As usual Mark Thompson had a few new and “different” takes on the IFE business. There were at least two big ones, which he shared with us. Perhaps the biggest news is he has formed a joint venture with Imagik who will be handling the sales of his system and since they already produce their inseat screens. The JV gives Thompson the opportunity to focus on the server/technology side of the product. The second item of note from the interview is the developments in their server technology. To quote Mark, “The biggest problem in this business has always been managing the data.” To that end, Thompson has employed some very clever solutions and the key to their data management schemes is to maintain a secure connection between the aircraft and the ground and provide a scheme for validation between the airborne unit and the cloud. With the advent of a lot of credit cards sales, both onboard and off board the aircraft, Thompson has designed their server with Level 3 FIPS security “…equal to that used by the US Federal Reserve,” he noted. Thompson has had this gateway in development for the past 3 years and the company told IFExpress that in 2020 the US government is requiring Level 3 FIPS security from airborne satellite communications… and Thompson Aerospace can provide it now. Their goal all along has been to move toward ‘the intelligent aircraft’ by bringing labor savings to the plane and they have increased the security of connectivity, which is employed by both the servers and routers. Bottom line, neither the passenger nor the airline needs to be concerned about hacking into the wireless system, and as we noted earlier, this level of security will be demanded in the future. This also facilitates the move toward the intelligent aircraft by facilitating inventory control as well as fuel burn savings. Oh, and IFExpress thinks there is a launch customer in the works! To bring the point home, Mark stated they have never really been an IFE company – they have always been a data company. “We are a CISCO!” he said. (Editor’s Note: With this level of data security between the aircraft and the cloud, we feel that Thompson is on the right track when it comes to handling aircraft ‘big data’ as well as IFE and passenger data communication.)
The first bit of news from digEcor is reorganization. The company has brought on two significant additions: 1) Paul Thorpe has been brought on as digEcor’s President Europe 2) Laurie Barns has joined as digEcor’s President of Asia. With these additions the company has new leadership and new visions. There is a focus on investing in new products, as well as, increasing their global presence and their target is the retrofit market. “We are keeping the core business but investing both in people and products.” The company has focused on four areas: Hardware, Content Services, Ancillary Revenue, and Passenger Services. digEcor’s objective is to be the cabin technology provider for the passenger and through this effort the company is redefining IFE to be the overall inflight experience at a competitive price. One example of this is USB power. Their last passenger survey indicated USB power was high on the list of ‘customer wants/needs’. digEcor listened and has brought a USB power offering to the marketplace. The system features a power supply, USB seat box and a remote USB outlet providing 5V USB. Another product they are dually proud of, which was introduced a couple of years ago, is GLIDE. GLIDE is digEcor’s Embedded IFE System that is low weight and fully scalable across both narrow body and wide body aircraft. It is being certified on ATI with PMA to follow. There has been a high level of interest and we understand the price model is very competitive. The Cabin Management System is the only head-end on the system and the PSS functions are in the PCUs, providing the airline with weight savings because of the reduction in wiring. The system on average is 2.2 pounds or less per passenger. Lastly, digEcor has also developed ENGAGE, which is a cabin crew mobile application. ENGAGE integrates with airline ground systems to make current data accessible in the air on a mobile device. Cabin crews have all the relevant passenger information available at the swipe of a finger and can complete operation reports on the device inflight. The digEcor team!
The newest product from BOSE is the QC 25. The choice of Audiophiles, the QC 25’s now have greater noise reduction than the QC 15’s (probably due to improvements in the ear pad and active noise reduction electronics). The pair we tested seamed to have improved high-end audio performance but the audio improvement increase was beyond our hearing capability – an audiophile’s delight. We asked Hratch Astarjian (perhaps the worlds nicest guy) about the added features on the QC -25 and he told IFExpress: “The QuietComfort 25 has been engineered to provide even better audio performance, greater comfort, improved stow-ability, and the noise reduction performance Bose has come to be known for. We’ve also given it a more modern and elegant design that reinforces the notion that this truly is a premium noise canceling headphone.” For example, we note, a clever earphone pivot now allows for even greater stow-ability and the units appear to have a passive audio mode, whereby you can still listen to audio programming (with reduced frequency response) in case of a loss of battery or external DC power. The airline units have 2 color options. And, Hratch noted: “Yes, we will put the airline’s logo on the headphone, along with our own logo. We are offering both colors (black or white), though my guess is most airlines will select the darker color. The white color, while really nice for an individual owner, might show dirt more readily in an airline use case than the black.” In the consumer market, we are told that there are customizable color options for the QC 25. The unit runs on a single AA battery for an amazing 35 – 40 hours and we understand a seat-powered option is on its way. Noted Hratch, “No airlines are currently using the QC25 because we have not made it available in a seat powered configuration yet. However, there are several airlines, including the ones with whom we already have a relationship, that plan to offer the QC25 to their premium passengers as soon as it is available. American Airlines will be the first domestic airline to offer the QC25. The consumer version, which uses 1 AAA battery, is available to individuals now.” The elegant BOSE QC 25’s are $299. (Editor’s Note: 2014 represents BOOSE 25th year serving the aviation industry, as well as, their 50th anniversary! )
It was good to see Shawn Raybell again who has joined Armstrong from Jamco. The Armstrong company slogan, “From Concept to Certification” holds true and as an organization that designs, certifies, analyzes, and provides kits, is well named. Specifically in our industry they are known for their gate-to-gate testing of TPEDs. Basically Armstrong looks at the 802.11 industry standards and test with all devices to prove that there is no RF interference. This includes service to airlines and equipment OEMs as well. As Shawn noted, “Airlines and OEMs now realize that this testing gives them ownership of the data.” We were interested in how they do some of the testing and we were told that the company’s focus is on teams and they have three teams comprised of three individuals, which includes a DER. The teams are traveling all the time to perform certification and testing data. They are looking for spurious transmissions and unintentional interferences with things such as ILS and communication equipment, to name two. When we asked about the competition in this industry, Shawn told us, “We are the leaders in this bus.”
