Thompson Aerospace

As usual Mark Thompson had a few new and “different” takes on the IFE business. There were at least two big ones, which he shared with us. Perhaps the biggest news is he has formed a joint venture with Imagik who will be handling the sales of his system and since they already produce their inseat screens. The JV gives Thompson the opportunity to focus on the server/technology side of the product. The second item of note from the interview is the developments in their server technology. To quote Mark, “The biggest problem in this business has always been managing the data.” To that end, Thompson has employed some very clever solutions and the key to their data management schemes is to maintain a secure connection between the aircraft and the ground and provide a scheme for validation between the airborne unit and the cloud. With the advent of a lot of credit cards sales, both onboard and off board the aircraft, Thompson has designed their server with Level 3 FIPS security “…equal to that used by the US Federal Reserve,” he noted. Thompson has had this gateway in development for the past 3 years and the company told IFExpress that in 2020 the US government is requiring Level 3 FIPS security from airborne satellite communications… and Thompson Aerospace can provide it now. Their goal all along has been to move toward ‘the intelligent aircraft’ by bringing labor savings to the plane and they have increased the security of connectivity, which is employed by both the servers and routers. Bottom line, neither the passenger nor the airline needs to be concerned about hacking into the wireless system, and as we noted earlier, this level of security will be demanded in the future. This also facilitates the move toward the intelligent aircraft by facilitating inventory control as well as fuel burn savings. Oh, and IFExpress thinks there is a launch customer in the works! To bring the point home, Mark stated they have never really been an IFE company – they have always been a data company. “We are a CISCO!” he said. (Editor’s Note: With this level of data security between the aircraft and the cloud, we feel that Thompson is on the right track when it comes to handling aircraft ‘big data’ as well as IFE and passenger data communication.)


The first bit of news from digEcor is reorganization. The company has brought on two significant additions: 1) Paul Thorpe has been brought on as digEcor’s President Europe 2) Laurie Barns has joined as digEcor’s President of Asia. With these additions the company has new leadership and new visions. There is a focus on investing in new products, as well as, increasing their global presence and their target is the retrofit market. “We are keeping the core business but investing both in people and products.” The company has focused on four areas: Hardware, Content Services, Ancillary Revenue, and Passenger Services. digEcor’s objective is to be the cabin technology provider for the passenger and through this effort the company is redefining IFE to be the overall inflight experience at a competitive price. One example of this is USB power. Their last passenger survey indicated USB power was high on the list of ‘customer wants/needs’. digEcor listened and has brought a USB power offering to the marketplace. The system features a power supply, USB seat box and a remote USB outlet providing 5V USB. Another product they are dually proud of, which was introduced a couple of years ago, is GLIDE. GLIDE is digEcor’s Embedded IFE System that is low weight and fully scalable across both narrow body and wide body aircraft. It is being certified on ATI with PMA to follow. There has been a high level of interest and we understand the price model is very competitive. The Cabin Management System is the only head-end on the system and the PSS functions are in the PCUs, providing the airline with weight savings because of the reduction in wiring. The system on average is 2.2 pounds or less per passenger. Lastly, digEcor has also developed ENGAGE, which is a cabin crew mobile application. ENGAGE integrates with airline ground systems to make current data accessible in the air on a mobile device. Cabin crews have all the relevant passenger information available at the swipe of a finger and can complete operation reports on the device inflight. The digEcor team!


The newest product from BOSE is the QC 25. The choice of Audiophiles, the QC 25’s now have greater noise reduction than the QC 15’s (probably due to improvements in the ear pad and active noise reduction electronics). The pair we tested seamed to have improved high-end audio performance but the audio improvement increase was beyond our hearing capability – an audiophile’s delight. We asked Hratch Astarjian (perhaps the worlds nicest guy) about the added features on the QC -25 and he told IFExpress: “The QuietComfort 25 has been engineered to provide even better audio performance, greater comfort, improved stow-ability, and the noise reduction performance Bose has come to be known for.  We’ve also given it a more modern and elegant design that reinforces the notion that this truly is a premium noise canceling headphone.” For example, we note, a clever earphone pivot now allows for even greater stow-ability and the units appear to have a passive audio mode, whereby you can still listen to audio programming (with reduced frequency response) in case of a loss of battery or external DC power. The airline units have 2 color options. And, Hratch noted: “Yes, we will put the airline’s logo on the headphone, along with our own logo.  We are offering both colors (black or white), though my guess is most airlines will select the darker color.  The white color, while really nice for an individual owner, might show dirt more readily in an airline use case than the black.” In the consumer market, we are told that there are customizable color options for the QC 25. The unit runs on a single AA battery for an amazing 35 – 40 hours and we understand a seat-powered option is on its way. Noted Hratch, “No airlines are currently using the QC25 because we have not made it available in a seat powered configuration yet.  However, there are several airlines, including the ones with whom we already have a relationship, that plan to offer the QC25 to their premium passengers as soon as it is available.  American Airlines will be the first domestic airline to offer the QC25. The consumer version, which uses 1 AAA battery, is available to individuals now.” The elegant BOSE QC 25’s are $299. (Editor’s Note: 2014 represents BOOSE 25th year serving the aviation industry, as well as, their 50th anniversary! )

