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The Aircraft Interiors mash-up in Hamburg ended this past week with some very interesting and unpredicted trends in the IFE space. For sure, the move toward smaller, thinner, lighter and more capable electronics was present. Second, third, and fourth generation electronics were claimed in the thin seat/thin and smart IFE world. Without a doubt, this is the trend of the next round of seatback/seat hardware. We really liked the Thales product!

There were a number of R&D projects almost ready for prime time: A wireless seat power development project that claimed 97% efficiency from KID (isn’t that better than wire?); a really great in-seat power supply design concept (Recaro and KID), which removed the seat power box and placed it in a central seat tube; a rapid prototyping capability for seat peripheral products (IFPC); a new, simple, content aggregation software from an Italian supplier; a new satcom/radio software data reduction algorithm that lops 40% of the overhead budget (TriaGnoSys); a new line of inflight hardware from a predominantly portable IFE supplier; a big sale for one fiber-optic IFE provider; two new seat power boxes; a 65” LCD Display; and so much more.

There is a big deal underway in IFE gatelink data that promises to expand ground-based IFE/airplane data that may finally automate that last node on the airline networks – the aircraft. It may do so by the build-up of ground-based networking…not in-flight connectivity. This offering looks like another SITA or ARINC and may incorporate their efforts as well. We will report on this project in the upcoming weeks.

iPad, iPad, iPad is all we heard about. No less that 8 vendors at the Hamburg Show had them in their booth. One even professed that it will be used as an inflight IFE offering. We do not know how it will ever pass DO-160 specifications so that rules out an imbedded application, but hope springs eternal. Additionally, the unit still stumbles with the lack of file handling capabilities and multitasking…not to mention security issues around file encryption. One rumor on the floor placed a major movie distributer in the booth of one vendor claiming they must print a retraction to an earlier news release claiming iPad first run movies? You can believe what you may but you heard it here first.

On the road, we wanted to give a tip-of-the-hat to Seattle Tacoma International Airport for their much appreciated, free Wi-Fi offered to all travelers. In an interview, the airport claimed that it costs them easily over $100,000 each year given the fees and royalties paid by service providers. Airports are not friendly places any more, but the folks at SeaTac deserve mention.

We hear Alaska Airlines will be offering introductory free Go-go Wi-Fi service till July 31, this year.

While air travel to and from the Hamburg show was nothing short of madness, thanks to the Icelandic volcano, we worry about the long-term impact on European air travel and airlines. Having experienced the absolute breakdown of one airline’s ability to manage the emergency we wonder if there are any management solutions to random weather emergencies? One thing for sure, it is going to cost us all more to fly!

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