This issue of IFExpress always always raises a few feathers so let’s get started with some IFExpress predictions, then we will present the inputs from folks who were willing to provide their names, and finally, those who wish to remain anonymous will contribute as well. We should probably note that not all predictions landed in the IFEC category and thus it looks to be an interesting year – and things just might change anywhere!
IFExpress 2017 Predictions
- Narrower aircraft seats are coming in 2017, especially in newer low class offerings where only certain sized carry-on baggage will be permitted – smaller and surely less comfortable as well. We already know United Airlines has a new low cost Basic Economy package that will be copied by others. The rub will be what limitations will be placed on passengers who do not have the airline reward travel card! Hey, many folks can travel short flights and put up with almost anything. It is all a function of what they have to take with them. And yes, it will be in the back of the plane.
- More colored cabin environments will be here in 2017, but also as a result of new LED lighting in the plane – probably more blue! [We note: A recent Boeing study concluded that passengers will perceive that the airplane is cleaner, more comfortable, newer, and with better air and more room, all with the correct lighting. Even one German university test proved while flying with light that contains increased red, (not blue) light components, is more calming and cause less passenger stress.]
- We cannot say this enough but Data will be the big deal in 2017, whether it is an airline examining their routes with a goal for less fuel, to using social media to communicate directly with passengers or even potential travelers, to connection with the aircraft for more inflight system information for operation or security. OK, this is not much of a surprise!
- Some folks predict that light will be used to deliver connectivity. However, with all the issues involved with outside solar, safety lighting, and other sources of interference (Hasn’t this been tried earlier?), we think otherwise. Anyway, Bluetooth as a connectivity radio frequency has slipped under the radar and since most connectivity devices have the capability and the corporate jet world has adopted it, we expect an inflight commercial airline installation this year. With Bluetooth 5.0 alive there may be even more interest in a Bt connectivity solution. Hey, 4X range, 2X speed, and 8X capacity, and no power increase, what’s not to like?”
- Watch for an airline to test ground-based, high bandwidth 2.4 GHz, directed connectivity service like those proposed for SmartSky and Gogo. This is more of a 2017 sure thing than a prediction.
- We fear aviation manufacturing layoffs, let’s see what happens there but don’t look for that job just yet. The layoff scenario has already started at Boeing, who is downsizing to the tune of some 8,000 employees, and could reach 10% there. Airbus is next after production continues for a bit.
- Maintenance of aircraft will see more outsourcing, new technology products like AI and voice technology used in maintenance products, and more consolidation in the MRO world (Maintenance Repair Overhaul).
- While we hope it does not happen, but be very concerned that a hacker doesn’t get aboard a plane this year, transmit a fake Wi-Fi service and install a lot of ransomware (like doxware) on folks trying to get Wi-Fi service. In 2017 it is a possibility and be sure you know how to get online when onboard!
- What’s next for future SATCOM? How about Q/V bands: 33 – 75 GHz? If the FCC auctions get it together, perhaps even 14 GHz has a chance?
- We shy away from talking about aircraft control hacking, but have you thought about hackers using a DDoS attach or ransomware on an airline reservation system – might happen?
- The Boeing 787 will finally get the proper acclaim that it is the only commercial jet airplane where cabin/crew air is taken directly from the atmosphere with electrically powered compressors and not from engine ‘bleed air’! The health guru’s will help.
- Cybercrime damages will continue to grow (costing the world $6 trillion annually by 2021), up from $3 trillion last year; ransomware will be the fastest growing threat in terms of new attacks and costs. Global spending on cybersecurity products and services will exceed $1 trillion cumulatively over the next 5 years from 2017 to 2021. Easy procurement of cheap IoT devices or Wi-Fi enabled products introduces a serious level of risk — of which many people are unaware. As one expert noted: “Transportation systems may be immobilized.” Or, as another one said: “My second prediction for 2017 is that cyber personnel will become a rare commodity like we have never seen before. Organizations have received the message, and are staffing and investing, but that demand generates a supply that is not available.” Don’t you think there will be plenty of openings in aviation security in 2017? We do!
- Lastly, as strange as it seems, “a self-driving” aircraft concept for passenger planes will be talked about this year – perhaps just for parcel delivery but projects like ALIAS are just the beginning.
Named 2017 Reader Predictions
Here are our reader IFEC predictions and we start of with those from APEX CEO, Joe Leader:
- Connectivity announcements and deployment will hit a new high for the industry.
- In-flight entertainment continues its expansion with more global IFE system installations and upgrades.
- Airline passenger experience will become less siloed inside of airlines as carriers look for greater market differentiation.
- On flights without built-in IFE or connectivity, “Near-FI” solutions offering, entertainment will become much more common. This will escalate in particular on low-cost carriers looking to differentiate their products.
- In-flight advertising will see the beginning of a new age of renaissance.
- The Internet of Things (IoT) will broaden from case-studies on aircraft to first tangible implementations.
- With the Bluetooth 5.0 specification released, we will see first announcements about Bluetooth connectivity to IFE in future products.
- Long-haul business class will enter a new era just as British Airways introduced the first lie-flat for business class in 1999. We could call it the suite era or the privacy era. This period will begin this year marked by increasing level of suite-like privacy on long-haul business class products. It will be initiated by visionary airlines in different manners and progress to a new bar for long-haul business class passenger experience over the next two decades.
Next, from Henry Chen Weinstein at Cockpit Innovations we have:
“I think 2017 in Tech will be about the upcoming implications of new technology on our current way of work. The [changing] place of startups in our space as more players understand the value of innovation on a global scale. Establishing new ways to take our aviation business forward.”