Armstrong also displayed a PowerBox and PowerBar with AC and USB power outlets. We were told that the company’s strength was in the installation of IFE, Wi-Fi, and seat power – quite often on seat tracks and independent from the seat. From our understanding, PowerBox and PowerBar are agnostic units as far as the power vender goes. We note that the PowerBox can skip every other seat row and serve both with a patent pending design.
Lastly, Armstrong is also known for their BirdStriker devices, which are used often to protect radomes and antennas.
Each year GUE Tech never ceases to amaze and this Max hired cheerleaders… need we say more? GUE Tech is all about inflight gaming and the quote from their mission statement says it all: “The mission of GUE Tech is to enhance the quality of interactive entertainment and assist with the creation of core software, games, and media applications.” We should note that last year GUE Tech had an exclusive arrangement with one major airline and now that the exclusive period is over they are offering their product line to the marketplace once again. Max told us that they are actively involved in Interactive Movies and classic and retro games. They offer a set of movies with different endings and different games, including play options that allow interaction with the various endings. We note they also have interactive books. GUE Tech has six full time people and has brought on Jorg Shiffermann to assist with marketing. Max approaches the game market from a different perspective than other CSPs and we note that his games are ‘smart’ and driven by a joystick that defaults to a touch screen. Furthermore, we note that 2014 will be a $66 B year for games. This according to Max Lingua is twice the size of the movie market. Why? Generation Y plays these types of interactive games. “We wish the passenger to have the same experience in the air that they have in there own media room at home.”
Lumexis pointed out that the airline industry has been cautious over the past 9-12 months in ordering IFE as airlines try and reconcile the bold claims of so-far unproven stand-alone Wi-Fi systems against well-established and proven seat-back IFE systems which continue to dominate the market. Jon Norris (Lumexis VP Sales) noted that 98% of twin-aisle aircraft continue to be delivered with seat-back AVOD systems while for single-aisle aircraft deliveries, 44% have no IFE installed, 29% have in-seat AVOD and the remaining 27% have overhead systems. He also told IFExpress that FTTS remains the premium market product whose mantra is Best By Every Measure: Lightest Weight, Greatest Capacity, Lowest Cost and Highest Reliability. Jon also noted that Lumexis continues to actively explore emerging screen, processor and storage technologies plus consumer/passenger trends. Lumexis’ FTTS Second Screen is an example of this approach. Presently, he noted that they are happy to partner with any connectivity provider and are looking at fine-tuning their combined IFEC offering and working more closely with partner connectivity companies. Lumexis just finished their second Lion Air B737 installation and expects to have completed 14 installations by yearend. The first provisions line-fit Lion Air B737 will be delivered in February 2015 and the first full FTTS installation will be delivered from Boeing Renton towards the end of 2015. Furthermore, things are quite busy at Lumexis since Lion have more than 500 aircraft backlogged between Airbus and Boeing. Airbus activity will include first-of-type installations on Lion Air A320s, as well as a second A330 installation for Turkish Airlines later this year. Stay tuned.
BAE Systems IntelliCabin is one of the more interesting new IFE/systems in the marketplace, although they have had years of experiences with aircraft cabin control device sand integration. A lot of the credit of the new IFE offering goes to Jared Shoemaker who has spooled up the effort to deliver a state-of-the art table IFE system powered by Samsung tablets, simplified crew functions via the use of mobile devices, dynamic LED lighting, and a full turnkey support, installation, and STC offering. On the power side of the equation they have developed 110 V AC and USB outlets, smart junction boxes, a variable frequency converter, and a power control panel. The four USB outlets can deliver 2 amps, which should be sufficient for iPad applications. On the IFE side, we liked the Samsung tablets because we were told they were all OLED screen devices. Furthermore, the device content is supplied by WISE from GEE, and yes, it is streamed. The system is established on an Android platform. We also note that brought-on Android PEDS can operate with the system by downloading an inflight App. The servers and wireless access points for IntelliCabin are being provided by Kontron, we understand. IFExpress was told that the system should be complete by the end of December 2014 with first STC with installation targeting March of 2015. Nice Product!
