- Lufthansa Systems enters into partnership with Canada’s premier research and technology organization
Raunheim, Germany | September 29, 2015– Lufthansa Systems announced today that they have entered into a strategic partnership with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC). Under the agreement, the aviation IT specialist will make its BoardConnect in-flight entertainment solution available for use in the research facility’s cabin simulator. At the same time, specialists from both organizations will collaborate on the further development of the innovative IFE system.
The National Research Council is currently building a brand new Cabin Comfort and Environment Research facility. The facility has been designed to authentically simulate the entire airport and aircraft environment, from check-in to cabin – including vibration, noise and in-flight entertainment. It will assist airlines, aircraft manufacturers and other aviation industry suppliers to investigate the passengers’ travel experience and develop new technologies to improve their comfort and satisfaction before, during and after the flight.
With BoardConnect, NRC will be able to offer its airline customers a proven IFE system that is already in service with international airlines. For its part, Lufthansa Systems will gain an opportunity to showcase its wireless IFE platform in an authentic and pioneering environment. Both existing and potential customers will be able to test the system live in a modern, high-quality setting.
“We plan to cooperate closely with the National Research Council in the future in terms of features and functionalities,” says Norbert Müller, Senior Vice President BoardConnect. “Like ourselves, NRC has many highly capable software developers. This partnership will enable us to benefit from each other’s expertise and experience and has the potential to greatly enhance the creative development of our BoardConnect platform in the future.”
The research center, currently under construction in Ottawa, Canada, will open its doors during the summer of 2016. BoardConnect is expected to be installed by the end of this year.
- The mobile payment solution SK100 of YouTransactor facilitates the payment of in-flight entertainment services designed by Lufthansa Systems for airlines.
Portland, Oregon, APEX EXPO | September 29, 2015– GMX YouTransactor, the software publisher and hardware manufacturer of mobile payment solutions for transport operators, and Lufthansa Systems GmbH & Co. KG, one of the world’s leading providers of IT services for the airline industry, announce today at APEX Expo the joint demonstration of their solutions.
Airline companies are offering to their passengers a great diversity of in-flight entertainment (IFE) services. Besides enriching passengers’ travel experience, the wireless IFE platform BoardConnect also makes cabin crew’s live easier and increases airline business options. During a flight, passengers can enjoy a variety of entertainment like movies or music. Additionally, airlines can communicate with their passengers while generating additional revenues at the same time.
To demonstrate how much payment of BoardConnect IFE services can be facilitated, Lufthansa Systems has selected the SK100 mobile payment solution from GMX YouTransactor. The solution empowers cabin crew’s capabilities to offer user-friendly payment options (contactless NFC, mag stripe, chip & pin and cash) via the use of a BoardConnect WiFi-connected compact handheld device.
- APEX 2015: New version of the IFE solution especially for short- and medium-haul flights
Raunheim | September 28, 2015– Lufthansa Systems today announced that it will showcase a new version of BoardConnect Portable, its multiple award-winning in-flight entertainment (IFE) solution, at this year’s APEX in Portland, Oregon. Visitors to the trade fair can also get the latest on new features for the BoardConnect wireless infotainment platform and the mCabin crew app.
BoardConnect Portable is even easier to use and more flexible than the conventional BoardConnect solution. The portable version is designed for carriers wishing to avoid high capital outlay in permanently installed hardware and install IFE mainly in smaller aircraft that are used for short- and medium-haul flights. The advantage of the new all-in-one solution is that all of the technical components needed for an IFE system – such as a server and access points – are combined in a single device, the Mobile Streaming Unit (MSU). An MSU can supply up to 50 passengers with top-quality streamed content. This means that in narrow-body aircraft two to three MSUs are sufficient to provide all passengers with a special IFE experience.
Another positive aspect is the ease of installation. An MSU is about the size of a conventional tablet and weighs less than 1,5 kg, so there is no need for elaborate cabling. MSUs therefore qualify as non-permanently installed equipment and can be mounted or removed without affecting other components in the aircraft, for example in the galley. This eliminates high costs for hardware, fitting and certification – plus in leased aircraft the system can be transferred immediately for further use. What is more, an integrated modem allows rapid wireless updates of content while the aircraft is on the ground.
Italy’s Air Dolomiti will be the first carrier to use the new flexible IFE solution BoardConnect Portable. The provider and the airline recently signed a corresponding letter of intent for further cooperation.
The conventional BoardConnect system is a wireless IFE solution that passengers can use to stream content to their own tablets or smartphones during a flight with an app. The solution’s established features include video and audio on demand, games, a shop and a moving map with points of interest (POI) relating to various topics. But BoardConnect is more than a conventional IFE system: it enables airlines to provide their passengers with additional services along the entire travel chain. With the new On-Ground Portal, passengers can now see what entertainment will be available on board even before their flight and find their favorite movies or put together playlists of their favorite music. Furthermore, other services to generate additional revenue for the airlines and their partners, such as hotel bookings, tickets for events or places of interest at the destination plus additional advertising, can be straightforwardly integrated thanks to the open platform architecture.
