Update: RAVE ULTRA The Next Evolution in IFE

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During AIX we sat down with the Zii team and discussed RAVE and the next evolution of their full-up AVOD product dubbed ULTRA. Below is the fruit of that interview and several emails since then! While at their booth, we were shown (and amazed) at the size, and we mean thinness, of the screen. The point here is the display, its accompanying storage, control and communication hardware electronics will not create seatback installation issues! Here is a quick overview of some of the features, advantages, and benefits of RAVE UlLTRA.

RAVE ULTRA is Seat-Centric, not Server-Centric

RAVE ULTRA, continues the company’s commitment to Seat-Centric IFE and their commitment to everything RAVE has stood for from its inception. In fact, Seat-Centric is the key to their dedication to ‘stress free IFE’ for their airline customers. You may ask: Seat-Centric? How does that differ from a Server-Centric system? When SPI 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. 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 Safran 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.

We asked Ben Asmar, VP IFE Products, about RAVE ULTRA and 4K Displays

Question 1 – We understand that RAVE ULTRA is now delivering 4K displays for aircraft entering service in 2020.  4K displays offer superior resolution, can you help our readers understanding the impact of offering this to their passengers?  Are there any considerations that should be understood for an existing system upgrade versus new installation?

Response: We know from our customers that IFE is a critical component to the overall inflight experience, having a significant impact on Customer Experience scores. As the market continues to grow more competitive, airlines are continuing to look for ways to differentiate from their competitors. We believe that having the latest in consumer technology such as 4K Ultra High Definition displays in every cabin class is a fantastic differentiator, and our customers agree.  Interest in our new range of RAVE ULTRA displays is unprecedented. When we designed RAVE ULTRA, we took a ground-up approach. We kept the features that make our customers love RAVE, such as our seat-centric architecture and dockable displays then married this with the latest in multimedia processors, cutting edge 4K LCD panels that are typically used in high end laptops, and we even introduced Bluetooth audio for every seat on the plane.

How is your system able to support 4K content for every passenger? 

Response: We get asked this question often, and the answer for us is easy.  Thanks to our seat-centric architecture, content is played locally at each seat display and not streamed over a network.  Even with every passenger watching 4K content, the RAVE system continues to operate seamlessly on a 1 gigabit Ethernet backbone, meaning we are very well positioned to support both the line fit and retrofit markets. There is no requirement for aircraft backbone upgrades for airlines to access the full benefits of RAVE ULTRA, unlike other IFE systems with many servers that stream content to the seats.

How can you store all that 4K content at every seat when it’s so much larger? 

Response: As I mentioned, when we designed RAVE ULTRA, we found the latest in Multimedia processors. This allowed us to take advantage of the advances in video compression technologies and video encoding standards such as H.265 to keep files smaller but not sacrifice video quality. As well, we have the RAVE Cloud that allows Airlines to store large multi-terabyte content sets in the on-board Cloud and makes content instantly available at the seat centric screens when that content is not stored locally.  It’s important to note, that we are still not streaming content with RAVE Cloud. When a passenger selects a Cloud title, the content is being copied as fast as possible across our network and stored locally. The video starts playing while the content continues to download in the background.

In reality, we know it will be quite some time before 4K content is commonplace for IFE, as our industry deals with the standards and security required to distribute 4K content. However, RAVE ULTRA is designed for today and the future. We have gone to great lengths to ensure the necessary security requirements are in place to support playback of Hollywood DRM protected 4K content. Even though the standards are not yet ratified, we are confident that the systems we have will meet the requirements. In the meantime, Airlines can benefit from RAVE ULTRA immediately, as our system will upscale content to the highest possible level based on the definition of the source file. What this means is all content looks better on a RAVE ULTRA display.

Question 2 – Can you tell our readers what airplane /airplane model will get the first 4K display, and are the airlines planning any special video for the application? 

Response: We are very excited to be bringing RAVE ULTRA to market in 2020 and have a number of airlines that have selected it for line fit and retrofit programs with both Airbus and Boeing. Our first installations are planned for both Boeing and Airbus single aisle aircraft followed by our first wide body installation on a Boeing B777X all delivering in 2020. Each of these customers will install RAVE ULTRA displays in every cabin class including Bluetooth audio for every seat on the plane.

RAVE ULTRA is a great fit for both narrow body and wide body aircraft, and we are certainly seeing strong demand across both aircraft types.  Our System with RAVE ULTRA is about 30% lighter than our previous generation systems.  This lower weight meets a critical requirement for airlines that are flying ultra-long haul sectors and is fully operational with only a handful of LRU’s (Line Replaceable Units) while still being able to scale to support the complex architectures of today’s modern wide body aircraft.

Question 3 – More consumers are using Bluetooth headsets/earbuds and want to utilize them in the aircraft for IFE.  Please describe how RAVE has implemented Bluetooth in the entire cabin supplied with audio and at the same time preventing interference to users with other Bluetooth applications?