No doubt when you talk about Astronics you are talking about a market leader. Today we understand they have 91% of the commercial inseat power market. This is, no doubt, due to a small and efficient power conversion box and associated technology. We also note that something bigger is going on at Astronics Corporation and it falls into the category of diversification. The parent company of Astronics has been acquiring companies for a number of years and their latest acquisition was AeroSat. Acquisitions are based on overall fit and culture of the company (As well as their bottom line, we assume). Astronics Corporation strongly believes in relationships of trust and each company under the parent umbrella stands on their own. One of the key features each company must have is a focus on the customer, we were told, and if recent sales are an indication, that seems to be the norm.
Astronics told us that they are the only inseat power company line-offerable at Boeing and Airbus, possibly because each seat box can power 4 iPads simultaneously. There is a lot more happening at Astronics than meets the eye and we cant talk about it now but we suggest you stay tuned to this one!
Buried back in the corner of Panasonic’s New Technology displays was Sound Chip, an audio manufacturer. Sound Chip develops and manufactures HD quality audio chips that fit inside high quality headphones. The idea here is simple. Digital audio is sent from the server and ends up in the chip to be converted to analog audio and the results are stunning. No intermediate signal modification, loss, or noise interjection! Typically, digital audio that starts at the server and ends somewhere before the headphones, usually before the audio amplifiers in the SEB. Perhaps the most important feature in this type of design is the amazing presence that the audio has, and someday, there will be a lot more of this technology on aircraft audio systems as the demand for higher quality audio grows. For more information contact Mark Donaldson, CEO, SoundChip.
Lastly, we must say something about VT Miltope and their nMAP2 wireless router. We’ve said it before and we will say it again, because of the Cognitive Hotspot Technology engineered into the device, their approach to aircraft wireless routers will change the industry. Why? Because the products are smart and adaptive and they can determine the best Wi-Fi signal for each passenger based upon a large number of measured parameters and then correct router and signals accordingly. The device does this and many more functions in real time. These measurements occur dynamically and the net result, according to VT Miltope scientists, is a minimum 10% connectivity improvement over older wireless router technology – we think this is a low-ball estimate. In a discussion with industry guru Robert Guidetti, the units “talk’ to each other and back to the server to determine the best signal to each seat/PED. A special antenna is built into nMAP2, as well as, an embedded microprocessor that controls the ‘intelligence’ of the device. We will say more about this product as the company discloses installation and performance results.
One of our early IFExpress/AIRFAX readers/supporters, Jim McCann has started JMC Aerosystems, an avionics product and business development company. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
We really liked Alfy Veretto, APEX President, and you probably know him with his constant companion – his hat. We got him to pose with it off!
- An important endorsement for Airbus’ single aisle Family
France | October 10, 2014– China Aviation Supplies Holding Company (CAS) and Airbus have signed a General Terms Agreement (GTA) for the purchase of a total of 70 Airbus A320 Family aircraft, reflecting the strong demand from Chinese carriers for the leading Airbus single-aisle Family for domestic, low cost, regional and international operations. The GTA was signed by Fabrice Brégier, Airbus President and CEO and Li Hai, President of CAS.
“We are grateful to China for its strong vote of confidence in our leading A320 Family aircraft, and are happy to see them assembled at our Chinese facilities,” said Fabrice Brégier. “Our 30 year history of partnership with China keeps growing and expanding through these types of agreements.”
At present, the in-service Airbus fleet with Chinese operators comprises over 1,000 aircraft (around 140 A330 Family and over 920 A320 Family aircraft). In the 20 year period between 2014 to 2033 Airbus forecasts a demand in China for more than 5,300 new commercial aircraft over 100 seats plus freighters.
Today more than 900 in service A320 Family aircraft operate with 16 Chinese carriers and over 190 A320 Family aircraft have been assembled and delivered from the FALC in Tianjin. The A320 Family is the world’s best-selling single aisle product line with more than 11,000 orders to date and over 6,200 aircraft delivered. Thanks to its wide cabin, all members of the A320 Family offer the industry’s best level of comfort in all classes and Airbus’ 18” wide seats in economy as standard.
- Letter of Intent on wide-body cooperation
France | October 10, 2014– Airbus and its Chinese partners (the Tianjin Free Trade Zone (TJFTZ) and the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC)), have re-confirmed their intention to set up an A330 Completion and Delivery Centre in Tianjin, China, by signing a Letter of Intent (LoI). This follows the successful establishment of an A320 Family Final Assembly Line and Delivery Center in the Chinese city and takes into account the need to support the fast growth of air traffic in China with larger aircraft.