Here is the prediction note from John Courtright at SIE:
“I predict that the Modular Cabin Concept will generate a lot more attention from airline operators. The ability to transform a commercial aircraft from a “domestic” (2-Class) configuration to an “international” configuration (3-Class) on an overnight or less using palletized modules to swap out interiors will generate great interest from operators. Aside from the aircraft utilization flexibility, the Modular Cabin Concept will generate increased operational revenue (ROI) from a given aircraft asset by allowing the operator to customize their service level to different markets at a relatively low cost.”
Rich Salter, now with FTS chimed in with:
“All the talk about the death (or not) of seatback IFE is not the relevant question: the real interesting question is where will displays be located next – on the wrist, on entire seatbacks, baggage bins, sidewall of fuselage, VR or immersive glasses, etc., not to mention non-cabin locations like cockpit, baggage, lounges, etc. They could be thin as paper, and could be foldable/rollable (as are OLEDs). They will consume extremely low power and be fed data via wireless (WiFi). Smartwatches are only the beginning. In summary, advances in wireless streaming and display tech will lead to some fascinating implementations of IFE displays in unconventional places!”
Todd Hamblin at Global (GADC) told IFExpress in 2017:
- The Wireless IFE market will continue to grow, with Portable Wireless IFE being a subset for those ultra-low cost carriers.
- Companies based in China will become a larger part of the IFE and Connectivity landscape.
- An airline will attempt to install a Portable Wireless IFE system on their aircraft without permission from the FAA or EASA even though the server contains Lithium Ion batteries and might interfere with existing aircraft systems.
- The FAA will be impacted and safety compromised by the changing political climate.
“I predict that the first elastic virtual servers will creep into the cabin on airliners and it just might be Bluetooth that drives it. Elastic devices are the latest generation of server that expands and contracts based on demand. It’s a floating platform that can replicate itself in virtual space.”
Kelvin Boyette CEO of Latitude Aero observes:
- Mergers will dominate 2017, allowing the larger multi-national companies to offer a menu of turnkey services to both airlines and aircraft OEMs.
- 2017 will be the year that seat refurbishment emerges from its “niche” status. New products, such as IFE and ISPS, are emerging faster than new seat OEMs can get them into the seat, so the refurbishment centers are where the airlines will turn to offer the most up to date, modern, passenger experience to their clientele.
- Both BYOD and embedded IFE will flourish. I do not believe only one will succeed. Both will explode this year.
Michael Reilly, VP Entertainment Services, Arconics – A ViaSat Company notes:
- My key prediction for the year is that those airlines who don’t take the step into connectivity in 2017 will certainly take steps on the ‘path to connectivity’ – and there’s a couple of different ways to define that… I think a lot of airlines apart from the obvious cost barrier to entry to connectivity are waiting for other developments – competitive and even marketplace ie: changes to the vendor side of the industry – be that product, pricing etc.
- Naturally as we get more airlines closer to connectivity, security is becoming a hot topic, as is bigger and better use of data.
- Another prediction is that effective use of data will help break down the traditional siloing that has always gone on in the airline business and that’s exciting.
- I’d sum up my prediction by saying that 2017 is ‘finally’ the year where. Connectivity, Wireless and Mobile finally made the strides forward that moved the needle on the bottom line for airlines.
Craig Foster of Valour Consultancy said:
- We will see one of the in-flight connectivity service providers acquired by a much larger company. Additionally, we’ll also see at least one wireless in-flight entertainment vendor snapped up by someone with much more clout.
- The number of aircraft with in-flight connectivity systems installed and activated will surpass 7,000 by the end of the year. Regions aside from North America will continue to witness strong growth and we will likely see another carrier based in Latin America announce connectivity plans before long (in addition to Avianca Brasil and GOL).
- More and more airlines will announce plans to deploy IFE systems that allow passengers to pay their personal electronic devices to the main screen in an effort to match expectations around second screening and to better personalise the experience.
Unnamed 2017 Reader Predictions
We start off with predictions from a “Cabin Solution Provider”:
- The exponential growth of cabin Wi-Fi usage within the confines of the same aircraft will lead to more congestion in the cabin. One prediction says that passenger data to and from aircraft will more than quadruple in 2017. We knew that something like this was coming. However, what’s new is the speed at which this is happening.
- In 2017 the speed of the PED-pull in terms of passenger experience, apps etc. will increase even further. It certainly will be very much faster than the gentle ambling in which many of the aircraft hardware-push industry players are used to operate.
Another few from another Unnamed Predictor:
- Low cost carrier mergers and acquisitions will accelerate globally.
- With airline capacity surpassing global market demand, this will be a year including news of airline deferments and reductions. The exception to this rule will be in next-generation aircraft connecting previously unconnected city pairs. For the industry, this will be a relatively landing.
- Airlines in a more challenging global environment that raise their passenger experience will outperform carriers that focus on reducing passenger experience to reduce costs.
And lastly, still another Unnamed Predictor told IFExpress:
- Hacking the Baggage Systems at major hubs will occur to misdirect luggage?
- Hacking will occur to shut down refueling facilities at major airports.
- Hackers will find a way to infect the IFE system to download passenger data and airline sales information direct from the aircraft, putting at liability Airlines and IFE suppliers. Class Action suit to follow. Revenue streams will be jeopardized for both airlines, IFE suppliers and product/service providers accordingly.
- All economy seats on American / Domestic airlines will follow the pay as you go scheme: everything short of the toilets will be ‘pay to play’: boarding sequence; stowable baggage; check-in bags; food; drink; entertainment; EVERYTHING.
