Two More From Hamburg
At AIX we had an interesting discussion about NFC and while at the IFPL booth, the IFExpress team got an education. Geoff Underwood, the CEO, spent time on the subject and if you are lacking a bit of understanding in the “world of cashless retail,” you are not alone. IFPL has a huge background in the world of cashless inflight purchasing and has developed a massive block of related technology and “…are really the experts on it in the IFE industry,” he noted. To try to clear up a bit of the “cashless” quagmire, we asked Geoff to paint a better picture of the technology:
“Modern credit cards support three technologies: Magnetic Swipe, Chip & Pin, and Contactless (NFC). Many cards in the US still have just the Magnetic Swipe but that technology is being phased out starting in Oct 2015. In every country that uses Chip and Pin or Contactless technology, they saw a 95% reduction in credit card fraud immediately when they changed to Chip and Pin. It is already in use in almost every country outside the US. The user slides the card into a very secure reader, and enters a security (PIN) code to validate the payment. But, due to the high levels of security required, the hardware cost of Chip and Pin is considered to be prohibitively high for most IFE applications.
The Contactless solution (note the radiation lines logo) or “Tap and Pay” solution is the one that will most probably be adopted in future IFE systems, because the hardware costs are much lower. To buy a product, all the customer has to do is touch the reader with their credit card, and the payment transaction takes place wirelessly, with no PIN or signature. At the moment contactless payments are limited to low value purchases (about $20 per transaction plus a daily cap), so it is inherently secure. The $20 limit meets the needs of most purchases on board, such as movies, drinks etc., and you will need a payment server, a suitable App on the IFE system, and the IFPL contactless reader connected via USB, noted Geoff. With the IFPL reader customers will have the opportunity to use a ‘Mobile Wallet’ to make their payment. Many phones are NFC enabled (such as the Apple Pay system), so they can just tap the reader with their phone and make the payment that way.”
In the future, the $20 limit will be eliminated by the use of mobile wallets and live connectivity to the ground. However, these higher value purchases will require PIN entry to authorize the payment. A mobile wallet makes this easy because the mobile phone user can enter the PIN during the transaction. We also should note that all of these technologies are available to the flight crew today for inflight purchasing with handheld devices, but we are talking about inseat installations here.
IFPL has developed a fully wireless contactless payment system for airlines that do not have an IFE system, and has recently developed a USB-powered contactless reader for Thales that communicates transaction data to the payment server over a wired network. Noted Geoff: “Both Apple Pay and Google Wallet are compatible with the IFPL solution as well, which makes NFC the future cashless solution of choice!”
A few other neat solutions we saw at the IFPL booth should also be mentioned. Our cover shot shows a standard, but illuminated, USB 2.0 receptacle. Not only does the light help find the socket itself, it accepts plugs reversibly (either side up works) which solves the problem of trying to get the plug the right way up. And if there is a plug/socket interface problem or short, the light changes from white to red. “We’ve seen a few copies already. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but we’re confident they’ve all missed out on the ‘secret sauce’,” noted Mr. Underwood, with a smile…
Lastly, we also saw the first miniature USB 3 “C” jack which is a big future trend and it would not surprise us if this jack eventually provides a replacement for installed USB 2.0 systems, as the USB 3 “C” jacks can easily cope with iPad charging amperage.
As an introduction, Telefonix is a design, manufacturing and management company with a history of more than 25 years of innovation in this industry. We’ve heard a lot of buzz over the last year about their partnership with PDT, a product design and development firm, and most recently about their launch of the Summit IFEC product platform. We talked to them during the show noting that some of the team was headed to China after AIX – more on that later. The company was founded on the strength of its retractable cabling technology. You remember the inflight telephone handset retract mechanisms? But with over 60 patents issued to date, they have become a leader in technology development and execution for complex mechanical and electrical assemblies. And yes, they are in the systems business as well, but more on that later too.
Telefonix has manufacturing facilities located in Illinois and manufacturing partners in Asia, allowing the company to translate almost any design into a reliable product deliverable. With the company’s partnership with PDT, the complexity of the products offered has been evolving as together the two companies now offer IFEC manufacturers who are creating new or next-gen solutions a total product development solution: from user research to design, mechanical and electrical engineering, software development, documentation and certification, prototyping through to manufacturing.
And speaking of the Far East, They were a sponsor and host of the very recent 3rd In-Flight Connectivity Technology Conference in Shanghai, China, and we heard from Mike Kuehn, President. He told IFExpress that the Telefonix team (Telefonix+PDT) is very active in helping to change and improve China’s inflight connectivity market. Their recent conference there, attended by all of China’s airlines, “…is just the beginning,” noted Mr. Kuehn. Here are a couple questions we asked Mike:
Q) Who is the target product market and are you focusing your sales efforts on the IFEC suppliers (resellers) or the airlines – Is China a big future market in your view?
A) Telefonix is focusing its sales efforts on the IFEC suppliers and OEMs interested in retrofit and line fit equipment installation and remains a B2B hardware supplier and not marketing solutions directly to the airlines.
We view China as a large growth market for IFEC in general, with passenger traffic increasing and the services offered onboard maturing. As your readers may know, I chaired both days of the ICT conference in Shanghai where discussion of the 2016 market took place, and which is something we look forward to participating in. We recognize the timing and regulatory issues in China and are focused on building the right network and relationships as the IFEC market continues to grow in China.
Q) What are the benefits to the IFE supplier/airline in selecting the Summit Line? Is it time to market, lower cost, etc.?