Visitors to the APEX can also find out more about the mCabin crew app. mCabin is a state-of-the-art, professional tool that supports cabin attendants in all stages and processes before, during and after a flight. The app contains information for the in-flight service such as a list of all passengers together with details of passenger seat numbers, status, meal preferences and special assistance. For crew management mCabin’s features include interactive duty rosters, briefing documents and the assignment of working positions based on the flight attendants’ qualifications. Thanks to its powerful reporting capabilities, incidents on board can be immediately processed digitally. Via an existing Internet connection the crew can also promptly communicate important information directly to flight operations. Another new feature is that it is now also possible to display a number of services on the new Microsoft Band and Windows phones. The mCabin crew app is compatible with BoardConnect and its operations can be synchronized.
Visit Lufthansa Systems at this year’s APEX in Portland from September 28 through October 1, stand # 1029, Hall A.
- Maximum flexibility with BoardConnect: Lufthansa Systems offers Neos individual content for passengers from different tour operators
Raunheim | September 23, 2015– Lufthansa Systems today announced that the Italian airline Neos will soon offer its passengers innovative in-flight entertainment (IFE) via the wireless BoardConnect infotainment system. The IFE platform from Lufthansa Systems enables passengers to access information, entertainment and services on their own devices. The two companies recently signed a five-year contract for the solution.
“We were won over by the system’s reliability and 100-percent in-flight availability. With BoardConnect we can offer our passengers exactly the kind of modern in-flight entertainment that matches our brand,” said Carlo Stradiotti, CEO of Neos.
The wireless BoardConnect IFE solution enables passengers to access a wide range of entertainment content during a flight, including movies, TV shows, music and games, by connecting to a WiFi network through an app on their own tablets or smartphones. The system also includes a shop and a moving map with points of interest (POI) relating to various subjects.
Neos is an airline that offers a variety of services and as such benefits in different ways from the flexibility of the BoardConnect IFE system. Neos usually flies with passengers who have booked trips through different travel providers. BoardConnect makes it possible to offer these passenger groups different content. Neos also operates full charter flights and can now provide these customers with a special service: In addition to the existing entertainment program offered through BoardConnect, additional content relating to the travel destination or the company organizing the charter flight, for example, can now be included in the system at short notice.
“Neos is the latest European airline after Lufthansa and EL AL to opt for our BoardConnect IFE solution,” said Marco Cesa, Senior Vice President Regional Management EMEA at Lufthansa Systems. “We are especially pleased that Neos is taking full advantage of the platform’s flexibility to offer individualized services to its customers as required.”
BoardConnect will initially be installed in the three Boeing 767-300ER aircraft in the Neos fleet. The agreement covers BoardConnect itself as well as additional certification regarding the extended functionalities of the IFE system in this aircraft by Lufthansa Technik. The two subsidiaries of the Lufthansa Group are working very closely together in this context to offer their customer a full-service installation of the new IFE solution.
Neos is the official airline of the Italian tourism company Alpitour. The airline is based in Somma Lombardo and specializes in flights for various travel providers. It carries passengers to numerous European and intercontinental destinations with its fleet of six Boeing 737-800W and three 767-300ER aircraft.
Caption (Copyright Lufthansa Systems): With BoardConnect passengers can enjoy in-flight entertainment on their own devices.
- Award-winning wireless solution sets new standard in in-flight entertainment
Kelsterbach, Germany | October 23, 2013–EL AL Israel Airlines has selected the wireless in-flight entertainment system BoardConnect to offer its passengers a rich choice of entertainment and information on its flights. The award winning solution will be installed on 10 Boeing 737 and 2 Boeing 767. BoardConnect sets a new standard in in-flight entertainment. Using their laptops, tablet PCs or smartphones EL AL passengers will be able to access on-demand audio and video and other content.
“BoardConnect represents a very essential asset to our overall product enhancement strategy. With BoardConnect we will be able to offer our passengers a significantly advanced travel experience”, said Elyezer Shkedy, CEO of EL AL. “EL AL is one of the first airlines worldwide and the first airline that provides this service from Israel to Europe and vice versa, which offer sophisticated in-flight infotainment not only on wide-body aircraft, but on 737-class aircraft as well. This gives us a significant competitive advantage.”
“We are proud that EL AL as one of the leading Middle East carriers has selected BoardConnect”, said Stefan Hansen, CEO of Lufthansa Systems. “This award-winning solution is a great example of successful innovation by Lufthansa Systems. It is a revolution in IFE, which not only takes in-flight entertainment to a new level but opens up entirely new ways how airlines communicate and interact with their passengers on-board.”
