Challenges and Opportunities In Today’s IFE Market and Other News

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Challenges and Opportunities In Today’s IFE Market

By: Juraj Siska of IdeaNova

Building an IFE system into an airline platform is more attainable than ever before. With advancements in technology and a growing proportion of younger passengers expecting entertainment during their flight, integration is both affordable and necessary. Although there are some challenges, there are also many opportunities to include an IFE system in your airline.

Challenges to Including IFE on Your Aircraft

IFE providers need to pay attention to studio requirements, which have increased significantly for display as well as headend servers located on the aircraft.  These requirements range from various operational procedures which are there to ensure data integrity, to authenticity and the ability to handle a wide range of common malicious activities such as physical theft.  Another group of requirements is specific to the hardware the IFE providers choose to either play or stream media content.  For example, to stream higher quality video (content that is higher than Standard Definition) displays and headend servers must be equipped with hardware components that ensure hardware based protection for managing and using content keys.  This is a shift that has recently been documented by studios and industry representatives in the Apex 0415 v2 specification.

Opportunities to Include IFE on Your Aircraft

However, even with studio challenges, content is also more accessible – directly in-browser, eliminating the need for the download of applications or browser plugins (a nuisance that was finally put to bed when the majority of browser vendors stopped supporting plugins).  Content is also more standardized, allowing interoperability between products from Apple, Microsoft and Google.  This results not only in a better user experience but also operational efficiencies gained by deploying only one set of content that can be played equally well on Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android phone or tablet.

There is also an increasing amount of content being made available, ranging from standard Hollywood studio content to independent movies or video created by famous Internet celebrities – widely sought by especially younger audience.

An important opportunity has emerged in IFE, and that is affordability.  The cost of an IFE system is rapidly decreasing.  This is enabled by the cost of hardware (Moore’s law) and the ability to stream content directly to personal devices.  Retrofitting cabins with new displays and wires can be costly and time consuming, but the implementation of a portable IFE system that streams wirelessly to passengers’ personal devices is much simpler and faster to rollout.  Improvements in wireless technology also aid in this trend, by making wiring between IFE servers and displays no longer necessary.  Additionally, new wireless specs (e.g. WiFi 6 and LiFi) are eagerly anticipated by the industry to bridge IFE technology to all aspects of aviation.  A common misconception is that IFE needs to be accompanied with IFC.  While connectivity is important and adds to overall passenger satisfaction, it is not mandatory for a functional IFE.  This drives the cost further down.

IFE Can Be Part of Your Airline Operations

It is always advantageous to be apprised of the capabilities that a new technology can bring to the table in the form of improved passenger experience or optimized workflow.  We are at a junction in IFE where what used to be an expensive value proposition, affordable for only the largest airlines, is now realistic and accessible to all aircraft operators.  Airlines and operators should embrace this opportunity to improve the passenger experience and retain customers.


AIRBUS

Benefiting from a maximum take-off weight increase to 251 tonnes, the A330neo offers a significant 650-nautical mile boost in range – or six tonnes more payload – when compared to the A330neo’s current 242-tonne version. This increase in range responds to evolving market needs, enabling airlines to benefit from the unique economics of the A330neo on even longer routes. Taking to the skies for the first time this past week from Toulouse, France, was the 251-tonne A330-900 – which provides the perfect fit for longer trans-Pacific or Asia-Europe routes. The A330-900 is the longer-fuselage A330neo version, seating 260-300 passengers in a typical three-class cabin configuration. The shorter-fuselage A330-800 – which accommodates 220-260 passengers in a three-class configuration, will open up very-long-range Pacific routes for the 251-tonne version, while delivering the lowest seat-mile cost in its category.

Since the beginning of the year Airbus logged net orders for 274 commercial aircraft from its A220, A320 and A350 XWB product lines in activity. During the month of February, Airbus recorded no new orders. In February Airbus delivered 55 aircraft to 35 customers. Single-aisle deliveries in February involved 40 A320 Family aircraft (composed of 37 NEO versions and three in the CEO configuration); plus four A220s. For Airbus widebody aircraft, seven A350 XWBs were provided in the A350-900 configuration and two A350 XWBs in the A350-1000 configuration; along with two A330 Family aircraft (composed of one NEO version and one CEO). Airbus registered three new airlines in its A320neo operator base this month and among the month’s notable deliveries was the first A350-900 delivered to AEROFLOT out of 22 aircraft of the type on order. Airbus’ backlog of aircraft remaining to be delivered as of 29th of February stood at 7,670. This total was comprised of 6,209 A320 Family aircraft and 547 A220s, as well as 328 A330s, 577 A350 XWBs and nine A380s.

The overall total orders logged by Airbus since its creation to 20,382 commercial aircraft, which includes 15,522 A320 Family aircraft, 1,823 A330s, 935 A350 XWBs, 658 A220s and 251 A380s.


SITA

How Will 5G Transform Air Travel?

SITA, the leading IT provider for the air transport industry, has made six predictions about how ultra-fast 5G networks will bring major change for airports, airlines, and passengers. With download speeds of up to 400MB per second, 5G will be a game-changer.