The LoI was signed today by Fabrice Brégier, Airbus President and CEO, Feng Zhijiang, President of the TJFTZ and Lin Zuoming, President of AVIC representing the Chinese parties, in Berlin, Germany, witnessed by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. The A330 Completion and Delivery Centre in Tianjin (C&DC Tianjin) will likely cover activities such as cabin installation, aircraft painting, engine runs and aircraft delivery. The aircraft would first be assembled in Toulouse and then fly to China for their completion in Tianjin.
“In its 30 years history the Airbus partnership with China keeps on growing and expanding. The intended establishment of an A330 Completion and Delivery Centre will add a new exciting chapter to our longstanding track record of mutual achievements,” said Fabrice Bregier, Airbus President and CEO.
At present, the in-service Airbus fleet with Chinese operators comprises over 1,000 aircraft (around 140 A330 Family and over 920 A320 Family aircraft). In the 20 year period between 2014 to 2033 Airbus forecasts a demand in China for more than 5,300 new commercial aircraft over 100 seats plus freighters.
The A330 Family, which spans 250 to 300 seats, has now attracted more than 1,300 orders, with over 1,000 aircraft flying today with more than 100 operators worldwide. The A330 is one of the world’s most efficient aircraft with best in class operating economics and an average dispatch reliability well above 99 percent. The A330 is part of the world’s most modern and comprehensive widebody product line, which also includes the larger A350 XWB and double deck A380. Together, the aircraft range from 250 to over 500 seats and meet all airline requirements for long haul, medium and regional services.
With some 11,000 Airbus single aisle aircraft sold and over 6,200 delivered today to some 400 customers and operators, the A320 Family is the world’s benchmark and best-selling, most modern single aisle aircraft family.
- Interest continues to grow as international law facilitates asset-based financing for aircraft equipment
Dublin | October 9, 2014– The International Registry of Mobile Assets (International Registry) has achieved a major milestone with the announcement that more than half a million registrations have now been filed. The International Registry provides for the registration and protection of financial interests in aircraft objects, such as airframes, engines and helicopters and was created with the view to reducing financing costs. The Aviation Working Group estimates it will save the global air transport industry USD 161 Billion USD between 2009 and 2030.
The establishment of the International Registry is provided for under an international treaty regime – the Cape Town Convention and Protocol of 2001. This was adopted under the joint auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (Unidroit). The International Registry is supervised by ICAO and operated by Aviareto, a joint venture between SITA and the Irish Government. It is used to establish legal priority in the case of disputes over interests in aircraft objects. Currently, fifty-five States across the world have ratified both the Convention and the Aircraft Protocol.
The International Registry is a fully online business which services this global industry from Dublin. It started operations in 2006 and since then, there have been over 500,000 registrations covering 110,000 aircraft objects with an estimated value of over half a trillion USD. Of those, 27% of registrations are on airframes, 68% on engines and 5% on helicopters. There is now an average of 7,000 registrations each month.
ICAO Secretary General Raymond Benjamin highlighted that the United Nations aviation body, “has been actively promoting the ratification of the Cape Town Convention and Protocol worldwide. We recognize this latest development as a very important milestone for the International Registry, which is a central feature of the Cape Town instruments. Reaching half a million registrations clearly demonstrates that the International Registry is meeting the needs for which it was created.”
Unidroit, the depositary for the treaties, expects other industries to follow the lead set by aviation. José Angelo Estrella-Faria, Secretary-General of UNIDROIT, underlined that, The International Registry of Mobile Assets has been a huge success, so much so that similar registries are currently under development for the rail and satellite industries. Unidroit is also examining the development of an agricultural, mining and construction equipment registry.”
Rob Cowan, Managing Director of Aviareto, said: “Aviareto established the online business of the International Registry of Mobile Assets by capitalizing on SITA’s air transport IT expertise and Ireland’s global leadership as centre for aviation finance and leasing. It is very satisfying that it is helping the whole industry by cutting financing costs so effectively. It is also very gratifying that our unique experience will help in the development of the international rail registry in the coming months.”
- Enhanced network and frequent flyer benefits giving consumers more choice
- Common focus on service and quality
- Partnership opportunities for all airlines
Abu Dhabi | October 8, 2014– Etihad Airways today unveiled Etihad Airways Partners, a new brand which brings together like-minded airlines to offer customers more choice through improved networks and schedules and enhanced frequent flyer benefits.
Initially, six airlines will participate in the new partnership – airberlin, Air Serbia, Air Seychelles, India’s Jet Airways, Darwin Airline, and Etihad Airways.
However, any airline can become an Etihad Airways Partner even if it is part of an existing alliance, such as airberlin, which is a member of oneworld.
The key emphasis for Etihad Airways Partners is a strong commercial partnership and shared values.
James Hogan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Airways, said “We are broadening our business model to articulate and define a partner proposition for like-minded airlines which will result in synergies and efficiencies for participating airlines on the one side, and enhanced network choice, service and frequent flyer benefits for the consumer on the other.