- Donald Trump’s administration will make significant progress to privatize government agencies and systems – a la Russian Model – Air Traffic Control will be privatized and sold off; FAA will be privatized; and the Space Programs under NASA will also be spun off. If not in this coming year, the effort may take at least part of his first term. (Editor’s Note: IFExpress apologizes to this predictor as we just did not have the space (nerve?) to post all the input – Sorry!).
Thank you to everybody who contributed and we close with the words of Arthur C. Clarke: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
- Lufthansa Systems releases a new generation of its navigation app for iOS
Raunheim, Germany | September 6, 2016– Lufthansa Systems today announced the release of Lido/mPilot 2.0, a comprehensive update to its successful navigation app for the iPad. The new-generation app features a more modern design, faster loading times, better performance and a Bluetooth connection to flight deck avionics systems. Existing customers can download Lido/mPilot 2.0 from the App Store and update their systems from September 2016.
“The trend toward mobile solutions for a paperless flight deck and greater flexibility for pilots and airlines shows no sign of slowing down,” said Igor Dimnik, Director Products at Lufthansa Systems. “With our new Lido/mPilot 2.0 app, we are taking another step in the direction of connectivity on the flight deck. Our outstanding cooperation with industry partners enables us to offer airlines comprehensive, integrated solutions.”
Lufthansa Systems worked with UTC Aerospace Systems and their products to turn an iPad installed with Lido/mPilot 2.0 into a full-fledged Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) system. Using a UTC Aerospace Systems Tablet Interface Module®, which has a Bluetooth connection, the iPad is linked to the company’s Aircraft Interface Device (AID) which enables data management. This will provide access to relevant avionics data such as GPS information, and the aircraft’s speed and heading. Together the hardware and software will facilitate navigation and contribute to improved situational awareness for pilots.
Lido/mPilot 2.0 also reduces the workload for pilots. Before a flight, one of the pilots selects the airport maps and route and stores them on his or her device. Thanks to a new import function, the other pilot can then import this data directly to his own iPad without having to repeat the procedure. This simplifies the administrative processes and frees up pilots for more important tasks.
The user interface was completely overhauled for the update in accordance with Google’s Material Design principles. This gives users the benefit of a more modern and intuitive app design with a familiar, uniform look which can be used across all platforms. This design concept will also be applied to the Windows-based Lido/eRouteManual app very soon. The new Lido/mPilot 2.0 additionally offers faster, better performance and much shorter start-up loading times.
Around 70 airlines have already opted for the mobile Lido/mPilot navigation solution since the app was launched in early 2015. The modular app offers features such as airport charts, a dynamically generated enroute map and a document management and distribution system that enables pilots to access documents and messages both at home and on the move. A status overview with intuitive icons guarantees a clear flow of information.
Perhaps you have heard enough about IFEC for commercial jets? If so, we have a solution for you! Have you heard about SkyFlix? To answer our own question and provide some introduction we have been communicating with Tyler Erdman, CEO of SkyFlix, about an ostensibly small, clever, inflight movie viewer that runs via stored iPads. We met Tyler in Hamburg in 2013 and told him to contact us when he had his product. We also thought our readers might like to see the ongoing challenge that small companies face in developing entertainment hardware for the world of aviation – thus, SkyFlix 2. We ask a few questions that we thought our readers might want to know about, like… well, here is his commentary intro:
“Back in 2013 I had met with one of your reporters at AIX Hamburg, and talked to them about my startup Tablet IFE. At the time we had just started developing the concept for our portable IFE system. The mention you gave us was our first bit of press. Since that meeting we’ve been hard at work refining our system, and integrating customer feedback. I was wondering if IFExpress would be interested in covering what we came up with? Our latest system SkyFlix 2 provides a media server, wireless router, and iPad charger in one sleek and portable unit. Just plug it into an outlet on nearly any aircraft and it can be ready within a minute. Passengers can take one of the eight iPad Pro devices from the charging dock, and start watching their favorite content in moments. We’ve delivered over a dozen SkyFlix 2 systems to aircraft operators around the world. Attached is the SkyFlix 2 press release and photos. We believe our dramatically different interpretation of what IFE should be is bound to be of great interest to aircraft owners of all sizes.”
That got us thinking. While his product has been designed to play movies on iPads and provide storage, a server, Wi-Fi router and charging, is it the ultimate simplicity for biz jet IFE? So, we asked a few specific questions and here is what Tyler had to say:
“You had asked about how we came to develop SkyFlix 2. We had a customer who had purchased a Gulfstream and installed satellite internet, prior to chartering it. The first bill they received was well into the five figure range after passengers downloaded a couple movies during a flight. Needless to say they weren’t very happy. The owner wanted an IFE system so that passengers could keep themselves entertained without using the internet connection. We looked at what was on the general aviation market, and found that most systems were extremely expensive and lacking features we thought they should have.”
“Most IFE systems are only designed to provide media streaming, requiring a separate wireless router and often requiring passengers to use their own devices. Having so many different systems that need to work well together made it hard for the flight crews to guarantee a good passenger experience, and all the different parts made it difficult to troubleshoot when problems arose.”
Further, Tyler noted: “We wanted to design SkyFlix 2 to be as simple as possible by designing every aspect of the passenger experience, and found that by making it totally portable we had the freedom to do so. We could design our own media server, wireless router, and use our own devices to be sure that everything worked as we intended while ensuring reliability. Our goal was to design a system that would fade into the background; all the crew and passengers would have to worry about was picking up an iPad and enjoying themselves.”
