of sound.

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Now that airplanes come with much quieter interiors, toilet flushes reverberate more throughout the cabin. Pixabay

According to the research, conducted in a lab, an air-water mix in vacuum-assisted toilets travels more than 300 miles per hour.

When things move at that speed, any disturbance at all to the flow — like the bend of a pipe or a valve — generates significant noise.

Now that airplanes come with much quieter interiors, toilet flushes reverberate more throughout the cabin.

However, tests of the new contraption show aeroacoustically-generated noise declined 16 decibels during the flush valve opening and about 5-10 decibels when the valve is fully opened, the researchers reported in the Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics journal.

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When things move at that speed, any disturbance at all to the flow — like the bend of a pipe or a valve — generates significant noise. VOA

To solve the problem, the team focused on three valve conditions during the flush cycle: the initial noise level peak associated with the flush valve opening, an intermediate noise level plateau associated with the valve being fully opened and the final noise level peak associated with the flush valve closing.

Also Read: Research Claims, Having A Pet Can Help Older People Stay Physically Active
They added additional pipe to increase the distance between the toilet bowl and the flush valve and made the pipe attachment at the bowl more of a gradual bend as opposed to a sharp 90-degree angle.

The new vacuum-assisted technology can also be used for toilets on cruise ships, trains and even in new green building projects where people are looking at ways to reduce water usage. (IANS)