And Now, For Something Completely Different (Sorta)… SkyFlix 2

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Perhaps you have heard enough about IFEC for commercial jets? If so, we have a solution for you! Have you heard about SkyFlix? To answer our own question and provide some introduction we have been communicating with Tyler Erdman, CEO of SkyFlix, about an ostensibly small, clever, inflight movie viewer that runs via stored iPads. We met Tyler in Hamburg in 2013 and told him to contact us when he had his product. We also thought our readers might like to see the ongoing challenge that small companies face in developing entertainment hardware for the world of aviation – thus, SkyFlix 2. We ask a few questions that we thought our readers might want to know about, like… well, here is his commentary intro:

Back in 2013 I had met with one of your reporters at AIX Hamburg, and talked to them about my startup Tablet IFE. At the time we had just started developing the concept for our portable IFE system. The mention you gave us was our first bit of press. Since that meeting we’ve been hard at work refining our system, and integrating customer feedback. I was wondering if IFExpress would be interested in covering what we came up with? Our latest system SkyFlix 2 provides a media server, wireless router, and iPad charger in one sleek and portable unit. Just plug it into an outlet on nearly any aircraft and it can be ready within a minute. Passengers can take one of the eight iPad Pro devices from the charging dock, and start watching their favorite content in moments.  We’ve delivered over a dozen SkyFlix 2 systems to aircraft operators around the world. Attached is the SkyFlix 2 press release and photos. We believe our dramatically different interpretation of what IFE should be is bound to be of great interest to aircraft owners of all sizes.”

That got us thinking. While his product has been designed to play movies on iPads and provide storage, a server, Wi-Fi router and charging, is it the ultimate simplicity for biz jet IFE? So, we asked a few specific questions and here is what Tyler had to say:

“You had asked about how we came to develop SkyFlix 2.  We had a customer who had purchased a Gulfstream and installed satellite internet, prior to chartering it.  The first bill they received was well into the five figure range after passengers downloaded a couple movies during a flight.  Needless to say they weren’t very happy. The owner wanted an IFE system so that passengers could keep themselves entertained without using the internet connection.  We looked at what was on the general aviation market, and found that most systems were extremely expensive and lacking features we thought they should have.”

“Most IFE systems are only designed to provide media streaming, requiring a separate wireless router and often requiring passengers to use their own devices. Having so many different systems that need to work well together made it hard for the flight crews to guarantee a good passenger experience, and all the different parts made it difficult to troubleshoot when problems arose.”

Further, Tyler noted: We wanted to design SkyFlix 2 to be as simple as possible by designing every aspect of the passenger experience, and found that by making it totally portable we had the freedom to do so.  We could design our own media server, wireless router, and use our own devices to be sure that everything worked as we intended while ensuring reliability.  Our goal was to design a system that would fade into the background; all the crew and passengers would have to worry about was picking up an iPad and enjoying themselves.”

“Our first system was met with great reviews from flight crews and passengers alike, and shortly thereafter the operator ordered a second unit for another of their aircraft.  They continued to receive accolades, and we decided to further develop and refine our idea.  After several years of feedback from our customers the result is SkyFlix 2.

Next, we wanted a bit more about the product:

1. What does the full system weigh?

Answer: The system weighs 12 pounds without iPads and requires 110 or 220v at a max of 150W. Each iPad adds an additional pound.”

2. What Tablet is included or can be used (currently Apple iPad only?) and we assume there is a world of apps available?

Answer: “Our charging system is designed to support the latest iPad Pro 9.7″ as well as the iPad Air 2.  We designed SkyFlix 2 to be easily upgradable to support future iPads as they become available. Our iPad application can also be loaded and used on personal devices. Also, given that we use iPad, we can load games, magazines and apps available from the App Store. We generally configure the iPads for customers before shipping so that our customers only need to load content and put SkyFlix 2 on their aircraft.  Our customers can load additional apps at any time internet is available. I should also note that in our device, we support 802.11AC which is the fastest Wi-Fi the iPads support. It can deliver up to 3 times faster performance then 802.11N routers, as well as having longer range.”

3. Is there a way to lock the Apple devices in the power/case?

Answer: “We don’t currently have a way to lock them into the unit. We provide a Pelican Hard Case with every unit that can be used to secure the unit if there is a concern.”

4. Can the supplier or operator load apps…We assume the user cannot?

Answer: “We generally configure the iPads for customers before shipping so that our customers only need to load content and put SkyFlix 2 on their aircraft.  Our customers can load additional apps at any time the internet is available.”

5. Who loads the movies, where are they located, and how many minutes of total movies on hard disk of server?

Answer: The end user loads the content they would like.  Once they prepare the content and load it onto SkyFlix 2, our server will automatically recognize the content and download metadata, graphics and other information. Our system comes with 2TB of solid state storage, which can hold over 400 1080P High Def movies.”

6. Is there a way to notify the crew of tablet numbers without opening a storage location so the crew can remain knowledgeable about device security?