Lufthansa Systems BoardConnect sets a new standard in many respects. Unlike conventional in-flight entertainment systems for commercial aircraft, BoardConnect does not require any complicated wiring for each seat. Instead, it works with a regular WLAN and depending on aircraft size needs only two to five access points in the cabin to stream a broad variety of content to every passenger’s device. The solution is user-friendly and impressively versatile. It can be used with iOS, Android, Windows 8 as well as conventional Windows or Apple devices.
BoardConnect is more flexible than conventional in-seat IFE systems for commercial aircraft. The installation doesn’t need an extensive downtime like a major overhaul or a cabin refurbishment. This saves costs and allows for a fast rollout of the product. Less complexity and of-the-shelve components lead to high reliability and lower maintenance cost for BoardConnect. Additionally it is not only a high performance solution but also lightweight, if compared with embedded in-seat IFE. This means for a Boeing 737 an airline will save about 50 tons of fuel per aircraft per year.
See you at Aircraft Interiors America in Seattle? Today, the The Seating & IFE Integration Symposium begins at the Washington State Convention Center and the event and is a one day feature wherein industry experts lead presentations and debates on the evolving relationship between the seat and inflight entertainment & connectivity systems. The floor opens Tuesday night with a preview and for two days following will accommodate visitors. By the way, there is a new AIX App.
Before we get into the ‘meat’ of this IFExpress, we wanted to give some mention to Mark Thompson, (CEO, Thompson Aerospace) and his team at APEX for their clever promotions, and while this is not the medium to cover promotions, Thompson Aerospace concocted an easy way for attendees to build their own advertising banner for his IFE system, built on the spot by the attendee (get the message?), and offered an Internet tablet to the advert that got the most ‘hits’ at the show on their system. Not to be outdone by his tablet deal was the ‘Free Money’ campaign (Our words not his) that rewarded everyone that heard his spiel with a gold $1 coin. He was telling airlines that advertising and promotion on his IFE was like free money. You bet he had our attention… free money, we liked it!
At APEX, Lufthansa Systems had their official press briefing on the sale announcement of their BoardConnect IFE system to parent company airline, Lufthansa. The deal covers some 20 Lufthansa A321 aircraft and will begin in the summer of 2014 and Lufthansa Technik will carry out installation. To date, the company noted that there are some 30 active BoardConnect aircraft flying. Presently, the BoardConnect shop is up and running and the BoardConnect folks are looking into progressive developments like NFC and content upgrades such as games and onboard advertising. BoardConnect is focusing on single aisle installations in a retrofit application while they, no doubt, will also work on twin aisle solutions. “Line-fit is our eventual goal,” according to Dr. Jorg Waber, Corporate Communications. We note that the Lufthansa Systems solution uses an app-based approach to content delivery (User download on board or on-ground) and thus DRM requirements are met for Early-Window content. Further, their moving map solution is imbedded in the app and does not rely on browser-based workings inside passenger PED’s. We will have more on Lufthansa Systems developing IFE solutions in the future. Stay Tuned.
No IFE exposition would be complete without the creative new product concepts from Geoff (and Claire) Underwood of IFPL. The crew was in true form at APEX this year and two new product concepts stood out – their Contactless Retail System (CRS) and their answer to a magnetic breakaway earphone jack. The Contactless Retail solution is ingenious, as it does not require seat power to read credit cards (NFC) or communicate with the head-end for information storage and credit card charge updates. It does so through a battery that only requires changing every 5 years (guaranteed). The seatback device (about the size of an iPod) uses E Ink (electrophoretic) display technology for a readable and low power screen. Need to charge for seat power, drinks, food… here is your answer. Unused, the display goes to sleep but awake, it ‘talks’ via a low power wireless connection to the front-end cabin crew terminal. The unit only powers up when activated by a user at the seat. This product ought to get some award at a future show as it breaks a lot of barriers for display technology, power, and communication technology. We also note that their breakaway headset jack has a new magnetic solution… it uses only one magnet and gives virtually 180 degrees of breaking direction. This is a great product and it simplifies the issues surrounding magnets and positioning them on the jack and plug… not to mention weight and price.
Quite by accident, the IFExpress team ran into Todd Hamblin (VP Business Development) at APEX and he gave us a pretty convincing reason as to why we should run a story on his company, Global Aerospace Design Corp. After a little research we thought it a good idea as well. Firstly and right up front, we don’t do many stories about after sale, new cabin reconfiguration projects (like IFE and connectivity), but these folks have been doing this kind of work for years now and our readers might need some help from them. With partners like Zodiac, Astronics, Thales, Avio and others, we thought we had better listen to their story.
