The promise of the electronic flight bag (EFB), from its earliest iterations in the 1990s, was to take flight navigation from static paper charting into the realm of dynamic, data-driven operations. While the industry focused on moving charting into the digital era, one part was left behind—the accompanying notes that are a key part of every chart and provide important procedural information.
“In some cases,” explained Jeff Buhl, Product Manager, while many aspects of charting were greatly enhanced by the transition to digital, “the notes piece of the application was less usable than its paper equivalent.”
Buhl added, “Notes are placed in certain places on a chart by cartographers. They can look at a map, and know, This note goes with this boundary and so I’m going to place it here. To make that work in a data-driven display is really complicated.” In fact, no one in the industry had a good solution.
Then, Jeppesen thought about notes a bit differently. Instead of asking how notes can be reconfigured on a digital chart, Jeppesen changed the questions and developed a smarter solution to delivering note-like information.
BETTER QUESTIONS. INNOVATIVE ANSWERS.
To effectively address the notes conundrum, Jeppesen went back to the beginning and asked, When are notes most valuable to flight crews? As we did with charts, how can we utilize technology to make note information available while also reducing workload?
Smart Notes was the answer.
According to Buhl, “Smart Notes isn’t really about the notes themselves. It’s a new model for how we can elevate information to the pilot in context, while minimizing the need to access and interact with the application.”
To get a sense of the thinking behind Smart Notes, look no further than the smart phone. When calendar events, important texts or emails, turn instructions (mapping apps) or even phone calls appear on your phone, the device doesn’t wait for its owner. Instead, it recognizes the notification as important, and displays it over the top of any other functionality currently active on the phone.
How does that work on the flight deck? Imagine piloting an aircraft that is approaching a flight information region (FIR) boundary, and the flight crew knows it has a compulsory reporting point ahead. Determining who to call, at what point, on which frequency and the required reporting information was unearthed by a flight crew member at or around the time of the call or during pre-flight planning.
With Smart Notes all the key information will elevate itself, automatically, and include a signifier that lets the crew know something requires attention. And, because it’s using FliteDeck Pro’s ownship function, that information is delivered right when it’s needed. So, in the example above, Smart Notes will know which FIR boundary is approaching, calculates the prior notification reporting window, and alerts the flight crew with all the key data needed to make the report.
SUPPORTED BY SMART DESIGN
The initial rollout of Smart Notes will focus primarily on the iOS (iPad) platform. That is due, in large part, to a key partnership with Apple to design it. Many additional, and perhaps familiar, Smart Notes features include:
- Look Ahead—Crews who want to stay ahead of the flight don’t have to wait for a Smart Note to appear. A simple tap along the route of flight will produce the key note for any point on the flight path.
- Use Other Apps—Flight crews don’t need to have FliteDeck Pro open to get notifications. Like a text (for example), they will appear when the device is asleep or the pilot is in another app. A simple touch of the screen opens FliteDeck Pro displaying the full note and providing all the data the crew needs.
- Filtering—Unlike paper charts that contained every note for a trip, Smart Notes will filter out the notes that aren’t relevant. Smart Notes knows, for example, that a trip is being flown east to west, and will filter out any notes related to west to east travel.
- Screen Configurability—Smart Notes provides the flexibility to enlarge notes to full screen (longer text) or configure the notes into small windows so that text of any length can be read with the chart in view for reference.
To put its vision to the test, Jeppesen looked not to its local field or even nearby Denver International Airport to challenge its developers. Instead, the company started by applying its vision of Smart Notes on the iconic North Atlantic Orientation Chart. “We knew that if we could make this work on the North Atlantic crossing, we could make Smart Notes work in any part of the world,” said Buhl.
BETTER. SITUATIONAL. AWARENESS.
In the end, Smart Notes is about fulfilling the real promise of the EFB and delivering new levels of situational awareness to the flight deck. “It’s a significant change to how we’re presenting information to the pilot. We’re elevating it while putting it in context at the same time,” concluded Buhl. “We call it Smart Notes, but it’s so much more.”
Smart Notes will be part of the next FliteDeck Pro update for iOS (iPad) users, with the functionality available for Windows Surface users soon to follow. If you’re a current FliteDeck Pro subscriber, you’ll be able to start taking advantage Smart Notes in the first quarter of 2017. And, if you’re using another EFB app, Smart Notes might make this the right time to consider a switch.
Contact your representative to learn more about how Smart Notes could put reduced flight deck workload, better situational awareness and more timely and relevant information into the hands of your flight crews.