“The Etihad Airways Partners logo is a seal of excellence and global cooperation. It will be displayed on aircraft and on branded materials by a group of airlines working together to connect travellers around the world, and increasingly to harmonise standards in the air and on the ground.”
Mr Hogan said Etihad Airways Partners differed from legacy airline alliances by offering benefits well beyond pure commercial cooperation.
“The potential for network alignment to maximise flight connectivity for passengers, together with a shared passion for superior service, are central to the ethos of the Etihad Airways Partner concept,” he said.
“Frequent flyers will benefit from the formation of Etihad Airways Partners as it will remove the complexity and confusion that exists within the global alliances.
“We’re aiming to deliver a consistent experience for frequent flyers when they travel, as well as a consistent framework for earning and using their miles.”
This will include standardised mileage and tier benefits across all partners, no blackout periods and priority services.
Etihad Airways Partners will also have access to economies of scale and operational synergies such as centres of excellence, shared sales teams in certain destinations, joint procurement of services and supplies, and shared pilot and cabin crew training at the Etihad Airways facilities in Abu Dhabi.
- Competitors may submit their entries for the Crystal Cabin Award 2015 between 8 October and 11 November, 2014 at www.crystal-cabin-award.com
Hamburg | October 6, 2014– Aircraft interior innovators take heed: From 8 October, 2014, the Crystal Cabin Award is open for entries. The world’s most famous and respected competition for aircraft cabin developments is being held for the ninth time. It’s worth taking part: A top-notch specialist judging panel evaluates the market potential of entries, and reaching the final brings concepts to the attention of potential customers. Information on the competition and an entry form are available online at www.crystal-cabin-award.com (Competition). The winners will be crowned, as always, in association with the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg (14 – 16 April, 2015). Two more distinguished companies from the aviation industry, Emirates Airline and B/E Aerospace, have joined the ranks of the
This year, once again, the Crystal Cabin Award Association will be honouring the best ideas in seven areas related to aircraft interiors: Greener Cabin, Health, Safety & Environment; Industrial Design & Visionary Concepts; Material & Components;
Passenger Comfort Hardware; Passenger Comfort Systems; Premium Class & VIP; and
University. An international committee of experts makes a preliminary selection from all entries received. After this, the 24 members of the specialist judging panel assess the participants who have made it onto this shortlist. Within each category, the three entries with the highest average score from the judges are invited to Hamburg to present their products and concepts at the Final Viewing. The official announcement of the winners takes place at a formal dinner as part of the Aircraft Interiors Expo.
“Winning the Crystal Cabin Award was the greatest and most exciting event in my
professional career. To me the importance of the CCA is the recognition of the people, who are committed to the product and who are proud having achieved something that is being dignified. It is already fantastic to reach the next round – being a finalist. The CCA motivates inventors and students to come out of their rooms and show their innovations to the public”, enthuses Christian Lierow, Head of Product, Guide U from Lufthansa Technik and winner in the Material & Components category in 2011.
James S. H. Lee, Managing Director of Paperclip Design Limited and winner in the
Premium Class & VIP category in 2014, is also ardent in his praise: „The Crystal Cabin Award has given me enormous amount of exposure and essentially launched my career in aircraft interior design.”
The Crystal Cabin Award can look back on a successful year 2014. The last time round, there were 55 products and concepts submitted from twelve countries. The winners in the various categories were Diehl Aerospace (Greener Cabin, Health, Safety & Environment), B/E Aerospace and TEAGUE (Industrial Design & Visionary Concepts), Schott AG (Material & Components), ZIM Flugsitz (Passenger Comfort Hardware), Lufthansa Technik (Passenger Comfort Systems), Paperclip Design Limited (Premium Class & VIP) and Delft University of Technology (University).
The Crystal Cabin Award 2015 is currently being supported by the following sponsors:
Airbus, Aircraft Cabin Management, the Aircraft Interiors Expo trade fair (Reed
Exhibitions), Aircraft Interiors International Magazine, APEX, B/E Aerospace, Bishop
GmbH Aeronautical Engineers, DIEHL Aerosystems Holding, Emirates Airline,
FERCHAU AVIATION Division, Jetliner Cabins and SEKISUI.
More sponsors, of course, are very welcome. Carmen Krause, Project Manager, is
happy to provide information about the various sponsorship packages:
On our second day on the show floor we visited and interviewed 13 vendors. We like to provide a little highlight detail for our readers who do not get a chance to go to the shows – enjoy!