“Our first system was met with great reviews from flight crews and passengers alike, and shortly thereafter the operator ordered a second unit for another of their aircraft. They continued to receive accolades, and we decided to further develop and refine our idea. After several years of feedback from our customers the result is SkyFlix 2.”
Next, we wanted a bit more about the product:
1. What does the full system weigh?
Answer: “The system weighs 12 pounds without iPads and requires 110 or 220v at a max of 150W. Each iPad adds an additional pound.”
2. What Tablet is included or can be used (currently Apple iPad only?) and we assume there is a world of apps available?
Answer: “Our charging system is designed to support the latest iPad Pro 9.7″ as well as the iPad Air 2. We designed SkyFlix 2 to be easily upgradable to support future iPads as they become available. Our iPad application can also be loaded and used on personal devices. Also, given that we use iPad, we can load games, magazines and apps available from the App Store. We generally configure the iPads for customers before shipping so that our customers only need to load content and put SkyFlix 2 on their aircraft. Our customers can load additional apps at any time internet is available. I should also note that in our device, we support 802.11AC which is the fastest Wi-Fi the iPads support. It can deliver up to 3 times faster performance then 802.11N routers, as well as having longer range.”
3. Is there a way to lock the Apple devices in the power/case?
Answer: “We don’t currently have a way to lock them into the unit. We provide a Pelican Hard Case with every unit that can be used to secure the unit if there is a concern.”
4. Can the supplier or operator load apps…We assume the user cannot?
Answer: “We generally configure the iPads for customers before shipping so that our customers only need to load content and put SkyFlix 2 on their aircraft. Our customers can load additional apps at any time the internet is available.”
5. Who loads the movies, where are they located, and how many minutes of total movies on hard disk of server?
Answer: “The end user loads the content they would like. Once they prepare the content and load it onto SkyFlix 2, our server will automatically recognize the content and download metadata, graphics and other information. Our system comes with 2TB of solid state storage, which can hold over 400 1080P High Def movies.”
6. Is there a way to notify the crew of tablet numbers without opening a storage location so the crew can remain knowledgeable about device security?
Answer: “To help make it easy to keep track of the iPads, we offer laser engraving so customers can have their logo right on the iPads so they are easily identifiable, as well as running Find my iPad so if any devices leave the aircraft they can be located. In our experience thus far that has been sufficient in preventing any issues about device security. We also do plan on adding a way to check on the status of the unit and iPads from other devices in the future.”
7. What about certification?
Answer: “Skyflix 2 is considered carry on equipment, which makes it easy to move units around to suit the customers’ needs. Multiple units can easily be used together on an aircraft. Since SkyFlix 2 is treated as a portable electronic device, and therefore, it is classified as “loose equipment”. We are able to do so since it only connects to an AC power outlet and is not permanently installed in the aircraft.”
8. How do you handle planes with more passengers than iPads?
Answer: “One of our customers has several units, when they anticipate needing a second unit on a flight they can easily move it around as needed. In another instance a customer with a 40 seat BBJ purchased 5 units to ensure they have an iPad available for every passenger.”
9. Who are your customers, then?
Answer: “Presently, we are only going after business aviation customers. Most of our customers are either company owned flight departments or charter operations. We wanted to solve pain points for business aircraft and we don’t think that would translate as well to commercial airlines, at least not yet. Most commercial airlines would likely want installed systems, and want to avoid providing devices. In the future we might revisit that but given the amount of competition in that market we have no immediate plans to do so. And by the way, the unit price is easily under $20,000.”
10. Since the “system” is plugged in, does the iPad device last playing movies the usual length of the iPad power per charge?
Answer: “The iPads will last long enough to watch movies for the duration of just about any flight. While using our application the battery life would be similar, if not identical to, using any other.”
11. What is the future for SkyFlix 2 and your company?
Answer: “We decided early on that commercial airlines wouldn’t be likely customers. From what we found they would be much more conservative and likely to want a certified and installed system rather then a portable one. At some point we might go that route but we think our business aviation customers much prefer the flexibility and upgradability of our portable systems.
All along we talked to other companies that wanted to get into the commercial airline IFE market and they found the sales process to take an extremely long time. As they got close to a sale, a competitor would add a new feature forcing them to add something similar and restart the process.
Our company wanted to avoid that cycle by sticking with business aviation where it was much easier to get the principles to sign off. We can just send out a demonstration unit to a potential customer and get approval at the end of the flight rather then spending months trying to work our way into a large airline… at least for now.”
12. How about providing our readers with some company contact information?
(Editor’s Note: Tyler is a good guy, think about SkyFlix 2 if you need a small, carry on IFE solution. Hey, how often does the CEO take information calls?)
News & Other:
- AS-IP TECH, INC.’S WORLD’S FIRST BLUETOOTH SMART INFLIGHT CONNECTIVITY SOLUTION TO BE LAUNCHED BY JETFLY Geneva, Switzerland, May 24, 2016 – AS-IP Tech, Inc. (OTCMKTS:IPTK) announced today that its distributor BizjetMobile Europe has secured Jetfly as the launch customer for CHiiMP Smart, the world’s first Bluetooth Smart inflight connectivity solution.
CHiiMP Smart was unveiled at the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) as the smallest, lightest and most inexpensive inflight connectivity system in the industry that utilizes Bluetooth Smart technology to provide voice, text and email functions. At EBACE, Jetfly CEO Cedric Lescop said, “We’re excited to be installing the CHiiMP Smart system on our fleet of Pilatus PC-12’s. Our aircraft owners, crew and clients will now be able to stay in contact wherever and whenever they fly. We chose CHiiMP Smart because of its simplicity, easy installation and low operating costs. It will further enhance our commitment to be ‘simply closer’”.