Response: One of the key elements of RAVE ULTRA is to give all passengers access to the same technology they use on the ground, in the air and not just in the premium classes.  Research suggests that Bluetooth headsets now outsell wired headsets, so we think that people will just expect to be able to use these on a plane, and with RAVE ULTRA they can. Our engineers have spent a lot of time testing and refining our solution to ensure we can reliably offer Bluetooth audio to every passenger on a wide body aircraft. We are able to do this by adjusting the power output of the Bluetooth transmitter and minimizing the transmission radius of the signal, this allows us to re-use the Bluetooth signal many times over in the aircraft avoiding signal congestion and audio quality degradation.

Question 4 – Is VBR a technology that efficiently communicates with networks and displays and if so, can you give our readers what kinds of savings in data and communication technology are used and what kinds of communication savings perspective are involved (data rate savings, hardware choice and design, application improvement and equipment type and design)?

Response: VBR (variable bitrate) is a method used in media encoding that allows for the bitrate to vary with the goal to maintain quality on complex scenes and save space on simple ones. This is a method supported by our current and future generation of products. This technology allows our content to maintain a high level of quality without the need for high levels of storage.  With CBR (constant bitrate), the platform suffers in quality and has high storage requirements.  This results in higher cost storage and limits the number of titles a platform can support.  The reduction in size with VBR also helps the transport of media being loaded on the platform reducing the load times due to the smaller file sizes .  In the on-wing platform, network backbone bitrates are reduced which eliminates the need for RAVE to build out oversize network paths (i.e. aircraft backbone upgrades) reducing the overall hardware costs.

Question 5 – Please tell our readers how giant video quality changes and weight savings can be achieved at the same time reducing size and weight?

Response: Airlines are telling us that weight is critically important as ultra-long haul point-to-point flights are gaining popularity, and passengers’ expectations around technology are increasing significantly. We knew, when designing RAVE ULTRA, we had to achieve both goals that were seemingly at odds with each other. So how did we do it? We completely changed our design philosophy and repackaged our displays into a ‘tablet-like’ design that significantly reduced form factor and weight. RAVE ULTRA 4K panels are lighter and have smaller borders than their predecessors.  We partnered with LG Electronics on this project as they are a market leader in consumer electronics and brought their skill in packaging consumer electronics to RAVE.  We are taking advantage of the laptop market’s use of lightweight, low power and low profile display panels and incorporating them in our new RAVE ULTRA 4K displays.

Be sure to stop by the Safran booth #2142 during APEX to experience RAVE ULTRA.


CARLISLE IT

Carlisle Interconnect Technologies (CIT) will exhibit its industry-leading installation solution for Electronically Steered Antenna (ESA) technology at this week’s APEX EXPO trade show in Los Angeles. CIT will showcase its integration of thermal management design in packages suitable for business and regional aircraft in the South Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center, Booth No. 1933.

CIT’s extended capabilities into the integration of an installation solution compatible with ESA technology addresses even the toughest of In-Flight Entertainment, Connectivity & Interiors (IFECI) challenges. The aerodynamic design allows for a simplified, standardized, and universal SATCOM installation, resulting in lower maintenance, reduced cost of ownership, and improved speed-to-market for customers.

CIT has long provided airlines and manufacturers with high-performance wire and cable, including optical fiber, for the most advanced interconnect solutions and market-leading products. At APEX, they will showcase expanded capabilities for IFECI equipment with its installation solution for ESA technology into the aerodynamic and structural package design of business and regional aircraft. Using the ARINC 781 footprint for SATCOM on business and regional aircraft, CIT takes advantage of existing OEM provisions to improve airlines’ speed-to-market. Aerodynamic design models establish a low drag shape that advances in-flight cooling and efficiently moves heat load from antenna chips to radiator zones. This efficient transportation of heat maintains uniform temperatures over large areas to optimize antenna operating conditions.

During APEX, CIT is offering a variety of opportunities to learn about the integration of installation solutions for ESA technology and interact with industry experts, users, and partners. The following may be explored at the CIT booth 1933:

  • Light weight backshells
  • Fiber optic harnesses
  • Octax 10GB connections – Solo, 38999, ARINC 600, and more
  • Aerospace wire, coaxial, and cable for high-speed data, custom constructions, and harsh environments
  • Antenna blind mate connection solutions
  • Seal3D fuselage feed-thru connectors
  • Lightweight avionics trays and hold downs
  • Single aisle bagbin video control center

CIT presentations and features at the conference include:

  • Tuesday, Sept. 10, and Wednesday, Sept. 11, beginning at 1 p.m.: Ice cream social with the Carlisle team to see the new installation solution features for ESA technology
  • Video illustrating the antenna selections and flow simulation for drag optimization
  • Additional image, graphic and video assets available for instructional use and informational needs

Please contact Kris Samuelson via email at Kris.samuelson@carlisleit.com or via phone at 253-318-0768 to schedule an appointment during APEX.


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