From a description point of view, Global Aerospace is an engineering services organization that provides aircraft integration and certification services to airlines, maintenance repair organizations, and aviation equipment manufacturers. A complete list of services relating to certification and installation are as follows: Consulting, Program Management, Purchasing, Installation Design, Certification Support, On-Site Installation Support, Product Support and Business Development. Further Global provides its customers the ability to install new systems into existing aircraft and return the aircraft to revenue service in the most efficient manner. If you want to look at it this way, Global takes care of the installation and certification process after your hardware is sold to an airline and you might want to contact them for background info or specification updates. “Global is comprised of ex-airline personnel who are experts at aircraft integration and certification, and have a complete understanding of how the system will be maintained once on the aircraft,” explained Mr. Hamblin. “With the benefit of having DERs, certified A&P mechanics and licensed pilots on staff, Global can truly take a program from beginning to end.”
We sought out an airline reference to back up Mr. Hamblin’s praise of their services and we got this quote from Mr. Tahawar Durrani, GM of Engineering Services at Air Nugini – “On behalf of Air Niugini Engineering Services, I would like to thank all the Global team for a job well done. They have a professional, hardworking and dedicated team with a high sense of duty, engineering acumen and spirit to work effectively in an environment with competing milestones and alternating time-lines.” Global has over 30 years of efficient FAA and EASA certification experience. If you have the job of installing and certificating IFE and Wi-Fi or need to understand the process, be sure to give Todd Hamblin a call at +1 513 304 9315 (firstname.lastname@example.org) and check out this link (Icelandair Partnership and Global Data Sheet) for a bit more information about their experience and services. All the new single-aisle IFE and connectivity hardware shown at APEX is going to need install and certification assistance and these folks in Cincinnati, Ohio just may be your installation solution.
An old friend popped up at APEX, Peter McLaughlin (see this week’s IFEC Buzz). As CEO of Stellar Entertainment, Peter has an airline past at Qantas and we first met him there in the early 90’s. This fellow knows the IFE business and showed a few new products the Stellar team is flogging. One caught our eye – their Home-to-Hotel digital Newspaper & Magazine service. But there’s more and we will cover their offering in a future Hot Topic. By the way, they will also be at AIX Hamburg 2014!
— Award-winning wireless solution sets new trend in in-flight entertainment
Kelsterbach, Germany | July 8, 2013– At the 6th China Inflight Entertainment & Communications Summit 2013 in Shanghai Lufthansa Systems is presenting its award-winning wireless in-flight entertainment system BoardConnect. Unlike conventional in-flight entertainment systems for commercial aircraft, BoardConnect does not require any complicated wiring for each seat. Instead, it works with a regular WLAN based on the established WiFi standard and needs only a few access points in the cabin to deliver a broad variety of content to every passenger. The innovative IFE solution has attracted interest from airlines all over the world including several Chinese carriers. “China is a very promising market for us, not only because of the strong growth, but because airlines and their customers are very receptive for innovative technologies”, said Olivier Krueger, SVP Regional Management Asia/Pacific at Lufthansa Systems.
BoardConnect sets a new standard in in-flight entertainment. Using their laptops, tablets PC or smartphones passengers are able to access on-demand audio and video as well as information about their destination. Using the eReader functionality of BoardConnect passengers can read electronic magazines in many languages including Chinese while airlines will be able to reduce the number and weight of magazines and newspapers they carry onboard. BoardConnect is impressively versatile. It can be used with iOS, Android and conventional Windows devices including Windows 8 operating system.
“BoardConnect is the great example of successful innovation. It was developed with a strong focus on ease of use and operations, maximum flexibility and low lifecycle cost”, said Norbert Mueller, Senior Vice President BoardConnect at Lufthansa Systems. “In all these aspects it is superior to conventional IFE systems.” The installation doesn’t need an extensive downtime like a major overhaul or a cabin refurbishment. Instead it can be done during regular maintenance checks. This saves costs and allows for a fast rollout of the product.
Additionally, the trend-setting solution is less complex and uses of-the-shelve components. This means high reliability and lower maintenance cost. Since BoardConnect is lighter than conventional IFE systems, airlines can also achieve considerable fuel savings with it.
– Strong rise in revenues with external customers – Pioneering work in cloud computing
Kelsterbach, Germany | March 18, 2013– Lufthansa Systems today announced that it ended the past business year with a further increase in its revenues and earnings. The company generated revenues of EUR 609 million (+1.7%) with an operating result of EUR 21 million (+10.5%) in 2012. Revenues with external customers rose by 11.3% to EUR 256 million. Although the market for IT services in the airline industry was particularly affected by price pressures and difficult growth prospects, Lufthansa Systems succeeded in closing contracts with a volume of EUR 649 million in 2012, thus laying the foundations for further profitable growth.
“The revenue increase with a growing number of external customers and our high volume of incoming orders show that we have significantly improved our competitive position through restructuring and the changes initiated in the context of the Lufthansa Group’s SCORE program,” said Stefan Hansen, CEO of Lufthansa Systems AG. “We want to achieve above- average growth in the German market and the international airline business in the coming years.” Thanks to its customer focus, rapid decision-making and great agility, Lufthansa Systems is able to react quickly to its customers’ needs. “We’re proud of our high degree of technological expertise, but the decisive factor for our customers is that this enables us to promptly develop customized solutions with high added value for them.”