AS-IP Tech, Inc. CEO Ron Chapman said, “AS-IP Tech, Inc. is pioneering an alternate course of connectivity in the global aerospace industry. We expect CHiiMP Smart to show the world that our range of Bluetooth Smart connectivity solutions are an exciting alternative to the traditionally expensive Wi-Fi platform. Our ambition is to be the first in the world to deliver inflight communications to passengers for the same price in the air as on the ground. We believe AS-IP Tech, Inc.’s unique Bluetooth Smart platform will be the catalyst that upheaves traditional communication models on airlines and beyond.” Readers: Keep your eye on this technology cause it has the potential to make commercial inflight texting and email very cheap… or free!
- Think flying is just too expensive, perhaps a cost analysis is in order? We have always wanted to figure why airline tickets cost what they do – Try this video… and (hint), your ticket is a good deal: Why flying is so expensive – Travelers United
- Don’t forget, June 6 – 9 “The Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) is proud to invite you to attend APEX TECH (8-9 June), a gathering of the most forward-thinking and insightful minds in the passenger experience industry, immediately following the 2016 Global Connected Aircraft Summit (6-8 June)!”
EBACE, Geneva, Switzerland | May 24, 2016– AS-IP Tech, Inc. (OTCMKTS:IPTK) announced today that its distributor BizjetMobile Europe has secured Jetfly as the launch customer for CHiiMP Smart, the world’s first Bluetooth Smart inflight connectivity solution.
CHiiMP Smart was unveiled at the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) as the smallest, lightest and most inexpensive inflight connectivity system in the industry that utilises Bluetooth Smart technology to provide voice, text and email functions.
At EBACE, Jetfly CEO Cedric Lescop said, “We’re excited to be installing the CHiiMP Smart system on our fleet of Pilatus PC-12’s. Our aircraft owners, crew and clients will now be able to stay in contact wherever and whenever they fly. We chose CHiiMP Smart because of its simplicity, easy installation and low operating costs. It will further enhance our commitment to be ‘simply closer’”.
AS-IP Tech, Inc. CEO Ron Chapman said, “AS-IP Tech, Inc. is pioneering an alternate course of connectivity in the global aerospace industry. We expect CHiiMP Smart to show the world that our range of Bluetooth Smart connectivity solutions are an exciting alternative to the traditionally expensive Wi-Fi platform. Our ambition is to be the first in the world to deliver inflight communications to passengers for the same price in the air as on the ground. We believe AS-IP Tech, Inc.’s unique Bluetooth Smart platform will be the catalyst that upheaves traditional communication models on airlines and beyond.”
Zodiac Inflight Innovations
Perhaps the biggest Zodiac (Zii) news we discussed was the announcement in June of the Zodiac selection by Airbus for high bandwidth connectivity and they note that Zii was chosen as a Buyer Furnished Equipment (BFE) for the Airbus High Bandwidth Connectivity (HBC) solution. Zodiac Inflight Innovations is supplying aircraft equipment, and other terminal hardware. As Lead supplier, Zodiac Inflight Innovations will manage the integration of the system and facilitate the Inmarsat Global Xpress service directly. The current scope of the HBC program covers the Ka-band system for A320 single aisle family, the A330 long range family and the A380 aircraft. Larry Girard, Executive Vice President at Zodiac Inflight Innovations states: “The end result will be that airlines will be able to have different HBC options on multiple aircraft types, while providing a consistent service to both passengers and the airlines day-to-day operations. As the Lead supplier, Zodiac Inflight Innovations’ role is bringing together all the components for the High Bandwidth Connectivity program, including our own, and matching them to the Airbus process.” Zodiac Inflight Innovations is providing an ARINC-791 compliant radome, adapter plate, skirt seal, antenna, as well as other terminal hardware. The radome and adapter plate have been designed to be sufficiently flexible to accommodate other Ka-band antennas, minimizing the work required for future HBC systems. This makes Zii the only IFE connectivity vendor across the current Airbus aircraft platforms – that’s a big deal! Twenty five airlines around the world with over 200 aircraft in service are already using Zii Inflight Entertainment which includes their RAVE Centric AVOD system and their latest RAVE Wireless streaming entertainment system (system diagram). Today, some 250 people work in Brea, CA (Zii’s home) and we expect to see more sale troops in the near future. Success at Airbus include line-fit on A350, A330, & A320 families. Further, we expect some events with Boeing soon. On the retrofit side, Zii told us that they have a ‘variety of suppliers’ to provide turn-key installations from hardware to certification, including long term support.
From a hardware perspective, Zii has a new supply of screens available that include 10.1”, 11.6”, 13.3”, and a stunning 18.5” screen. We note that the last three are 1080p devices! And yes, all are dockable units. We also note that they are not streaming to each seat – there is a 1.5 TB storage in the seatback electronics so content is downloaded prior to display and we note the quality is beautiful. As Harry Gray, VP Sales & Marketing, noted: “Storage in the STU cloud and at the seat delivers stunning and reliable inseat display images.” We agree.
