Computing while flying to get a bit more sensible
By Ephraim Schwartz
Posted at 4:45 PM PT, Mar 4, 1997
Business travelers who use portable computers for cross-country or
international travel will soon get relief from stale batteries as the
airline and computer industries plan to create a standard interface,
called EmPower, for in-flight power sources.
The system, to be finalized in October, will free portable PC users
from dependence on batteries during long flights and add an additional
element of service for frequent travelers.
By the end of the year, at least 300 planes will be retrofitted with
the interface, which will be located in the armrest of airline
seats. A user, for example, will simply plug a standardized cord --
akin to a car-lighter adapter -- to their seat arm and it will enter
the PC in the AC adapter jack.
The first airline companies to include the adapter are American,
Delta, and Canadian Airlines. Plans call for first-class and
business-class cabins to be upgraded first, with economy class to
follow. The power will only flow when the aircraft is above 10,000
The Airline Electronic Engineering Committee standards body in October
is expected to officially adopt the EmPower system, developed by
Primex Aerospace of St. Petersburg, Fla.
The EmPower system includes built-in safety features, such as overload
protection, monitored by a master control unit in the front of the
cabin, according to John Wade, marketing manager for Primex. The
console has the ability to shut down any and all outlets if the system
is overcharging. It can also deny access to the next user if power
usage is at maximum.
Third-party peripherals manufacturers such as Xtend Micro Products
will begin shipping the adapters in volume later this month, with
devices compatible with most of the major notebook models.
The Xtend Dual Mode Connector, which will sell for about $79, will
include an adapter that slides over the smaller connector needed for
the airline interface and can be plugged into a car's cigarette
Xtend Micro Products Inc., in Irvine, Calif., can be reached at (800) 232-9836.