Through numerous contracts with new and existing customers, Lufthansa Systems was able to further expand its leading role in the airline IT sector over the past year. Lufthansa Passage, Lufthansa Cargo and Star Alliance renewed their contracts for the management of their worldwide data networks based on SkyConnect. Malaysia Airlines was another customer opting for this product. The Air France-KLM Group and Ryanair were acquired as important new customers for the Lido/Flight flight planning solution. Singapore Airlines extended its contract for another eight years. Numerous airlines opted for myIDTravel, the integrated solution for managing staff travel which is already being used by more than 160 airlines worldwide.
Hansen sees particularly high potential outside the airline industry. Here, Lufthansa Systems concluded consultancy contracts with Volkswagen in 2013 and is taking over the operation of all business-critical credit card processes for the travel management specialists AirPlus. The Hamburg Port Authority commissioned additional services from the company as part of its project to update the port railway IT network to ensure the continued operation of the railway in the face of a growing volume of goods and limited capacity. “Innovation, years of project experience and our comprehensive understanding of complex business processes make us a very desirable partner,” Hansen said. “We’re aiming for disproportionately high growth in the German market in the coming years.”
“Our continued high volume of incoming orders is the result of our consistent focus on the market and on customers on all levels,” Hansen explained. “Our goal is to make our customers more competitive. This is why we continually invest in the development of new products and services using the latest technologies.”
A company defined by innovation
The Guest Service Portal is of one the innovative solutions successfully launched by Lufthansa Systems last year. The first integrated entertainment and business intelligence platform for the hospitality industry has sparked a great deal of interest internationally. The Guest Service Portal makes travel more comfortable, facilitates communication between guests and service staff during the entire trip and improves service processes. Shortly after the market launch, well-known customers from the cruise ship industry like Hurtigruten opted for the solution.
The BoardConnect wireless in-flight entertainment solution has set a new technological trend by enabling passengers to access a wide range of information and entertainment options using their own tablets, laptops or smartphones. BoardConnect received two coveted international innovation awards in 2012. The solution is already being tested by the launch customer, Condor, as well as by Virgin Australia. Lufthansa carried out tests on an Airbus A320, and further discussions are currently underway with this airline and other potential customers.
Within the Lufthansa Group, too, Lufthansa Systems is an important innovation driver. In the context of the Lido@LH project, all Group airlines are migrating their flight planning to Lido/Flight. Together with harmonized dispatch processes and the establishment of a central dispatch center, this will lead to significant cost reductions in the Group. To better meet the specific requirements of the Group, Lufthansa Systems established the new Lufthansa Infrastructure profit center at the start of 2013.
Leading position in cloud computing
Lufthansa Systems places special emphasis on quickly identifying and taking advantage of new technologies and IT trends, especially cloud computing. “In this technically challenging field, we’re a pioneer when it comes to making the technology available to our customers,” Hansen said. “We intend to expand our position through continual investment and innovation.”
Thanks to its global network of modern data centers, Lufthansa Systems is in an outstanding position to fulfil the individual security and compliance requirements of a wide range of customers. The company has a great advantage in that its data centers are designed to meet the high security standards of the aviation industry. Lufthansa Systems has already achieved a virtualization rate of 85 percent in its data centers.
– Wireless access to information and entertainment on short- and medium-haul flights
Kelsterbach, Germany | December 4, 2012 — Lufthansa German Airlines today began testing the BoardConnect in-flight entertainment system from Lufthansa Systems on an Airbus A320 stationed in Munich. The Lufthansa Systems solution, which Lufthansa offers as “my mediaworld”, will enable passengers in business and economy class on flights from Munich to 34 short- and medium-haul destinations to watch Hollywood films, read digital newspapers and look up information about their destinations. The service is available via laptop, tablet computer or smartphones which can connect to the on-board infotainment server.
Unlike conventional in-flight entertainment systems, BoardConnect does not require any complicated fixed wiring for each seat. Instead, it works with a regular WLAN based on the established standard, meaning that just a few access points need to be installed in the cabin. This makes it possible for the first time to offer passengers on short- and medium-haul aircraft such as the Airbus A320 family and the Boeing 737 an extensive range of information and entertainment. Such aircraft currently make up two thirds of the entire global fleet.
“Airlines can leverage the BoardConnect technology to distinguish themselves clearly from their competition also on shorter routes,” said Norbert Müller, Program Manager BoardConnect at Lufthansa Systems. “By offering a wide range of information and entertainment for their passengers, airlines are setting new service standards.”
Since almost no wiring is required to transmit data in the cabin, airlines can install BoardConnect during routine maintenance or night stops without the need for additional ground time. Conventional IFE systems, on the other hand, require several weeks of downtime. Consequently, installation and maintenance costs and efforts are much lower.