SITA OnAir demonstrated how the passenger experience is being transformed by their e-Aircraft concept. They discussed the key developments based on the advent of the global high through-put satellite link, GX Aviation. In fact, they showed how the increased connectivity affected 6 key ‘audiences’ (aircraft included) for the improved data rates: 1) Passengers benefit from a richer, more interactive infotainment experience. At the Expo they launched their latest inflight portal for passengers, 2) Cabin Crew can now personalize passenger interaction with real-time information available at their fingertips. Also, they demonstrated their latest CrewTablet developments, 3) Cockpit Crew can also deliver a safer, more comfortable journey to passengers thanks to live weather updates sent directly to EFBs, 4) Flight Operations can enhance passenger safety by tracking aircraft wherever they are in the world using AIRCOM FlightTracker – and a number of airlines have already signed up, 5) Aircraft transmits maintenance requirement data, ensuring teams are waiting at the gate to keep turnaround time to a minimum, 6) And finally, Air Traffic Control enhances both safety and efficiency by streamlining communications between pilots and air traffic managers. SITA likes to call these ‘nose-to-tail’ solutions and they told IFExpress that there is an airline evaluating all these functions in real time today. One of the SITA OnAir prophets is Francois Rodriguez, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer and he told IFExpress: “It is all real and being deployed and we are working with airlines to enable them all with nose-to-tail solutions.” If you are curious about the joining of the two companies and their resultant efforts, their website sheds a bit more information on their combined strategy: “On January 1 2015 , SITA and OnAir formed SITA OnAir as part of the SITA Group, to help airlines realize the full potential of the connected aircraft. The core of the new business organization is SITA’s proven knowledge of airline communications and IT, and OnAir’s expertise in supplying in-flight connectivity. By bringing together SITA’s and OnAir’s industry leadership and expertise; in ground and inflight connectivity, cockpit data services and air traffic management solutions, aircraft communications and infrastructure solutions, as well as application development for both passengers and crew, SITA OnAir sets the benchmark for true nose-to-tail solutions. SITA OnAir provides the complete range of products and services an airline needs to realize the full potential of the connected aircraft regardless of fleet size, route structure or aircraft type.” And lastly, SITA OnAir demonstrated a passenger App that interacts with passengers during their entire flight, As an example, they use beacon technology to connect with the passenger on the ground and continues via a hand-off with them in the air. You can find out more about SITA OnAir here and check out their e-aircraft portfolio. Stay Tuned.
One of the more interesting small companies that we discovered last year at AIX, was Jetpack from England. They were at APEX this year and while we noted their independent programming collections, they abound in a lot of technology and gadgets that they have developed for airlines. While we don’t know how successful they have been, their Director of Technology, Ed Pleydell-Bouverie was one of the most interesting fellows at the show. He told IFExpress: “We have developed iBeacons, a Portable App Distributer that uses Raspberry Pi computer, augmented reality glasses, and a lot of ‘specialty devices’ for airlines.“ Perhaps his best comment that summed up their charter was, “We do oddball stuff.” Yes you do, Ed, yes you do!
The anti-hacking surprise award at APEX goes to BAE Systems and if you have never talked to Dave Kingston about the subject – do so! We met Dave last year when we talked about their power supplies for inseat applications. As head of Business Development, he had our complete attention and for the first time, we heard a lot about anti hacking on commercial aircraft via the connectivity systems. We got the crypto discussions when they mentioned their content encrypted entertainment programming. The IntelliCabin devices can download encryption Apps that allow their DRM players to send out first encrypted entertainment without worry of copying or data intervention. It seems that they had to prove to the studios that the player Apps do not corrupt, omit, or scramble transmitted movie frames; as a result, some of the major Hollywood movie houses have approved their solution. This is a big deal. Dave told us that they have been working the issue for 18 months, and focusing on a solution for the last six. The reason BAE Systems can do what they do is buried in their $26 B military business that dwells in cybersecurity, military contracts and technology in general. They consulted on the security problem with movie content, accessed their practices and evaluated their network security. In fact, the tech folks there simulated attacks and looked across the whole air and ground IFE and content systems. Dave told us that currently IntelliCabin is not on a connected aircraft, but from a total security point of view, they will have to simulate more attack scenarios that include passenger attempts to load malware on devices that talk to the streaming source of content in the air and ground via their PEDs. This is big stuff and BAE Systems is a leader now in this technology. Obviously, this will make their products more marketable, especially in the near future when these critical and non-critical domains are attacked. Dave summed it up perfectly: “Our Wi-Fi is now the equal of an embedded system.” Their App software knows what device it is running on, it adjusts to that device, the user interface adapts to the device (This is a very nice function), and the system constantly adapts to the streaming content, including the adjustment of the device controls. As far as we know, no one else does this ‘cloud adaptation’ of content streaming. BAE Systems has come a long way and their focus on security will pay off, especially when the studios get a look at their solutions.
Involved with security in your company? You might want to read this.
If you are an engineer, or you like science and engineering, you must go see ‘The Martian’, you wont Be disappointed. Sir Ridley Scott is a genius.
Lastly, Ron Chapman noted recently that future inflight connectivity users might have a frequent ‘FFLYA’ in their future. Oh, look it up!
- SITA Lab reports findings
London, UK | March 11, 2014–
Beacon technology has been hailed as a game-changer in retail. It uses Bluetooth to trigger the display of information on phones and tablets that is relevant to the specific location and context of the user. But will Beacons be used at the world’s airports? SITA Lab, the technology research team of the air transport industry’s IT provider SITA, has conducted the earliest trials of beacon technology at airports and has today issued its findings in its paper “Connecting to your passenger – are beacons the breakthrough?”
Connecting and communicating efficiently with passengers throughout their journey is a widely-held goal in the air transport industry and SITA Lab’s research has investigated the potential of using beacon technology in today’s airports. The benefits being touted for the technology, such as low cost and wide range, have a strong appeal for anyone wanting to connect directly with customers. But SITA Lab investigated if the technology works as advertized in the real world. Trials with a leading international airline and airport have produced results which are both promising and cautionary.
