British Airways draws on passenger brainwaves to tailor in-flight offerings

British Airways has revealed it's monitoring the brainwaves of passengers on-board its planes to help the airline make informed decisions about the in-flight information it offers travellers.

The company has jointly created a piece of technology, with the help of creative design agency Ogilvy, dubbed the "Happiness Blanket", which changes colour according to how anxious or content a person is.

The blanket's colour is determined by the output of brainwave-monitoring neuro-sensors. These are connected to a person's forehead via a special Myndplay head set which measures a person's "meditative" state, in terms of how relaxed they are and their level of concentration.

The headset's findings are fed back to the blanket via Bluetooth, resulting in the fibre optics woven through the fabric to turn red, if a person is anxious, or blue, if they are content.

British Airways has already trialled the technology with volunteers on several flights, whose responses to the food served, entertainment shown and overall comfort levels during their time on board was monitored.

The experiment's aim is to ascertain just how relaxed passengers are during the course of the flight, and if serving particular foods or showing certain films helps or hinders that.

By obtaining these observations, British Airways can use the data to tweak the in-flight services it offers.

Speaking to IT Pro, a British Airways spokesperson said the trial marks the first time technology like this has been used by an airline to determine the types of services to offer customers while on-board.

"For British Airways, it is all about finding ways to enhance the in-flight experience for our customers, so that they feel as refreshed and relaxed as possible by the time they reach their destination," the spokesperson said.

For British Airways, it is all about finding ways to enhance the in-flight experience for our customers, so that they feel as refreshed and relaxed as possible.

At present, the technology has been tested on passengers in British Airways' first and business class sections, with plans afoot to trial it in economy class too.

The trials so far have provided some interesting results, with certain foods (in this case, cheese and nuts) triggering the blankets to turn red for some participants, while from a films and music perspective watching crime thrillers was shown to illicit a similar response.

Meanwhile, in line with the data the blankets are monitoring, they reportedly turned dark blue when passengers were asleep or sitting quietly.

Overall, British Airways claims the blankets of those who took part remained blue most of the time.

IT Pro's news and analysis editor Caroline Donnelly recently got to trial the technology on a seven-hour flight between London Heathrow's Terminal 5 and Newark Airport, New Jersey.

Find out what she thought of the "happiness blanket" on-board a British Airways 787 Dreamliner.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.