It enables airlines to offer a wide range of information and entertainment that can be updated quickly and easily. The solution also presents airlines with an opportunity to introduce new personalized on-board services and generate additional revenue through in-flight sales, for example.
BoardConnect received two coveted awards this year: Lufthansa Systems won the Crystal Cabin Award at the Aircraft Interiors Expo 2012 in Hamburg for this innovative solution, and in September the product received the prestigious Avion Award at the Apex Expo as “Best Single Achievement in Passenger Experience (Vendor)”.
– Wireless IFE solution named Best Single Achievement in Passenger Experience / Second major industry award in a row
Long Beach/Kelsterbach | September 18, 2012 — Lufthansa Systems received the aviation industry’s coveted Avion Award at a gala ceremony during the APEX EXPO 2012 in Long Beach last night. The IT provider’s wireless in-flight entertainment system, BoardConnect, was voted Best Single Achievement in Passenger Experience (Vendor) by a jury of experts from the airline passenger experience industry and members of the media, ranking it first in a strong field of “game-changing” services and solutions. The jury praised BoardConnect as the single most important innovation influencing the passenger experience in the last year.
Norbert Müller, Head of Program Management BoardConnect at Lufthansa Systems, stated, “This prize is an accolade for our efforts to develop a true innovation enabling an entire aircraft full of passengers to access wireless entertainment right from their own mobile devices. Today we have aircraft in regular operations where more than 250 passengers stream content to their PEDs at the same time, and this is not the end. The award shows that our idea has landed in the industry.”
BoardConnect is a wireless in-flight entertainment system that comprises a server on board the aircraft and a few wireless access points throughout the cabin. BoardConnect offers audio and video on demand on wireless-enabled passenger electronic devices as well as embedded screens in the aircraft cabin. This innovative solution is extremely cost-efficient and reliable, and it enables airlines to offer a wide range of information and entertainment that can be updated quickly and easily. BoardConnect also opens up the opportunity for new personalized on-board services and new ways of generating revenue through in-flight sales, for example.
Since no wiring is required to transmit data in the cabin, airlines can install Board Connect during routine maintenance or night stops without the need for additional ground time. The solution is also extremely reliable and incurs much lower operating costs than previous systems. The elimination of wiring and data transmission hardware can reduce the weight significantly which also result in fuel savings.
The Avion Award is the second major industry award for BoardConnect this year. At the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg in March, the solution already won the prestigious Crystal Cabin Award 2012.
If you think this week’s SPEAKERS’ CORNER is an IFE history lesson, you might be wrong. The article penned by Dr. Jorg Liebe, Lufthansa Systems CIO, is more about where IFE is going than where it has been. IFExpress asked Dr. Liebe to give us a view from the LHS streaming, Wi-Fi-based IFE perspective and we expect you will get an insight into the next phase of onboard entertainment. And, if you get a chance to meet our “speaker”, be sure to do so, besides being a knowledgeable expert, he is one nice individual!
The Evolution of In-Flight Entertainment – by Dr. Jorg Liebe
While the first in-flight movie was shown in 1921 to passengers onboard Aeromarine Airways, it took almost another 40 years before in-flight movies were offered on a regular basis to passengers on-board an aircraft. The invention of automated 16 mm film projection technology not requiring a projectionist to show movies was the cornerstone technology to enable this development.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, CRT-based projectors distributed throughout the cabin began to appear, offering in-flight movies not only projected on a screen at the front of a cabin, but making in-flight movies reasonably visible to all passengers. The first in-seat system was developed in 1988, using 2.7-inch LCD technology to offer audio / video content to an individual passenger.
At the turn of the century new systems appeared, offering for the first time on-demand content to passengers, thus enabling them to choose from a variety of movies and other content options, including which movie(s) to watch, and when during the flight to watch them.
At the same time live TV content was streamed for the first time to passenger’s individual screens. For the last 40 years, the evolution of in-flight entertainment has been from communal screens to individual seat-back screens, and from linear broadcast of content to audio and video on demand. Screen size has grown, picture quality improved, and as content storage capability increases, airlines race to increase the volume of content stored, often offering hundreds of hours of content to passengers. All this tremendously benefited the passenger who was required to remain more or less fastened to his/her seat, and whose attention was now occupied as time passed on-board an aircraft.
However, the systems airlines installed on-board became more and more complex. Most IFE systems in operation today are hardwired from a so-called head-end system all the way to the in-seat screens or drop-down screens. The system offers audio and video predetermined or on-demand throughout the cabin based on a head-end system storing all content, and distributing the content through wired connections over switches to seat boxes. The seat boxes in turn disperse the content to the individual screens or drop-down screen, with each seat box covering two or three screens. Failures in the distribution of the signal or the head-end system usually affect many if not all passengers. Also, occasional reboots usually affect groups of passengers.