A) The Summit product line is a natural evolution of our traditional custom design service offerings. The product line was developed as a set of system building blocks that can be leveraged as designed or be customized as a part of any customer program. The Telefonix advantage with the Summit product line (See attached 5 data sheets) is that we are providing innovative product packaging of new terrestrial technology, which allows overall cost savings and performance improvements as it relates to services offered by streaming IFE and connectivity providers. For example, the integration of the Cabin ACe antennas in the access point chassis allows a reduction in overall kit costs and reduces the complexity in the maintenance. Our Cabin Pinnacle product, which is a server that can support streaming media and connectivity simultaneously, is built on the latest roadmap of Intel processors and is designed to support the next generation of processors in the Intel suite without a total redesign of the unit, thereby providing future proofing for customers since obsolescence will be less of an issue.
At the end of the day, cost is always a factor, but it is far from the key differentiator in this market. Overall, the Summit product line is one built upon leading edge technology and designed to allow customers to upgrade more easily and with less certification implications than legacy hardware. Beyond the hardware itself, Telefonix is committed to continuing technology evolution and providing ongoing product support for our customers. We have a long and proven record of customer support and this customer focus has not changed with this new line of products.”
Q) What are the advantages the Summit Line has over other servers, WAPS, Pico Cells and is there any specific new technology in the WAP our readers should know about?
A) The technology used in the Cabin ACe WAP has the advantages of supporting 802.11ac protocol used in the newest client devices. We have in our roadmap to update the platform to Wave 2 later this year, thus supporting client devices that are not even available in the consumer market today. In addition, the radio engine utilizes Virtual Controller technology that allows adaptive, self-organizing wireless grouping across multiple units installed within an aircraft. What this means to the service provider is the virtual controller can coordinate, store and distribute the settings required to regulate and manage the Wi-Fi network. This is of particular importance when the client devices are not uniformly placed within the cabin – we can groom the traffic and spread the clients across multiple access points, thus improving performance since no one access point will get overloaded with traffic. We have also considered various installation needs in our design, for example including an internal antenna in our standard unit, but offering an external antenna if needed, and designing both 28VDC and 115V versions of this product.
In the Cabin Peak (Pico Cell) product, the software technology implemented in the base station transceivers is patented by our partner. The software forces a user’s device to select the onboard radio versus selecting a mobile operator’s base station outside of the aircraft. If the user is not registered for the connectivity service, the radio will ‘hold’ the client device in place and not let them roam onto another base station. Telefonix believes this will negate the requirement for the Cabin RF Management Unit being deployed today, thus reducing per aircraft equipment and installation costs. Given that pico-cell usage is geographically limited due to regulations, the voice service is not the real key for this unit, but rather the key is the ability for a user to log on using their smart phone in its native technology and have seamless billing back through the user’s mobile operator. This unit contains patented technology and has the potential to bring additional users to the IFC market.
The Telefonix Cabin Pinnacle Server features the latest hard drive technology with a firm roadmap for the future that will allow the unit to grow with both technology evolution and market demands. The product features the latest in thermal design concepts to ensure operation in numerous installation scenarios. These are just some highlights of the features we are providing to our customers with the new Summit product line.
Q) Where are these new products made?
A) At the present time, these products will be manufactured in the US at our facility in Waukegan, IL. Should the need for a 2nd manufacturing location arise, we will evaluate that need in conjunction with the location of demand to determine where else we might want to manufacture. These products have all been designed in the US by Telefonix and PDT engineers. While we have utilized some existing components in our hardware and have collaborated with various manufacturers and partners in the integration of their hardware into our solutions, the overall product architecture and design oversight was our own.”
Q) Is each component of the Summit Line black label today?
A) The base designs of each of the products are complete and the Cabin ACe WAP unit is currently in test. The remaining products are being customized with customer input and will have unique test and launch cycles depending on the level of customization required by each of the customers.
Our Cabin Peak pico cell, which was developed with our partner, is being used in multiple ground applications and we are currently packaging the technology and will customize it based upon customer requirements.
Q) These products were recently launched but what is their present design/manufacturing/airline status?
A) Our launch at AIX was focused on the products reaching a level of design maturity and test that made them viable platforms or solutions for customer consideration. While we are currently in talks with a number of different parties regarding this hardware, we cannot disclose the launch customers at this time.
Q) Are any of the Summit Line components flying today, either in test applications or with passengers?
A) This hardware is not yet flying, however we are in discussions with several parties regarding test and production level applications. We will, of course, let you know as soon as we have the ability to share any news on this point!
IFExpress readers, the Telefonix story is just unfolding so we plan to follow both the Summit Line and the story in China – Stay Tuned.
Here are some additional product and conference attachments:
IFC pdf from the ITC in China
Lumexis Corporation today announced that their Lumexis Fiber-To-The-Screen® (FTTS®) In-Flight Entertainment system has been made offerable for line-fit on both the 737 NG and 737 MAX families of aircraft. “The Lumexis team is delighted with the significant achievement of having gained Boeing’s confidence in our company’s leading edge FTTS system and team,” said Doug Cline, Lumexis Corporation Chief Executive Officer. “We are most appreciative of their supportive and collaborative offerability team, and we look forward to seeing the first FTTS system installed on the 737 production line in the very near future.” Noted Jon Norris, VP Sales: ”Lumexis has worked closely with Boeing through their Technical Services Agreement (TSA) process to develop and apply the FTTS technology on Boeing 737 platforms.” Lou Sharkey, Lumexis President and CEO, noted: “This is an offering which can be selected immediately by Boeing’s worldwide airline customers. After 5 years of numerous retrofit installations on both wide-body and narrow-body airframes, the Lumexis team is so proud to have achieved line-fit offerable status on Boeing’s highest production 737 models.” Congratulations Lumexis, this is really an event for the company and portends great things!