We ran into FlightPath3D and got an update on the innovative moving map provider. We understand the software solution is presently flying on Air France, KLM and Norwegian and their software is working with Panasonic and Lumexis hardware. It is important to note that the FlightPath3D solution is all software and their solutions are very passenger friendly and feature rich in applications. The process of providing various aspects of the moving map experience includes the Pilot HUD view, the Passenger Window view, City Lights & Time Zones, and Distance & Direction indicator. What we really liked was the airplane view that allowed custom branding. But the 3D moving map offers more because they have included flight information screens, connecting gate information, airline route maps, and destination information. While we are on that subject, the Destination Guide & Concierge Service provides a map with POIs and advertisers are utilized. This is a great opportunity for ancillary revenue generation for the airline. As long as an airline has connectivity service the passenger can make arrangements for reservations, show tickets, auto rental, etc. real-time. The IFExpress publisher fell in love with the Kidz 3D Discovery Map! It is important to note that FlightPath3D is platform independent and any aircraft in any operational environment can benefit from it. As important, is the fact that passengers can interface with it in the seat, on overhead video, and on their mobile device. Airlines can use FlightPath3D across their existing fleets even if they have a combination of inseat, overhead, and Wi-Fi. For more data contact them for additional information.
Aircraft Cabin Systems
One of the big deals for the ACS team this year is the expected completion of their Replaceable PMA, which notes that the ACS design is 100% compatible with existing narrow-body retracts. Because of the reliability, the screen size, and picture quality of the ACS units, the airlines are interested in replacing older technology products with the new retracts. This strategy was a very clever move on behalf of ACS. Yukio Sugmimote noted that greater than 20% of the existing single-aisle fleet already have retractable overhead monitors onboard. The ACS booth displayed the wide range of their retractable offerings for the Boeing 737 (9.7” and 12”) and the A320 (9.7” and 12”). Furthermore, the new 12” retract has been installed at ACJC (Airbus Corporate Jet). Now here is the big deal… ACS is targeting line fit for 2015. Stay tuned!
We always enjoy our time with Lufthansa Systems talking with Norbert Müller and this year was no exception. At APEX LHS rolled out their Seat Integrated Tablet Solution, which is another feature for their integrated wireless BoardConnect platform. This allows high-resolution audio and video content to now be streamed over the Wi-Fi to passenger PEDs as well as integrated seat tablets. Interestingly, the Lufthansa Systems team has done two important feats in engineering with SITS: 1) the head strike issue has been solved with a clear plastic screen that slides up over the display for safety. 2) Amazingly enough, they are using modified tablets (COTS) for the semi-embedded system . Apparently, the battery has been removed from the system so the tablet is only powered installed in the seat-back via a special cable & connector. Not only does the system work on the App installed on the airline supplied tablet, but users have access to the system via their own PED as long as they already have the App installed. Stay tuned for the first customer announcement. Furthermore, SITS has the following features: video-on-demand, audio-on-demand, interactive moving map, electronic publications, surveys, basic and advanced advertising, shopping, chat, and news feed. (Editor’s Note: IFExpress did a Hot Topic on SITS in early September. If you happened to miss that issue or want to see more in depth coverage here is the link )
In discussions with Gogo in Anaheim we gleaned the following news highlights:
- The corporate Gogo move to downtown Chicago is based on the following:
- They have outgrown their existing facility.
- Everyone will be in with one 230K-foot facility.
- Today a lot of young talent prefers to live and work in large metropolitan areas.
- And they are also very near Boeing, investors, etc.
- Currently Gogo has 800+ employees.
- They have purchased a B737-500 as their flying test lab.
- Gogo states that their focus is on 2Ku and is entirely outside of the USA.
- Gogo states that there has been some industry confusion between 2Ku and GTO (Ground-To-Orbit)
- GTO is only available in North America
- 2Ku covers overseas
- There are 500+ aircraft with ATG4 in North America
- “ATG4 with 4 antennas triples the bandwidth and the performance is clearly better.”
- The latency has decreased by 50%
- Customer satisfaction has increased
- The fleet should number 800 at yearend.
- Gogo and T-Mobile have announced an exclusive arrangement for a period of time.
- Text n Talk: This doesn’t require a pico cell… no touch on the system.
The IFPL team was missing Geoff Underwood this year as he was back on the Isle of Wight receiving the company’s second Queens Award from the Duke of Kent! If there ever was a reason to miss an APEX this was about as good as it gets. Way to go IFPL. What’s next? Sir Geoff??
From a technical front IFPL was touting their Contactless Retail System (CRS), which utilizes Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. IFPL has developed an in-seat payment system for airline cabin passenger seats that takes advantage of the new NFC contactless card for low value purchases and has an intuitive interface that is easy to use. CRS allows passengers to pay quickly and simply with their credit/debit card for on–board transactions, eliminating the requirement for cash. Recent research suggests an increase in sales of up to 15% using contactless systems compared to traditional cash vending. CRS is easy to install with no in-seat wiring required and is easily configurable as IFPLs system integrates seamlessly with existing on-board payment servers. Alternatively it can be a stand-alone system that will run for up to 24 months on the optional built-in battery.