To reduce systemic failures, suppliers are beginning to include content storage/delivery redundancies in their systems. Secondary paths between the head-end and in-seat screens are being built in, along with zone wiring redundancies. Installation is complex and generally requires substantial time during which the aircraft is out of revenue service. In addition, maintenance is complex and time-consuming as well. Due to the various components distributed throughout the cabin for operation the system weight is substantial, reducing the cargo or passenger capacity of an aircraft and adding to the carbon footprint of the airline.
In order to circumvent some of the issues of wired IFE systems, especially high total cost of ownership and system weight, handheld IFE solutions have sometimes been implemented. Initially flight crews distributed handheld DVD players and content DVDs. In later offerings digital players–purpose-built or consumer-off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware repurposed for IFE–with internally stored content were used. Most recently, with the advent of tablet PCs those devices have been hardened and are now offered as handheld IFE devices. One of the biggest shortcomings of handheld solutions is the high logistics and maintenance effort. Especially, recharging of the handheld devices and content updates seem to prevent high implementation rates. Part of this limitation is being mitigated by expansion of in-seat power. Most airlines view handheld solutions especially valuable in cases where remaining aircraft utilization is limited and in turn render other IFE solutions commercially unfeasible. Still, the effort to (re-)charge the devices and update the content needs to be taken into account.
Seat-centric systems are an evolutionary step, being developed primarily based on the experience and feedback of handheld solutions. The idea behind seat-centric systems is to install a handheld device in the seat. Due to the standalone capability of the handheld device, almost no interdependency between individual screens exists. Therefore, only a passenger with a malfunctioning screen is affected—and spares can be made available.
Typically, a seat-centric screen will contain content storage such as one SD card with current content available for passenger screening, and a second SD card to which next month’s content is being loaded in the background over the wired or wireless system from a head-end. In turn, seat-centric systems do not require recharging nor manual content update, thus overcoming the predominant shortcomings of handheld devices. Installation is less complex and maintenance requires less effort due to fewer system components. Also, system weight is drastically reduced, seemingly making seat-centric solutions the new winner.
However, while content is usually updated via wireless LAN, current seat-centric systems are missing live video streaming capabilities. With the advent of live TV, broadcasting current news updates into an aircraft, as well as live streaming of camera views–e.g. cockpit view, tail mount and/or bottom view–such streaming capabilities are becoming increasingly important. To circumvent that issue and adding such capability, installations may add wired connection (screen to screen) to accomplish streaming capabilities as well as content update, however again adding weight and complexity to the setup.
At the time of the development of seat-centric systems, two other trends spurred the development of yet another system idea. On the one hand, passengers often brought their own electronic devices on board. Those devices had initially been primarily notebooks. But with the proliferation of smart phones and tablets, more and more these types of devices are seen in aircraft cabins. As market research shows, nowadays more than 80 % of passengers bring their own screens on board.
On the other hand, those devices are wireless LAN-enabled. And most often not just any wireless LAN, but increasingly a kind of wireless LAN that enables high quality video broadcast. Current wireless LAN systems still supporting previous installations in devices are capable of delivering high quality video content to tens of individual devices from one access point and–adding access points throughout the cabin–to literally hundreds of devices.
Both technology trends enabled a new kind of in-flight entertainment, getting rid of almost all wires altogether and at the same time not requiring in-seat screens. In-flight entertainment is, thus, a matter of providing appropriate software on passenger’s devices to ensure integrity and security of the entertainment content. Now this seemingly addresses all issues previously faced with installing in-flight entertainment systems on board aircraft. The systems contain only a few components, namely a content server ensuring delivery of encrypted content over a couple of wireless LAN access points to devices the passenger brings on board the aircraft.
Obviously installation time is drastically reduced as is maintenance and operational effort. In addition, the system weight is drastically reduced from almost a ton to less than 200 pounds. Also, utilizing passenger devices even enables higher innovation cycles, participating in new, ever-developing, fascinating device capabilities to enable things such as gaming functions based on accelerometers.
In addition to utilizing passenger’s personal electronic devices, developments are underway to develop wireless based in-seat screens. Losing some of the weight reduction – still based on fully functional tablet-type devices such as in-seat screens – enabling a seat-centric approach to in-flight entertainment while maintaining the streaming capability of the system, without adding wires and complex distribution of content, seems to be the logical step forward in in-flight entertainment.
Airlines deploying such a system can rely on every passenger having access to the system while still maintaining fast installation and ease of operation and maintenance. At the same time, new so-called second screen capabilities, to ancillary revenue generation, are available as passengers are still able to utilize their own personal electronic devices.
