Waterfront: Comfortable, Captivating, Calm and Immersive


In a continuation of their collaborative efforts on the economy class JAZZ Seat; four industry expert companies have launched a new standard in business class seating that provides the passenger with a harmonized seating environment with increased comfort and control. Said Neil James, Executive Director of Corporate Sales and Product Management at Panasonic BE Aerospace, Formation, Panasonic, and Teague got together and holistically thought out how a business class seat and IFEC should work together. Our goal was to design and build the next generation passenger seat and a symbiotic IFEC solution for aircraft seating. The objective was to work with our partners to develop a superior business class seat that would a) integrate the IFEC into the seat structure b) enhance the customer experience in an environment that is calm, comfortable, captivating and immersive. I truly believe we have achieved these objectives with Waterfront.”

Waterfront was debuted to the public at CES Las Vegas 2016 and reflects approximately 18 months of product development and refinement. Like the JAZZ Seat, Waterfront was designed from a clean slate, eliminating many of the disadvantages of building on legacy hardware and electronics. BE Aerospace and Panasonic Avionics are targeting delivery of this innovative seat offering in 2019. And in case you were wondering if there is a significant market for a business seat growth over the next 8 years check out this presentation from Tronos Aviation Consulting Inc.  We should also note that the study clearly defines a 2014 seat market size of some 3.4 million seats in the airline world, 7% of which were premium seats, the market that the new Waterfront product will live in. Obviously this market size will grow in the coming years as Waterfront becomes available. (Also, see the Editor’s Note below for a bit more on seat market value.)

“Waterfront is an evolution in seat design,” said Alex Pozzi, Vice President, Advanced Design Group, of BE Aerospace. “We really focused on personalizing the passenger environment. By using reinforced thermo-plastics and stronger aluminum alloys, BE Aerospace was able to offer a trimmer, more efficient seat while enhancing the passengers comfort.” For those who travel in business class, this translates to: 1) temperature control and air flow in the seat back, upper neck and seat bottom 2) additional knee room when the traveler is sleeping on their side or getting up from the sleeper bed 3) ergonomic storage for the tray table and the passenger’s laptop, with a ‘push’ release 4) and overall, a seat frame that is lighter weight. These are just a few of the enhanced features but we will delve into these enhancements later on.

Before we describe the Waterfront Seat and IFEC solution specifics, we should address some of the challenges facing the business class experience today. A) airlines are continuously trying to find ways to differentiate themselves in an effort to remain competitive B) passengers are increasingly desirous of personalizing their private space C) and the ever increasing technological advances available on the ground. In other words, it is a changing world. Changing because of airline desires for customer product perfection, changing because of passenger wants and needs, and finally, changing because the world of technology is changing both the airplane technology and passenger carry-on technology as well. Waterfront addresses these factors by leveraging the digital experience of the IFE system and the advanced functionality of the seat to create a seamless responsive environment from the perspective of the passenger.

In order to develop the evolutionary design, the team began extensive research, consulting with strategic customers to better understand passenger behavior. Prototypes of the industrial and interactive design were paramount to the development of a seamless end product. “An anthropomorphic data study previously conducted on BE Aerospace’s JAZZ Seat helped in (determining) the comfort and shape of the back and bottom cushion of the seat,” said Alex Pozzi. Full-scale, functional models were created for both validation and testing purposes, which resulted in a design solution that met the program’s objective and requirements. Amazingly, the resultant product achieved an over 12% weight savings and a 15% reduction in part count over present day business class seats.

Waterfront Features IFEC & SEAT function:

  • 24-inch 4K touchscreen monitor with edge-to-edge glass structure
  • Virtual Local Storage per seat group
  • Streaming Content from Head-End
  • Gigabit Ethernet backbone
  • Wi-Fi Connectivity
  • Passenger controls via:
    • PED (via an airline companion app)
      • Light ID
      • Bluetooth
      • Wi-Fi
    • Mini PCU
    • Tablet pop-up
  • Tailored GUI interface
  • Inductive Charging (Qi)
  • USB Power Ports
  • PED connectivity supported by: Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC
  • An IFE User Interface coupled to hundreds of individually controlled LEDS with:
    • Full Spectrum LED lighting
    • Multiple modes that coordinate seat position, light intensity and color.
      • Passengers can tailor the lighting, temperature and the rest of their environment depending on what they are doing. For example they can create a “theme” environment for watching a movie, eating dinner, or sleeping… just to name a few!
  • An innovative seat mechanism with individual head, leg, and back rest adjustments.
  • Full range of motion – upright to a flat 79-inch bed
  • 16.7 inches in the foot-well
  • Individual articulation of the head, back, and leg rests
    • Fixed presets
    • Capacitive touch controls
    • Customizable presets via the IFE interface.
  • Pop up storage compartment
  • Full coverage sliding door
  • Herringbone design allows for high-density seating configuration
  • A large, single piece tray table
  • A large fixed side table
  • Cable pass-through areas for electronic devices
  • Individual temperature control
    • Thermoelectric modules in the shell, foot-well, and seating surfaces allow for controllable ambient and direct heating and cooling.
  • An independently heated or cooled side storage compartment
  • Note: Panasonic will also be using Virtual Local Storage (VLS) storage in this seat and while SD card memory is common storage, VLS has 5 – 6 times the storage capacity, and further, they feel that they will be able to double that capability in the next generation system.