The potential for innovation is huge and airports, airlines, and passengers will feel the force of 5G in very different ways. SITA’s predictions are based on unique IT insights and emerging air transport industry technology trends. They follow hot on the heels of 5G trials like the recent ones carried out by both London Gatwick Airport and Beijing’s new Daxing International Airport services which signpost our entry into a new era of ultra-connected air travel. Gilles Bloch-Morhange, VP SITA Platform, said: “5G is already enhancing our existing applications at airports, for aircraft communications, airport operations, baggage management, and of course passenger processing. And it’s impossible to talk about 5G without discussing Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and the other applications it enables. We’re already using 4G for IoT applications for several applications around our biometric passenger processing solution, such as Smart Path and baggage management and the uptake of 5G will provide many more opportunities.” 5G is coming fast. According to CSS Insight data*, there will be 340 million 5G connections globally by 2021 and a staggering 2.7 billion by 2025, mostly in developed markets. In money terms, in the aviation industry 5G amounted to just USD 0.2 billion in 2019 but is projected to reach USD 4.2 billion by 2026.

Fast forward: how will we use 5G in 2025?

5G will be the lifeblood of IoT

5G will soon be commonplace at airports and the idea of everything intelligently connected to everything will be viable.

The Internet of Things (IoT) brings the inherent need to manage increasing amounts of objects and therefore data. Today’s 4G technology can manage around 10,000 devices in each square kilometer; a 5G network can manage a million. Multiple objects at airports will interact with people and objects will interact among themselves. With 5G, connectivity will be much more fluid and flexible. The new networks will enable massive data flows, providing secure, real-time, predictive and historic views of airport operations. This will make collaboration between airports, airlines, ground handlers, air traffic managers and concession holders easier and effective. The result will be the intelligent monitoring of queues throughout the airport and tracking and controlling autonomous vehicles that assist passenger journeys. Vehicles on the ramp will be served by connected smart tugs and baggage carts. Wheelchairs, mobile kiosks, and robotic assistants will be controlled remotely. It is not all about bandwidth. 5G’s low latency will make autonomous vehicles much safer. With signals going up to 100 times faster than 4G, the speed of digital instructions will make the difference between a vehicle traveling tens of meters or just a few centimeters before taking corrective action.

5G will power air transport-specific AI applications

5G connected Artificial Intelligence (AI) will solve major pain points at airports and borders. For example, biometrically matching passengers to their bags will be simple. AI will be able to recognize unique scuff marks, creases, and material characteristics to distinguish between seemingly identical bags and match them to the correct passenger. AI-assisted computer vision will continually scan boarding gate areas and intelligently predict capacity issues for hand luggage on flights and enable staff to act accordingly before boarding.

5G will drive operational efficiency, increase ancillary revenues and cut costs.

Putting IoT and 5G together will offer great opportunities for airlines and airports to unlock the value of all their data to deliver tangible business benefits. All airport assets will be connected, making monitoring efficiency and optimizing usage much simpler. It will, for example, provide the tools to make vehicle usage around the airport more efficient, delivering considerable savings in fuel costs and overall resources, including labor.

5G will mean exploitation of the potential of ‘flying data centers’

5G will enable the next-generation aircraft to exchange vast amounts of data around the airport and at the gate. The fast transmission of aircraft data, and analysis of that data, will enable pro-active maintenance, quicker aircraft turn-around, more on-time departures and, most importantly, an improved customer experience. Convergence of 5G and satellite communications will serve the end-to-end approach of the aircraft as an IoT-flying device, connecting it with all the relevant systems. Airports will control Wi-Fi quality and have improved disruption management capabilities We see opportunities in licensed and unlicensed 5G spectrums thanks to new 5G standards. Airports will have more control of quality of service in their private and public spaces, converging 5G with Wi-Fi networks to create a seamless mobile experience, with continuous connectivity.

5G is likely to replace the commonly used digital radio communications service TETRA, which is only voice-enabled, for operational and mission-critical services, providing a secure network for running airport operations. Airport staff will have access to real-time rich video updates and live feeds based on evolving scenarios and locations, as well as CCTV feeds for computer vision analysis for many functions and enabled remote biometrics.

5G will deliver the digital traveler promise

For passengers, real-time augmented reality and personalized mobile services will be provided, combining all data exchanged from the various applications and interactions with the building and objects. The airport will provide passengers with relevant, contextualized information and services to assist and entertain them. HD films will download in seconds, entire series will be available to watch offline almost instantly and passengers will be able to live stream sports events in crystal clear quality, no matter how busy the airport.


OTHER NEWS

  • IATA is now projecting global passenger revenue losses of $63b-$113b in 2020 due to the Coronavirus outbreak; no estimates are yet available for the impact on cargo operations.
  • Curious about the size of the Airbus A380 vertical stabilizer? Check out number 7 in this image (#7 BrightSide photo – 20+ Things That Are So Awfully Big, It’s Inappropriate There are 22 people standing at the base! (Editor’s Note: The other images are amazing as well!)
  • Trying to figure where to move and get a tech job? San Francisco and a few other cities saw most growth in new tech jobs – Vox
  • If jet engine operation is a mystery to you – here is a good introduction to how they operate – How A Jet Engine Starts – YouTube
  • We Were Wondering: As the ‘virus’ blasts the airline industry, companies like Airbus and Boeing are going to feel their losses later this year. And speaking of Boeing, as upper management from New York, Chicago, or wherever, works to redevelop and rebuild the Boeing 737 MAX, we wonder if they have considered an upper level observation team of top retired expert design/management/manufacturing heroes (such as Alan Mullally, for example) who could provide teamed guidance/assistance/recommendations on the corrections to the ’737?

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