Last Week at AIX Hamburg

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First of all, we want to thank the entire AIX Staff and Team for an impressive show in Hamburg and it looks to be the largest IFEC show on record. Needless to say this translates to being the largest exposition IFExpress has ever had to cover, with the exception of CES in Las Vegas, and true to form, we just managed to touch on all the IFEC vendors but we didn’t have the opportunity to visit the seat vendors or many of the other interesting exhibits outside of the IFEC Zone! With over 100 IFEC booths filling the B2, B3, and B4 (upper and lower) halls (not to mention the other 600+ aircraft/airline/catering/whatever related booths), we were swamped and equally impressed. While the market may be changing, the suppliers list has been growing and we suspect that a product sub grouping will be an eventual booth inevitability – connectivity, seat IFE, etc. The good news – this one show will cover virtually every IFEC need, and it is also the bad news because of the sheer volume!

Hats off to AIX for putting on a remarkable trade fair and there is frankly more information there than anywhere – period. They even published and distributed a “Route Planner” before the expo but, as one attendee told IFExpress, “It’s a mindblower!”

Editor’s Note: We have to say that this show is really enormous and next year, visitors need to plot out their show stops because there is just too much to see and discover in three days. We strongly appreciate the Aircraft Interiors efforts to locate related booths in a common section(s) like the IFEC Zone but many visitors want to see the other sides of airplane businesses so they will have to plan accordingly.)

Unfortunately show data was unavailable from our sources by the time we went to press – next week maybe?

TRENDS
While the IFEC shows are not the best place to discover the future of the industry, it does provide an excellent opportunity to view the technology growth in the marketplace and it does give a glimpse of the future market trends. We believe the following categories are areas to watch for industry change:

1- IFEC Sales
In general, the aviation industry is growing, as are the businesses supporting the many sides of the process such as connectivity and wireless solutions. But while growth was seen at the show, it would be wise to keep your eye on the aircraft sales as they are an indicator of the IFEC sales (not deliveries). For example, while IFEC deliveries may be at a very high place today because of current deliveries, aircraft sales are in a downhill slide and it might be wise to watch them with a consideration to the impact on IFEC!

Airbus  2013: 1503/626*  2014: 1456/629   2015: 1080/635  2016: 731/668    2017: 6/136

Boeing  2013: 1355/628   2014: 1432/723    2015: 768/762    2016: 688/748    2017: 183/169

* The data in the table is categorized as Orders/Deliveries

As a former IFEC CEO recently told IFExpress, “The industry changes we are seeing may be an inflection point.With aircraft sales dropping off, IFEC may follow suit.” And we at IFExpress could not agree more.

Lastly, IFExpress should note that the airplane sales picture has always been sinusoidal in nature – in other words – at the correct market moment it will regain and grow as both the Boeing Future Market Outlook and Airbus Global Market Forecast suggest. The question is when.

2- Recent Personnel Changes
Watch out for an increase in layoffs, as well as, product refocusing as IFEC companies see the competition escalate. We anticipate several IFEC vendors to shift their product focus to other cabin products and services, with correlating changes and/or shifting of personnel to compensate. Rockwell, Panasonic, and Thales are at the beginning of this “inflection point” and it was evident at the show that they all were organizing their product and service offerings to be less vertical and more horizontal nature. For example, Rockwell Collins has pulled back from their seat centric and overhead IFE offering, while focusing on connectivity in the cabin. The horizontal aspect of the company’s strategy started with their acquisition of ARINC several years ago which has allowed them to infiltrate and expand the airport side of the passenger equation. Additionally, their acquisition of BEAerospace, which is still in the throws of final approval by the board, is another example of this horizontal trend. Ironically, if the BEA deal goes through Rockwell Collins will virtually touch every point within the passenger cabin, and flight deck, with the exception of an inseat IFE system.