We talked with Don Buchman and he was rather proud of their recent APEX Avion Best Achievement in Technology Award for Exede In The Air by ViaSat. Exede in-flight internet service is designed to get more passengers using in-flight internet by eclipsing the service quality and speeds of other in-cabin airline broadband services. Compared to traditional take rates of less than 10 percent of passengers, uptake is averaging around 40 percent on flights using the ViaSat service, with a record 148 simultaneous personal electronic devices connected on a recent JetBlue flight. Exede utilizes the high capacity Ka-band satellite system and is capable of delivering 12 Mbps or more to every connected passenger. Well worth an award!
ViaSat also announced their new dual-band Ku/Ka Terminal that enable inflight network switching across commercial Ku- and Ka- band satellite networks. Using their innovative dual band terminal and a new radome, test flights were conducted in July and August on a commercial 757-200. The trial demonstrated the state of the art in broadband enroute communications with the aircraft transitioning among multiple satellite beams from six antennas three Ku- and Ka-band networks. The concept of the best available service borrows from the mobile cellular communications world. Seamless satellite network-switching benefits customers in the same way, as higher performance satellite coverage areas are introduced to new regions. The airborne broadband terminal integrated a ViaSat Ku/Ka-band antenna with ViaSat mobile and bordband modems, and a third-party modem. For more information contact Don Buchman
We always like to visit TE Connectivity because they usually have some new scientific solution to problems that have been around for a long time like plating on plastic – they can functionalize virtually any surface. This is a very broad-spectrum technology connectivity company that covers any major electronic industry globally. These folks major in connecting signal source to receivers and they do it in copper, fiber and Wi-Fi. They are in the business of connecting and protecting the flow of power, data, and signals. And they provide solutions for virtually every signal transmission to every signal reception, including sealing and protection, connectors, fiber optics, circuit protection, and precision wire and cable.
What really grabbed our attention was what we thought was gold plated circuit lines on plastic when in reality they were something else! It turned out that it was an etched pattern in composite material that is activated by laser. After etching, the signal paths are activated by laser which allow chemical plating to occur afterward, thus they have developed a way to plate plastic with metal conductors for items such as antennas, power connections, etc. without excessive heat. If you are trying to put an antenna on a plastic case this is the company to talk to. For more information contact Teresa Wilson email@example.com for more information.
If the meeting with Rockwell/ARINC gave us anything it has become pretty obvious that the two companies are: a) working together well b) plotting new product strategy based on their existing products and services c) looking to the future with the synergies of the two companies can add value.
A good example was the product strategy for their next generation connectivty and wireless IFE, using ARINC Cabin Connect and PAVES Wireless. Here is what we note:
• Today both companies are evolving as one and working on fitting pieces of the aircraft environments together in the areas of: cabin, IFE, cockpit, and routers. Also, the ground infrastructure support and airport systems are involved.
• While the above intermarriages are broad in spectrum, the Rockwell/ARINC union is unique in its ability to do them all.
• The companies will always make a decision to buy or make the required hardware.
• Presently, this marriage is a good fit and everyone appears very happy about it and the broad effort in cabin and cockpit integration is proving beneficial.
• Make no mistake; Rockwell/ARINC is looking at moving non-critical data across the ground connectivity pipe and leveraging the value of that service.
• In actual fact, the marriage of the two companies completed the IFE&C puzzle and created a new business unit called Information Management Services.
• ARINC Cabin Connect (wireless aircraft environment) uses L-band today and Ka-band next year.
We were actually surprised at how comfortable the teams seamed working together and the nature of their two different services appear to be coming together very well. Stay tuned for some surprises, specifically in the area of new data services.
The two new big products form Kontron are the ACE Flight 600 server and the Cab-n-Connect 802.11ac Wireless Access Point. And we note that last year’s server has been upgraded to the new ACE Flight 600 and the Cab-n-Connect 802.11n WAP has been upgraded to 802.11ac this year.
The new server features an Intel i7 processor, 4MCU and operates off of 115V AC (360-800 Hz), it has been qualified to DO-160G and also features 4G LTE (cell phone modem). We understand there is a 2 MCU version in the works. On the Wireless Access Point, Kontron has upgraded their Cab-n-Connect Wireless Access Point to 802.11ac (which means a/b/g/n standards), dual Wi-Fi radios 2.4 GHz & 5GHz – both supporting 3 spatial stream and 256 QAM modulation, can operate as a CWLU and TWLU, and has various antenna options. Contact Alan Manns for further information.
The interesting thing about KID-Systeme is that they have gravitated from an inflight power company to a business that has diversified their offering to include inflight entertainment as well. The addition of SKYfi, their wireless inflight entertainment in conjunction with technology from Airborne Interactive for their systems interactive moving map dubbed SKYfi Geo has moved KID into the realm of IFE service provider. SKYfi offers a range of packages including GSM telephony and data, a high-end solution that provides full telephony and internet services, as well as streaming content to passenger PEDs via an App. The extremely lean system can be installed on virtually every commercial aircraft type and architecture. SKYfi is based on the trusted ALNA (Airline Network Architecture) connectivity platform, pioneered by Airbus and KID-Systeme in 2007 and widely deployed on more than 40 airlines around the world. Most recently, Cebu Pacific Air, the largest domestic airline in the Philippines, started a trial with the wireless IFE system. For more information contact Maren Muente.