Enhanced service will be the end result through the ergonomically placed ‘touch points’ and passenger interactions zones. Communication between the passenger and the flight crew will also benefit via the slim 7-inch touch wireless controller/handset, which will display custom messages and iconography on the seat shell OLED display. The overall heating/cooling, both convective and conductive, can reduce overall cabin heating/cooling demands while providing more immediate benefit to the traveler.

From the IFEC perspective, the system creates what Panasonic calls “a passenger-centric solution.” Waterfront features improved reliability since it boasts a balance of the following: a) local data storage for content per seat, b) Virtual Local Storage per seat group to share local content, as well as, c) streaming content from the head-end server from a Gigabit Ethernet server. In fact, a version of this service offering is available today from Panasonic and is flying on some of Air New Zealand and British Airways wide-body aircraft. Furthermore, we asked about the 24-inch 4K screens and the availability of content and were informed that even if the content is not available in 4K format the GUI and Interactive experience is “very rich”, as is HD 1080p content viewed on a 4K screen. Panasonic is using Bluetooth 4.0 built into the display for ‘lite streaming’ requirements, as well as, Light ID for super fast, local low data rate transmission to PEDS. Provisions for NFC payments have also been implemented. All these features are to provide the passenger with an enhanced, tailored flight experience.

Like their collaboration on the JAZZ seat, each company owns their own IP and can work with other vendors as airlines demand. In fact, they are looking at working on future projects with traditional vendors, as well as, new entrants but together the team has developed a product that ostensibly is more than their individual additions – the whole idea behind a team.

As an aside, in 2014 at the Passenger Experience Conference prior to AIX Devin Liddell of Teague gave a presentation on the power of partnerships and how they were the most powerful currency at our industry’s fingertips. In other words, the team-made product is bigger than the sum of its parts. At the time he stated in his presentation that the capacity to partner has a big impact on influencing the customer and that we, as an industry, need to think about co-making, not just co-marketing. In our opinion that is exactly what Panasonic, B/E and the rest of the team have done with both JAZZ and Waterfront.

All this collaborative teamwork and disruptive design technology will virtually and physically improve the inflight experience for both the traveler and the airline. When we asked Mr. James about Waterfront and the benefits to the passenger and the airline he noted, “Panasonic likes to be dynamic and react to the customers’ needs and we use our capabilities to solve a customers’ problems. Waterfront is a holistic solution – not just IFEC in isolation.”

The new Waterfront seat will be at AIX in Hamburg as the early design has been entered in the Aircraft Interiors Crystal Cabin Awards – we expect they will do well.

(Editor’s Note: We wrestled with market size and price a little bit for the benefit of our readers and while no one discussed market size or price in this effort, IFExpress contacted a couple experts and here is what they told us: “The aircraft seat market is probably bigger than you might think. While the market itself is probably half new and half retrofit, it is growing. The seat price (no IFEC) is all over the map but premium sets are around 5 times what the price is per a single coach seat. The lie flat seats are priced about twice that.” As an aside, one outside industry source estimated that lie-flat seats for business/first with IFE can easily reach the $100K mark per seat when development, testing, OEM requirements, EMI testing and certification expenses are taken into account. Lastly, when you run the numbers with the assumptions we made here, the value of the total premium seat market is roughly the same dollar size of the total coach seat market! Thus, it is a market worth pursuing!)


Gogo announced today that it will upgrade its satellite modem for use with its next generation 2Ku and Ku satellite technologies.  The new modem will begin flight testing on Gogo’s Boeing 737 test lab – the Jimmy Ray – in the coming months, with commercial delivery expected to begin in 2017. The proprietary features of the new modem will significantly increase throughput from the satellite to end users on the aircraft.  The modem will be capable of delivering 400 Mbps to an aircraft, which will be more than enough to support the anticipated capacity of next generation high-throughput satellites.  The modem will also have the capability to simultaneously support IP streaming and IPTV.  “Just like your home or office Wi-Fi set-up, you can make improvements to the amount of bandwidth delivered, but if the modem can’t support that bandwidth, you can create a choke point in the network,” said Anand Chari, Gogo’s chief technology officer.  “Gogo’s next generation modem is being built with a lot of room to spare so it will be ready to handle data delivered from next generation high throughput satellites and beyond.” Gogo has partnered with Gilat Satellite Networks for the development of the new modem.  Gogo and Gilat together are developing advanced mobility management features that will be incorporated into the new modem.  Gogo has been lab testing the new modem, which has already delivered 200 Mbps using Gogo’s 2Ku antenna. Gogo has already begun the licensing approval process for the new modem through the FCC and the FAA.


  1. The world of short haul twin-aisle aircraft seems to still be growing even tho the “new” single aisle planes (B737NG & A320neo) are coming on strong. IFEC vendors have to think about what developments are next to come along and how to modify or change IFE for a new plane seat concept- especially involving multiple classes. Here is a report from the CIT folks who say; “This is not a zero-sum game. Instead of siphoning travelers from established carriers, new airline business models will open international travel for a new class of passengers. A diversity of airlines experimenting with an array of business models will expand the operator base, increasing demand for both new- technology and current generation aircraft. Sophisticated owners will be well positioned to generate returns from a growing market for twin-aisle aircraft. “ Interesting report
  2. Last time we told you Bob Bogash is now going to try to get that rebuilt 50-year-old B727 off the ground on March 1, 2016… now delayed till March 2. We note that his website has over 4 million hits on the site and story!
  3. If you cannot get enough “airplane stuff” into your life, try the Boeing Store.

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