SITA’S Chief Technology Officer, and the head of SITA Lab, Jim Peters, said: “The relatively low cost of beacons makes them an attractive option for airports, but we need to be careful of adopting a gold rush approach to deploying them. It is clear from our initial research that beacons should be treated as a common-use piece of infrastructure. Airports serve multiple airlines, and airlines travel to multiple airports. It is a very complex network – too complex for everyone to manage their own deployments. It will need careful management.
“Airports also need to carefully manage their radio space as beacons, which are radio-emitting devices, are deployed. They will need to have clear visibility of where, and how, the beacons are being set up to avoid disruption to each other’s signals and existing Wi-Fi infrastructure.”
SITA Lab’s research has highlighted that at airports, where an airline does not have dedicated gates or other infrastructure, a common-use approach to beacon technology makes sense. Shared beacons, that different airlines could associate their own mobile apps to as and when required, would be far more efficient and effective than each airline managing a set of beacons at each airport.
It is already a model used effectively for other shared services at the world’s airports, such as check-in, bag drop and gate infrastructure. And now for beacons, SITA is taking up the challenge for the industry in its role as the community provider.
Peters announced: “SITA Lab is currently building an industry registry for all beacons. The goal is that any airline will have a single point of contact to go to use any beacon deployed by airports around the world. We are already working with some early adopters but are looking for other airports, airlines and app developers who are interested in leveraging the potential of beacons in the air transport industry to join the project.”
Early indications, based on work by SITA Lab, suggest airports could become a prime user of the technology. However, unless an industry registry is embraced, the risk is that deployments of beacons will be piecemeal and proprietary, limiting the potential of the technology.
Those interested in working with SITA Lab can contact Lead Engineer Kevin O’Sullivan and get more information here.
Back in June, we brought you some early results and information on Ron Chapman’s Bluetooth initiative to use lower power Bluetooth capability for inflight connectivity. Today, they are closer to the messaging solution and we thought our readers might like to see where Ron’s Bizjet/commercial aircraft system is heading. If you remember, the ASIQ System (now called BizjetMobile) basically sits between aircraft Satellite units (SDU) and passengers who use their Smartphones to communicate email, SMS, or voice on the plane.
The system utilizes a laptop/tablet server (UMPC) and “talks” to the SDU in one of two ways. Ron noted the hardware setup to IFExpress: “One way, via USB or Ethernet to the Iridium/Thuraya/Inmarsat Data port; or Two, via USB to our custom built voice modem which controls the SATCOM Voice Channel. This is the small box we call the voice interface.” (Editors Note: To expand the thought a bit further, the system for a Bizjet has 2 connections from the UMPC to the SDU. One for data, using either USB or Ethernet depending on which SATCOM units are installed and one for voice using either POTS or the analog speaker/mic input. Airline units will only have one data connection). All SATCOMS have this interface. In most cases we just take over one handset port. Please note, we do not use VOIP, it is PCM at work here.”
As we noted before, their Bluetooth-based system will begin operation on Bizjets, however here’s what Ron said about coming commercial aircraft applications, “The airline version will be data only SMS, Text email, plus a Twitter and Facebook messaging interface, that should raise some eyebrows in the industry! Moreover, what it will do, is for the first time ever, drop the price of messaging in an aircraft and it will be the same as if you were on your mobile phone at home.” We note, there is another surprise but we can’t talk about it yet – you might want to read the forthcoming third part of the trilogy! Here are a few FAQ’s that ASIQ sent in response to airlines and bizjet operators who have been deluging them with questions.
Lastly, we encourage our readers to watch this development because it just may bring low cost, satcom-based connectivity to planes equipped with slower data-rate satellite hardware, especially in places over water. Moreover, at lower price points, mobile data users are more likely to use SMS, Twitter, and Facebook for their connectivity. Wait till Part 3 – Stay Tuned!
Melbourne Australia March 5, 2010 — ASiQ limited announced today the release of the world’s first aircraft Bluetooth Access Point.
Ron Chapman ASiQ’s CEO stated “up until now passengers have only had very expensive options for in flight mobile phone communications however, with the evolution of our SafeCell App, combined with our new Bluetooth Access Point, airlines will now be able to offer their passengers affordable SMS, MMS, voice messaging and text email on the popular device of choice, the mobile phone. Better still SafeCell eliminates GSM roaming charges, as it does not require a GSM Picocell connection to deliver its services.”
Bluetooth access points are more efficient, as they operate as a Personal Area Network (PAN) and unlike Wi-Fi do not have the expensive and cumbersome process of connecting to the internet, in order to establish a link. The SafeCell App is unique in that file sizes are so small, even a narrow band satellite link can accommodate the basic texting needs of every passenger. Plus, Bluetooth can transmit at up to 3 megabits per second, which means it can accommodate any data or media requirement.
With ASiQ’s proprietary PAN design, two access points can cover a narrow body aircraft such as a Boeing 737 or Airbus 320. Up to 192 mobiles can be logged on to an Access Point, which more than covers every passenger onboard the aircraft.
Ron believes Bluetooth has an enormous future, which is justified by the latest ABI research.
First News Briefs for December 8, 2009 extract states “ABI Research reports that nearly 2 billion Bluetooth chipsets are forecast to ship in 2014 alone. More than half will be found in wireless handsets. In 2014, Bluetooth will be found in 70 percent of all handsets and 83 percent of all netbooks.” Compare this to the fact that less than 10% of mobiles have Wi-Fi and it’s clear to see why Bluetooth is the best solution.