Answer: “To help make it easy to keep track of the iPads, we offer laser engraving so customers can have their logo right on the iPads so they are easily identifiable, as well as running Find my iPad so if any devices leave the aircraft they can be located.  In our experience thus far that has been sufficient in preventing any issues about device security. We also do plan on adding a way to check on the status of the unit and iPads from other devices in the future.”

7. What about certification?

Answer: Skyflix 2 is considered carry on equipment, which makes it easy to move units around to suit the customers’ needs. Multiple units can easily be used together on an aircraft. Since SkyFlix 2 is treated as a portable electronic device, and therefore, it is classified as “loose equipment”. We are able to do so since it only connects to an AC power outlet and is not permanently installed in the aircraft.”

8. How do you handle planes with more passengers than iPads?

Answer: “One of our customers has several units, when they anticipate needing a second unit on a flight they can easily move it around as needed.  In another instance a customer with a 40 seat BBJ purchased 5 units to ensure they have an iPad available for every passenger.”

9. Who are your customers, then?

Answer: “Presently, we are only going after business aviation customers. Most of our customers are either company owned flight departments or charter operations. We wanted to solve pain points for business aircraft and we don’t think that would translate as well to commercial airlines, at least not yet.  Most commercial airlines would likely want installed systems, and want to avoid providing devices. In the future we might revisit that but given the amount of competition in that market we have no immediate plans to do so. And by the way, the unit price is easily under $20,000.”

10. Since the “system” is plugged in, does the iPad device last playing movies the usual length of the iPad power per charge?

Answer: “The iPads will last long enough to watch movies for the duration of just about any flight.  While using our application the battery life would be similar, if not identical to, using any other.”

11. What is the future for SkyFlix 2 and your company?

Answer: We decided early on that commercial airlines wouldn’t be likely customers. From what we found they would be much more conservative and likely to want a certified and installed system rather then a portable one. At some point we might go that route but we think our business aviation customers much prefer the flexibility and upgradability of our portable systems.

All along we talked to other companies that wanted to get into the commercial airline IFE market and they found the sales process to take an extremely long time. As they got close to a sale, a competitor would add a new feature forcing them to add something similar and restart the process.

Our company wanted to avoid that cycle by sticking with business aviation where it was much easier to get the principles to sign off. We can just send out a demonstration unit to a potential customer and get approval at the end of the flight rather then spending months trying to work our way into a large airline… at least for now.”

12. How about providing our readers with some company contact information?

Answer: “Your readers can contact me at Tyler@SkyFlix.com or call me directly at 212-759-3549 (SKY-FLIX).”

(Editor’s Note: Tyler is a good guy, think about SkyFlix 2 if you need a small, carry on IFE solution. Hey, how often does the CEO take information calls?)


News & Other:

  • AS-IP TECH, INC.’S WORLD’S FIRST BLUETOOTH SMART INFLIGHT CONNECTIVITY SOLUTION TO BE LAUNCHED BY JETFLY Geneva, Switzerland, May 24, 2016 – AS-IP Tech, Inc. (OTCMKTS:IPTK) announced today that its distributor BizjetMobile Europe has secured Jetfly as the launch customer for CHiiMP Smart, the world’s first Bluetooth Smart inflight connectivity solution.
    CHiiMP Smart was unveiled at the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) as the smallest, lightest and most inexpensive inflight connectivity system in the industry that utilizes Bluetooth Smart technology to provide voice, text and email functions. At EBACE, Jetfly CEO Cedric Lescop said, “We’re excited to be installing the CHiiMP Smart system on our fleet of Pilatus PC-12’s. Our aircraft owners, crew and clients will now be able to stay in contact wherever and whenever they fly. We chose CHiiMP Smart because of its simplicity, easy installation and low operating costs. It will further enhance our commitment to be ‘simply closer’”.
    AS-IP Tech, Inc. CEO Ron Chapman said, “AS-IP Tech, Inc. is pioneering an alternate course of connectivity in the global aerospace industry. We expect CHiiMP Smart to show the world that our range of Bluetooth Smart connectivity solutions are an exciting alternative to the traditionally expensive Wi-Fi platform. Our ambition is to be the first in the world to deliver inflight communications to passengers for the same price in the air as on the ground. We believe AS-IP Tech, Inc.’s unique Bluetooth Smart platform will be the catalyst that upheaves traditional communication models on airlines and beyond.” Readers: Keep your eye on this technology cause it has the potential to make commercial inflight texting and email very cheap… or free!
  • Think flying is just too expensive, perhaps a cost analysis is in order? We have always wanted to figure why airline tickets cost what they do – Try this video… and (hint), your ticket is a good deal: Why flying is so expensive – Travelers United
  • Don’t forget, June 6 – 9 “The Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) is proud to invite you to attend APEX TECH (8-9 June), a gathering of the most forward-thinking and insightful minds in the passenger experience industry, immediately following the 2016 Global Connected Aircraft Summit (6-8 June)!”

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