Armstrong Aerospace

It was good to see Shawn Raybell again who has joined Armstrong from Jamco. The Armstrong company slogan, “From Concept to Certification” holds true and as an organization that designs, certifies, analyzes, and provides kits, is well named. Specifically in our industry they are known for their gate-to-gate testing of TPEDs. Basically Armstrong looks at the 802.11 industry standards and test with all devices to prove that there is no RF interference. This includes service to airlines and equipment OEMs as well. As Shawn noted, “Airlines and OEMs now realize that this testing gives them ownership of the data.” We were interested in how they do some of the testing and we were told that the company’s focus is on teams and they have three teams comprised of three individuals, which includes a DER. The teams are traveling all the time to perform certification and testing data. They are looking for spurious transmissions and unintentional interferences with things such as ILS and communication equipment, to name two. When we asked about the competition in this industry, Shawn told us, “We are the leaders in this bus.”

Armstrong also displayed a PowerBox and PowerBar with AC and USB power outlets. We were told that the company’s strength was in the installation of IFE, Wi-Fi, and seat power – quite often on seat tracks and independent from the seat. From our understanding, PowerBox and PowerBar are agnostic units as far as the power vender goes. We note that the PowerBox can skip every other seat row and serve both with a patent pending design.

Lastly, Armstrong is also known for their BirdStriker devices, which are used often to protect radomes and antennas.

GUE Tech

Each year GUE Tech never ceases to amaze and this Max hired cheerleaders… need we say more? GUE Tech is all about inflight gaming and the quote from their mission statement says it all: “The mission of GUE Tech is to enhance the quality of interactive entertainment and assist with the creation of core software, games, and media applications.” We should note that last year GUE Tech had an exclusive arrangement with one major airline and now that the exclusive period is over they are offering their product line to the marketplace once again. Max told us that they are actively involved in Interactive Movies and classic and retro games. They offer a set of movies with different endings and different games, including play options that allow interaction with the various endings. We note they also have interactive books. GUE Tech has six full time people and has brought on Jorg Shiffermann to assist with marketing. Max approaches the game market from a different perspective than other CSPs and we note that his games are ‘smart’ and driven by a joystick that defaults to a touch screen. Furthermore, we note that 2014 will be a $66 B year for games. This according to Max Lingua is twice the size of the movie market. Why? Generation Y plays these types of interactive games. “We wish the passenger to have the same experience in the air that they have in there own media room at home.”


Lumexis pointed out that the airline industry has been cautious over the past 9-12 months in ordering IFE as airlines try and reconcile the bold claims of so-far unproven stand-alone Wi-Fi systems against well-established and proven seat-back IFE systems which continue to dominate the market. Jon Norris (Lumexis VP Sales) noted that 98% of twin-aisle aircraft continue to be delivered with seat-back AVOD systems while for single-aisle aircraft deliveries, 44% have no IFE installed, 29% have in-seat AVOD and the remaining 27% have overhead systems. He also told IFExpress that FTTS remains the premium market product whose mantra is Best By Every Measure: Lightest Weight, Greatest Capacity, Lowest Cost and Highest Reliability. Jon also noted that Lumexis continues to actively explore emerging screen, processor and storage technologies plus consumer/passenger trends. Lumexis’ FTTS Second Screen is an example of this approach. Presently, he noted that they are happy to partner with any connectivity provider and are looking at fine-tuning their combined IFEC offering and working more closely with partner connectivity companies. Lumexis just finished their second Lion Air B737 installation and expects to have completed 14 installations by yearend. The first provisions line-fit Lion Air B737 will be delivered in February 2015 and the first full FTTS installation will be delivered from Boeing Renton towards the end of 2015. Furthermore, things are quite busy at Lumexis since Lion have more than 500 aircraft backlogged between Airbus and Boeing. Airbus activity will include first-of-type installations on Lion Air A320s, as well as a second A330 installation for Turkish Airlines later this year. Stay tuned.