When you consider that SafeCell systems will costs as little as $10k per aircraft, compared to GSM based systems costing around $500k per aircraft and a Wi-Fi system costing around $100K per aircraft for a US domestic airline and up to $350k for an intentional airline, there is no comparison.
Several airlines have been following the progress of SafeCell which was patented in January this year and Ron expects to announce the first installation of the new access point in the second quarter of 2010.
Melbourne Australia 19th February 2010
Ron Chapman CEO of ASiQ Limited announced today that SafeCell will change the rules for in-flight messaging.
Ron stated “When we created SafeCell, the initial App was designed as a low cost Mobile phone platform for corporate jets. Refer ifexpress article
We have now tested our App on every available aircraft satellite network and recently received the latest Inmarsat swift broadband aircraft system.
We activated the SafeCell App on multiple mobile phones and were simultaneously sending SMS, MMS and Voice messages in both directions. As such, we are now confident we could accommodate the messaging requirements of 400+ passengers on a jumbo.
Not only that, unlike existing systems, SafeCell does not incur GSM roaming charges and we see no reason messaging in an aircraft should be more expensive than on the ground and its time someone did something about it.
As such, for the first time in aviation communications history, the price of SafeCell in-flight messaging can actually be cheaper than on the ground. We are talking of providing an SMS service that could be as low as 5 cents per message and MMS for under 25 cents, plus Instant Messaging for free.
We know from our competitor’s flight test on QANTAS and Air France that hundreds of messages are being sent on flights, despite their high roaming charges. We believe that SafeCell’s lower cost will make it affordable for all passengers, not just the business traveller.
The SafeCell App achieves this, as it makes the Bluetooth connection on the mobile the primary link and connects to a Bluetooth hotspot in the aircraft. SafeCell delivers its service via low cost satellites through the Internet, avoiding the GSM roaming charges.
The App makes a Bluetooth dumb phone smart and a smartphone even smarter and as Bluetooth is up to 3 Mbps, speed is not an issue.
We now see SafeCell as a real option for all airlines.”
Later this month ASiQ will release the worlds first certifiable Bluetooth Hotspot
Today’s Hot Topic should really be titled “Bluetooth v3.0” but, to put the ongoing hardware convergence into perspective, we need to look at one concept driving PEDS, or in other terminology, Mobile Phones and Mobile Internet Devices (MID’s). And don’t worry, we have Inflight Entertainment impact…but we will get to that later.
The CS-LL concept can be described as the next movement in the mobile chip world who’s goal is to increase the “gozinta’s” and “gozouta’s” of mobile devices. As we rely more on portable electronics as our go-to device, the ability to interface with new sources such as cameras, Internet, DVD Players, iPODs, keyboards, mice, etc. and new output devices and locations like LCD screens, MP3 players, Internet, etc, your mobile device needs new connections at higher speeds, utilizing less power. Frankly, so does anything working with, talking to, and generally involved with IFE.
Remember the concept of hardware convergence in the first paragraph? Well the latest specification divulged by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group meeting, v3.0, really ramps up the possibility of much higher data rates…up to 24 Mbps! The new Protocol Adaption Layer mimics the 802.11 specifications and with 2 radios (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth), the latest Broadcom devices allow bifurcated data channels that let the low speed information move thru Bluetooth connections and the high bandwidth content fly down the Wi-Fi highway. What once was 3 Mbps (v2.1) is now 24 Mbps, and by using the Wi-Fi protocols, better battery efficiency is an additional benefit.
Now, the IFE connection! Bluetooth v3.0 at 24 Mbps would have some potential for data loading. Assume that a 2-hour movie in H.264 or WMV might require 1.2 to 1.5GB of storage, so you can calculate the loading time based on the Bluetooth 3.0 level of deployment. With built in Wi-Fi protocols, one can imagine the flexibility of offering a data loader that operated in wired and/or wireless modes that could be offered as “one size fits all”…it adapts itself to the loading interface.
But the real interesting application is the one using your Bluetooth v3.0 MID on an airplane. That story has already been written and you can view that application in our premier edition of the IFExpress Special Edition – link below. Further, we really got interested in the cabin potential for this new version of Bluetooth after we wrote the story. So, we contacted Ron Chapman, the Australian IFE developer featured in the Special Edition about his expectations and view of Bluetooth in the cabin.
Ron told IFExpress, “The next generation 3.0 phone becomes your inflight video screen, particularly for those regional airlines that cannot afford to install the inseat or overhead IFE. Think of the weight, power, fuel, and cost savings! Safecell airlines will provide the very first step in this direction with some content capability. Both broadcast and individual download. Yes I know it’s a small screen but look at the Nintendo DS, where will it go with Bluetooth v3.0? When we created the Safecell concept in July 2006, I was of the opinion that if your cell phone can replace your camera and MP3, player then it will replace your DVD player – you don’t need to be Einstien to work that one out. So now, it looks like it can happen. With the amount content today’s generation handles and the integration of Bluetooth v3.0 into TV’s, all the IFE manufacturer needs to do is implement a short range low power chip in each screen/seat. Passenegers could then carry on thier own content and watch on the inseat screen (or vise versa) and no more cables to plug in. Obviously battery life is key, but at the moment phones are as good a DVD player and better than laptops on battery.”
- Kevin Kahn on Redefining Mobility: Carry Small, Live Large
- New Bluetooth 3.0 specification approved
- Bluetooth 3.0 arrives with promise of eightfold speed increase
- Wikipedia: Bluetooth
- IFExpress Special Edition: ASI SafeCell