GEE (Global Eagle Entertainment)
Perhaps the best place to start is GEE’s own website: “Through our combined content, distribution and technology platforms, Global Eagle provides airlines and the millions of travelers they serve with the industry’s most complete offering of in-flight entertainment programming, Internet connectivity, and related services. Our Connected Solutions division utilizes Ku-band satellite technology to provide airline passengers with Internet access, live television, shopping and travel-related information, while our Travel Related Solutions division provides film and television content, games and applications to more than 130 airlines worldwide.” Obviously, GEE is definitely a content and connectivity company. Formerly known as Global Eagle Enterprises, the company wants to build relationships with airlines so that they can provide content and/or hardware through their connectivity portal. There are four arms to GEE: content, software development, connectivity hardware, and sponsorship. GEE is looking to maximize the connectivity via digital media. An example of this is Digital Studio from Delta. GEE also offers WISE, which is a media content portal that is platform agnostic. And agnostic is important! Current partners for WISE include: OnAir, Rockwell Collins, KID-Systeme, BAE Aerosystems and Honeywell. Importantly, GEE sees digital media solutions as a huge area of potential growth and sees themselves assisting airlines and other venders with economies of scale. (Editor’s Note: What is really happening here is that GEE is becoming a full service provider like Panasonic and Thales – at least for connectivity and content. The other members of their team fulfill the requirements that they need but do not have within their control i.e. seatback screens. It will be interesting to watch GEE’s development in the coming years. Also with their content company acquisitions they have secured and are driving the content market as #1.)
PressReader is one of the most interesting and useful products we have seen for the airport and IFE space and, it is available to use off-line…not to mention, extremely ‘green’. Here is an intro from their sales brochure – “PressReader is the global standard in all-you-can-read newspapers and magazines. Now you can provide complimentary access to over 3,000 newspapers and magazines from around the world to your travelers – all on their own laptops tablets and smartphones. Titles are available in 60+ languages from 100+ countries around the world. No new equipment or maintenance required.” You can get your own account for $29.95 per month, airports can develop a hotspot to provide reading material, and of course airlines can provide the service to stream content to their passengers in airport lounges as well as onboard. This solution has to save gas, labor, time, and energy/waste. If you want to try it out go to PressReader. No App is required if the airline or airport want to provide the service and we understand that PressReader Offline can be customized for seat-back systems. How else can you provide this many magazines to your customers with zero set-up and maintenance. Not to mention there is an ancillary revenue opportunity and, we understand that sponsored messaging is available. Additionally, the service can operate on all your devices: computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone, and eReader. For more information contact Darcy Sara (IFExpress Update: Wow! This product is incredible, we tested it online and cannot say enough about the amount of available newspapers and magazines!)
Quite by luck, IFExpress “won” a set of Phitek headphones in a blind drawing and we were so impressed with the product, we had to pass along our observations.
Firstly, the Active Noise cancellation was not turned on when we did our first audio test and turned on the audio source.. and you guessed it, they worked quite well with a slight high frequency attenuation. We note the mechanical sound isolation was good, with some low frequency leakage while using background noise/music for testing. And, we should also mention that the mechanical height adjustment and padding were first class and very comfortable. The single AAA battery is accesses easily by rotating the outer ring on the cup itself, and when turned on, delivered good presence, with a slight preponderance of bass. We also understand that they also have an earphone tester and we note that their catalog is so well designed that it should win an award! No price was given but they have a very customer friendly product that airlines need to look at… and hear.
B787 ANA – An Anonymous traveler wrote this to IFExpress and we thought you would find it interesting: “The ANA Dreamliner 787 is the most comfortable economy class airline I’ve ever flown on. The 10 hour flight seemed amazingly fast what with the extra legroom, and bank of electronics on the seat back in front of us. Along with a large screen, there were power hookups for phones and computers to keep them charged. There were a dozen or more free movies and television shows and games and music. And the food for both meals was very good. Once again, I didn’t sleep even with the Ambien. On the other hand, because of the comfortable ride, it didn’t bother me. Not that I experienced them at first hand, but the first class seats were pretty amazing in that each was it’s own little cubicle with chair, desk and area in front of the passenger’s feet that turned into a bed when the seat folded down flat. Luxury.”
An APEX exhibitor wrote to IFExpress after visiting another conference noting: “Selected airlines are actually designing their own seats (and patenting them) to address enhanced space and comfort for the passenger, while INCREASING the number of seat on-board. The changes to seating have an impact on future embedded IFE, and a rethinking of the fundamental architecture.”
Congratulations to Paul Burke at Telefonix, they are celebrating their 25th anniversary!
Thank you to AT&T and Stuart Dunleavy, Executive Director of Marketing – In-Flight Connectivity at AT&T for a great function at The House of Blues (Hmm, Isn’t the AT&T logo blue?!).