BAE Systems

BAE Systems IntelliCabin is one of the more interesting new IFE/systems in the marketplace, although they have had years of experiences with aircraft cabin control device sand integration. A lot of the credit of the new IFE offering goes to Jared Shoemaker who has spooled up the effort to deliver a state-of-the art table IFE system powered by Samsung tablets, simplified crew functions via the use of mobile devices, dynamic LED lighting, and a full turnkey support, installation, and STC offering. On the power side of the equation they have developed 110 V AC and USB outlets, smart junction boxes, a variable frequency converter, and a power control panel. The four USB outlets can deliver 2 amps, which should be sufficient for iPad applications. On the IFE side, we liked the Samsung tablets because we were told they were all OLED screen devices. Furthermore, the device content is supplied by WISE from GEE, and yes, it is streamed. The system is established on an Android platform. We also note that brought-on Android PEDS can operate with the system by downloading an inflight App. The servers and wireless access points for IntelliCabin are being provided by Kontron, we understand. IFExpress was told that the system should be complete by the end of December 2014 with first STC with installation targeting March of 2015. Nice Product!


No doubt when you talk about Astronics you are talking about a market leader. Today we understand they have 91% of the commercial inseat power market. This is, no doubt, due to a small and efficient power conversion box and associated technology. We also note that something bigger is going on at Astronics Corporation and it falls into the category of diversification. The parent company of Astronics has been acquiring companies for a number of years and their latest acquisition was AeroSat. Acquisitions are based on overall fit and culture of the company (As well as their bottom line, we assume). Astronics Corporation strongly believes in relationships of trust and each company under the parent umbrella stands on their own. One of the key features each company must have is a focus on the customer, we were told, and if recent sales are an indication, that seems to be the norm.

Astronics told us that they are the only inseat power company line-offerable at Boeing and Airbus, possibly because each seat box can power 4 iPads simultaneously. There is a lot more happening at Astronics than meets the eye and we cant talk about it now but we suggest you stay tuned to this one!


Buried back in the corner of Panasonic’s New Technology displays was Sound Chip, an audio manufacturer. Sound Chip develops and manufactures HD quality audio chips that fit inside high quality headphones. The idea here is simple. Digital audio is sent from the server and ends up in the chip to be converted to analog audio and the results are stunning. No intermediate signal modification, loss, or noise interjection! Typically, digital audio that starts at the server and ends somewhere before the headphones, usually before the audio amplifiers in the SEB. Perhaps the most important feature in this type of design is the amazing presence that the audio has, and someday, there will be a lot more of this technology on aircraft audio systems as the demand for higher quality audio grows. For more information contact Mark Donaldson, CEO, SoundChip.

VT Miltope

Lastly, we must say something about VT Miltope and their nMAP2 wireless router. We’ve said it before and we will say it again, because of the Cognitive Hotspot Technology engineered into the device, their approach to aircraft wireless routers will change the industry. Why? Because the products are smart and adaptive and they can determine the best Wi-Fi signal for each passenger based upon a large number of measured parameters and then correct router and signals accordingly. The device does this and many more functions in real time. These measurements occur dynamically and the net result, according to VT Miltope scientists, is a minimum 10% connectivity improvement over older wireless router technology – we think this is a low-ball estimate. In a discussion with industry guru Robert Guidetti, the units “talk’ to each other and back to the server to determine the best signal to each seat/PED. A special antenna is built into nMAP2, as well as, an embedded microprocessor that controls the ‘intelligence’ of the device. We will say more about this product as the company discloses installation and performance results.

Other Notes:

One of our early IFExpress/AIRFAX readers/supporters, Jim McCann has started JMC Aerosystems, an avionics product and business development company. You can reach him at jmc.aero@gmail.com

We really liked Alfy Veretto, APEX President, and you probably know him with his constant companion – his hat. We got him to pose with it off!

The award for the Most Outrageous T-Shirt at APEX has to go to the gang from Encore Inflight Limited in Hong Kong – check it out!

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