The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) announced a standardization project to facilitate the managed use of wireless devices brought on board commercial aircraft and used by passengers during flight. Currently all airlines request passengers to turn off any radio transmitter or receiver all time during a flight, and most even ask users not to turn on mobile phones even in "flight mode". Flight Mode is a feature present in certain mobile phone and wirels devices that allows the use of its processing functions without turning on any radio. This is present in smartphones and some Bluetooth and wi-fi equipped PDA.
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 Douglas Johnson, senior director for technology policy at CEA. "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.