Inflight entertainment (IFE) and connectivity supplier Panasonic Avionics has introduced a new growth area: airline passenger wellness.

At the APEX Expo on Sept. 25, the Lake Forest, California-based unit of Japan’s Panasonic Corp. introduced the first products of a “Wellness Suite” it expects will continue growing with new applications.

Unveiled were premium lighting, active noise control, air purifier, personalized audio and health analytics features aimed at premium seating classes.

“Seat physics and ambience is a very interesting space, especially in business and first class,” Panasonic Avionics head of innovation Andrew Mohr said. “We’ve leveraged the audio/video aspect of Panasonic for years. This is where we’re tapping into the wellness research that Panasonic Japan does. It’s a cornucopia of opportunity.”

Mohr said the product suite draws from the company’s Tactel subsidiary in Sweden, a mobile application and software consultancy it acquired in 2015; a system architecture unit based in California’s Silicon Valley and hardware manufactured by Panasonic Japan. Launch customers have committed to three of the first set of products, with deliveries planned in 2019-2020.

Panasonic Japan has developed a “nanoe” air-cleansing technology for automotive manufacturers that generates nano-sized water particles, which serve to remove pathogens from surrounding air. “It’s well-established technology; we’ve figured out a way to integrate it into a seat environment,” Mohr said.

“Based upon certain flight-status [parameters] we track through the IFE system, we can trigger enhancements or changes to the way this operates. It’s not just a static system that’s been popped into the seat somewhere, it’s tied into the whole ecosystem of journey management,” he said.

Panasonic Avionics has partnered with other companies on two of the first products—with Detalytics, of Singapore, developer of health analytics applications; and German firm Mimi Hearing Technologies on sound personalization technology.

“People question the relevance of IFE if ‘I’ve got an iPad.’ If it’s just AVOD [Audio-Video on Demand], it could be a diminishing market, it could be a less interesting market,” Mohr said.

“But what we’ve done is turned the whole thing on its head. We don’t look at being an IFE supplier that happens to have a shopping app. We approach customers … and say we are your e-commerce platform and we happen to do entertainment if that’s something you’re interested in. We’re serious about wellness too,” he said.

Bill Carey, bill.carey@aviationweek.com