3- IFE Product Sales Changes
One item talked about at the show was the shift toward connectivity used on the aircraft which, in some cases, has caused the removal or non purchase of in-seat display screens. Let’s face it, we all are carrying 1, 2, 3, or even 4 devices with screens on each flight today. In fact, the IFExpress team each toted 3 PEDs for our trip to Hamburg. Whether they were used for email, work, entertainment, or telephony is irrelevant… they were in our carry-ons. As more folks carry devices, there may be less need for an LCD/LED screen embedded in the seatback – but this is not a new discussion. We should also note that with improved technology comes at a cost. Frequently, when we encounter advancements in hardware technologies there will be correlating costs affiliated with said advancements: increased weight and added certification efforts/cost increases immediately come to mind; for example, the added cost and weight of satcom equipment and its various certification requirements and their affiliated costs. By no means does this indicate that advancements in hardware technologies and/or communication are not justifiable, especially when other services and information may be sent via broadband – think operations data – and how in the long run this information could facilitate airline efficiencies which will reduce costs to the operator in the future. Perhaps this is why every IFEC hardware provider we interviewed discussed expanding their data services.

4- Narrow-body Market Growth
The folks at Reportlinker (Market Research) note: “The narrow body segment is estimated to constitute the largest market share. By aircraft type, the narrow body segment of the inflight entertainment (IFE) market is estimated to have constituted the largest share in 2016. Increase in demand by regional airliners is one of the driving factors for narrow body aircraft segment, globally. According to Boeing Outlook 2016, the global fleet size of narrow body aircraft is 14,870. The Asia-Pacific region and North America have the largest fleet of narrow body aircraft, with 4,540 and 4,010 aircraft respectively. By the end of 2035, the global fleet size of narrow body aircraft is expected to reach 32,280. The number of narrow body aircraft deliveries from 2016 to 2035 is expected to be 28,140, of which the Asia-Pacific region is expected to account for almost 39.65% of the total expected deliveries by 2035”. The short story here is that not only will single aisle planes flourish, the result of the “sweet spot” in the middle market (200 – 300 pax) will see a lot of growth as well. But, the question is, what IFEC products will win application? Obviously connectivity will be a “big deal”, we think a lightweight, limited wiring IFE system could be a winner as well.

5- DATA
Obviously, big data will be the winner on all sorts of IFEC solutions because you can do more with it and when wireless technology is brought into the mix, it will win with weight reduction too. Hey, you rely on data, so the plane will have to supply it as well. But more importantly data backbones are the “must have” for the next airplanes and IFEC will probably be taking advantage of those features as needed or required by the manufacturers. In talking to all vendors, data solutions were the words to hear as they preached some clever solutions that will deliver more IFEC system data storage and processor additions, faster system data distribution, and wireless solutions that we will cover in future issues. We should probably also note that many of the vendors are looking at broader data solutions that will include the ground forwarding of information like navigation, system performance and status, and even information that is contained on the plane beyond IFEC, but in most cases, is not involved in aircraft flight for performance that will require extensive certification and security checking. A further data value might include the transmission of operational data that would help reduce costs – like navigation recommendations to avoid weather, system hardware information for product removal and repair, and even passenger hardware status for content updating and even passenger preference data. One thing is for sure, inflight data updating will fill all the available unused bandwidth!

6- SEAT POWER
We saw a a number of inseat power solutions that will eventually provide plug in power USB-C at the seatback. With personal devices becoming the passenger “device of choice”, inseat power is not far behind.

We got in an interesting quote from John Courtright/SIE that puts a few final pieces in place – he said: We are approaching the point, and perhaps have already passed the point in the IFEC market where connectivity service revenues will exceed IFE hardware revenues. Hardware will become a means-to-an-end and connectivity service revenues will drive the market, both from the passenger branding perspective but also from the operational perspective. This industry revenue model will drive much more applications development for the thin-client handhelds as well as network and data link optimization to push more data (and revenues) through the system.” Well said!

And finally, IFExpress will cover many of the products and services we saw at the show in the forthcoming weeks and we hope our readers will get a better view of the future technology and efforts the vendors are bringing to the market. Stay Tuned!

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