Disruptive and Different By Design, RAVE ULTRA = Stress Free IFE

0

RAVE ULTRA is the Third Generation RAVE System

During AIX we sat down with Zii and discussed RAVE and the next evolution of their full-up AVOD product dubbed ULTRA. Below is the fruit of that interview and several telecons since then! While at their booth, we were shown (and amazed) at the size, and we mean thinness, of the screen. You can see it in the accompanying image at the beginning of the story – iPhone thickness is not out of the question as one can see. The point here is the display, its accompanying storage, control and communication hardware electronics will not create seatback installation issues!

Next, let’s ask ourselves what problems airlines are facing today when it comes to their IFE and the burgeoning passenger expectations? On the passenger side, they want large quantities of (up to 4K) quality, varied entertainment. The airlines want to be able to provide content without a cumbersome system architecture that is laden with a multitude of boxes (which do not facilitate an easy and affordable upgrade path) that will not involve expensive certification and software development. Since the inception of RAVE by Zii, they have been dedicated to solving this problem as part of their design objectives. In fact, RAVE is an acronym that stands for: Reliable – inherently simple in its design; Affordable – committed to making IFE affordable for every airline; Very – modular, scalable, versatile; and Easy – to install, operate and maintain. In other words, RAVE!

RAVE ULTRA is Seat-Centric, not Server-Centric

Their third-generation, brand new smart system and display line, RAVE ULTRA, continues Zii’s commitment to Seat-Centric IFE and their dedication to everything RAVE has stood for from its inception. In fact, Seat-Centric, according to Zii, is the key to their dedication to ‘stress free IFE’ for their airline customers and is the third generation of that design. You may ask: Seat-Centric? How does that differ from a Server-Centric system? When Zii, formerly IMS, first addressed the issue of providing IFE to airlines they approached the problem from a different perspective than most traditional IFE hardware solutions – they elected to design a seat-centric solution, as opposed to a server-centric solution. A traditional IFE system has a head-end (consisting of several file and media servers) and multiple distribution boxes between it and the passenger display unit. “The larger (HD/UHD quality and increased quantity) content demands and logistics problems that the IFE industry is facing are amplified in the IFE Server Centric Systems, but not so with a Seat-Centric System,” said Harry Gray Zii’s Vice President of Sales & Marketing. “Seat-Centric IFE provides an elegant answer to onboard entertainment that is enhanced by its simplicity: A System Control Unit in the electronics bay connected via a Gigabit Ethernet backbone to each Smart Display at each seat – that’s it.” The bi-directional loop system architecture provides network stability and redundancy, so if there is a network break on one side of the data connection, the data communication is automatically routed through the other.  Additionally, since the entertainment content is stored at the seat, even if there was a total network failure, the passenger would have full access to all the content stored locally on the display.

RAVE ULTRA Delivers More for Passengers Because of the Cloud

In addition to locally stored content at the seat, the SCU also stores additional entertainment content enhancing the overall capacity of titles offered to the passenger.  RAVE cloud is flying today and Zii is further enhancing cloud capabilities by utilizing content file sharing between the seats thus multiplying the content capacity available to each passenger.  Because of the Cloud-based data gain, 10 Terabytes of capacity is dynamically available for content making it, perhaps, the IFE system with more data for each passenger than any system today. More data means more content and that means more happy users – it’s that simple!  It’s important to note that the content file is “transferred” (not “streamed”) to the passenger so there are no inherent network latency issues as compared to server-centric systems when streaming simultaneously to 300 passengers.   With the combination of locally stored and cloud content – passengers can enjoy HD/UHD entertainment and the airlines can more easily manage content loading without the long ground time.

RAVE System Features Two Main Boxes – SCU and Seat Display 

From a network and hardware perspective, operation via the use of Linux fast hardware is aided by Android developed apps that can be installed and played on each seat system and viewed on the RAVE ULTRA display. Content loading is fast, perhaps the fastest within the industry, via the SD card load-and-go process. Further, the SCU has 4 SD slots, so all it takes is replacing the SD cards with fresh content and the new content is loaded during normal operating times.  Content loading is accomplished in a matter of seconds (not hours).

However, the step change in the third-generation product is in the ULTRA Display itself. The smart display is virtually all viewable screen and is roughly 0.3” thick, resulting in a product that weighs a third of the current generation inflight displays. It is ruggedized with a poly carbonate lens cover and resides in a docking station inserted into the seat – it is not a portable and does not have an internal battery. ULTRA utilizes In-Cell touchscreen capability that supports multi-touch gestures, similar to smartphone devices today making it intuitive for most airline customers. Initially, there are four seatback display sizes – 27”, 17.3”, 15.6”, and 13.3”.

Integrated Bluetooth Audio is another feature built-in to RAVE ULTRA that supports wireless Bluetooth headsets at each aircraft seat; as well as, an integrated camera (another feature) that facilitates QR code scanning and payment options. Oh, and USB-A and a USB-C port all also feature options available.

RAVE Supports H.265 HVEC Compression Standards

The dockable display unit has a Solid State Drive with up to 1 TB of local content and its own IP address that provides passengers with access to 10 TBs of available content via the internal cloud. Further, the display itself is 4K and supports H.265 HEVC to facilitate the latest compression standards. “Seat content sharing is the next generation of IFE and it is being accomplished through cloud sharing,” said Harry Gray. Cloud content can be stored either in the SCU(s) or at another seat display. This provides passengers with access not only to their locally stored data but the benefit of a substantial amount of cloud-based storage. The evolution to this cloud-centric system for content truly allows Zii to keep RAVE content current with the latest storage and content demands. Check out the table below to see both where and how much content storage and access is available in the new RAVE ULTRA based on: Local data storage in memory, Cloud-based memory storage using the SCU, and finally with display memory plus the SCU memory and plus the neighboring seat data storage!

When a passenger requests content that is not resident in their seat display, there is a slight delay of not more than 3 seconds prior to viewing the content.  While the passenger is watching the movie the rest of the content is rapidly transferred (in typically less than 36 seconds) to their seatback and locally stored for the duration of that viewing. This floating cloud data solution is what makes RAVE a real winner for stored data entertainment that passengers will want, and while they may stay involved and engrossed with the airline entertainment solution, everybody wins!

RAVE ULTRA is THE Airline 4K Viewing Solution

The size of the display, the compression method and the number of languages all influence the amount of storage required for any given piece of content. High Efficiency Video Coding (H.265) is the video compression method used by RAVE. The following graph explains the amount of storage required on the RAVE system by a 2-hour feature length movie with 4 stereo language tracks:

RAVE ULTRA will be in BOSTON

RAVE ULTRA is in its finalizing phase and has garnered two committed customers.  It is in the midst of meeting head-strike requirements and in the certification process with a target of launch in 2019. “ULTRA is a revolution in product capability,” said Harry “And Zii is excited to continue facilitating airlines in enhancing their passengers entertainment experience.” The IFExpress team is looking forward to watching this product come to market and look for the next installation on the progress of ULTRA and Zii after APEX in Boston!

Consistent with RAVE philosophy, the ULTRA displays are backward compatible with the current generation of RAVE.  Airlines can mix and match displays on the common RAVE backbone.


OTHER NEWS

Comments are closed.