So what’s next in in-flight entertainment? Well, in-flight Internet is here already. With wireless entertainment and Internet capabilities, new passenger services are just around the corner. The seemingly unreachable passenger “strapped to their set” is suddenly well in reach…
– BoardConnect provides wireless access to a wide range of entertainment and information – cost savings and new revenue opportunities for airlines
Kelsterbach | September 3, 2012– On board a flight from Frankfurt to the Greek island of Rhodes and back, Condor and Lufthansa Systems have unveiled the future of in-flight entertainment for the general public. BoardConnect, the wireless in-flight entertainment system with Condor as its launch customer gives passengers traveling with their own laptops, tablet PCs and smartphones direct access to an extensive range of movies, music and information on board an aircraft. From mid-September, Condor passengers will be able to enjoy this revolutionary technology in a test run. Passengers can check the routes on which BoardConnect is available on board the Boeing 767-300 with the registration D-ABUZ on the Condor website condor.com under “Stars am Himmel.”
“In-flight entertainment is an important part of the travel experience and a way to stand out from the competition, particularly in the leisure segment,” said Rainer Kröpke, Head of Product Management and Marketing for Condor Flugdienst GmbH. “An innovative solution like this just fits with the Condor brand and our goal of offering passengers the most pleasant way to fly.”
“BoardConnect marks a new era in in-flight entertainment, with a broad offering for passengers, greater flexibility and lower costs,” said Norbert Müller, Head of BoardConnect Program Management at Lufthansa Systems AG. “Thanks to the innovative technology, airlines that install BoardConnect will set the standard in in-flight entertainment and will be able to unlock new revenue potential at the same time.”
BoardConnect is a WiFi network that comprises a server on board the aircraft plus several wireless access points in the cabin. This innovative solution is extremely cost-efficient and reliable, and it enables airlines to offer a wide range of information and entertainment that can be updated quickly and easily. BoardConnect also opens up the opportunity for new personalized on-board services and new ways of generating revenue through in-flight sales, for example.
Since no wiring is required to transmit data in the cabin, airlines can install Board Connect during routine maintenance or night stops without the need for additional ground time. The solution is also extremely reliable and incurs much lower operating costs than previous systems. The weight savings generated by the elimination of wiring and data transmission hardware reduce fuel consumption in a Boeing 767-300ER by over 80 metric tons per year.
Lufthansa Systems: Like every good new idea in IFE, wireless systems are now being offered by a number of suppliers. Nonetheless, it’s difficult not to consider the first in that marketplace to be the clear leader–and, yes, we’re talking about Lufthansa Systems’ BoardConnect.
We talked to the man whose idea it was in Hamburg at AIX, Dr. Joerg Liebe, CIO of Lufthansa Systems and the visionary behind this hot new platform. Lufthansa Systems was the first to offer a complete wireless system– not just a concept. With Condor they were the first supplier to sell wireless to an airline. And with their Virgin America deal were the first to take a big customer away from the reigning IFE platform providers.
The soft-spoken, Southern California-educated Dr Liebe gave us a thorough, candid and thoughtful description of this product and where it’s going. Modestly suggesting that the platform is designed to be sold to airlines which don’t currently have IFE, rather than aimed at taking business away from the IFE duopoly, Dr Liebe says that BoardConnect has three models: 1. A head-end server streaming to airline-provided SDUs. 2. A head-end streaming to airline-provided tablets. 3. A head-end streaming to passenger-owned devices or a combination of these. It should also be noted that some studios have approved early window content streamed from the server to the installed BoardConnect IFE seat units. The approval is only applicable to the BoardConnect system and tablets, but not PEDS; however, to the best of our understanding this is a first!
With sales to both Virgin America and Virgin Australia, and the AIX buzz about a very successful trial with Qantas, Dr Liebe may have to step out from behind his modest facade and brag a little! But somehow that doesn’t seem his style! The BoardConnect concept not only appealed to us but the jury at the Crystal Cabin Awards had the same inclination!
Panasonic: When Panasonic takes on a big project they usually do it right and the process ends up being a long, cautious march to the solution. For just under 10 years now, we have been covering pieces and parts of a global communication offering from the Lake Forrest, CA company. In fact, this is the first year we have gotten solid numbers on customer installations and the non-announcement announcement indicates they have been doing their homework. This story is multi-faceted so we will break it down for you in bullet points because this year’s AIX is where it has all come together. In the press announcement, Panasonic’s David Bruner noted that there was a real tipping point in demand in 2011 for inflight connectivity. Bruner went on to state that every single airline now believes they have to have GSM capability and broadband offerings on their fleet. “Not just big aircraft,” he noted, “but small ones too. And these services need to work exactly the same way in the air as on the ground so there is no passenger learning curve.” Basically, this translates to WiFi, cell connections, and streaming video. All hot products on big and small aircraft – even those with premium entertainment systems.
• Panasonic has been pressing to close out their coverage of the Ku network globally. There is a lot of coverage already in the northern hemisphere and by tying in to IS14 from Intelsat they will snag seamless coverage from Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South America. This is a key piece to the Panasonic network and it is now in place. Additional capacity has been added to Australia, New Zealand and the Trans Tasman. The General Electric 23 satellite will serve the South East Asia, Australia, and South East Pacific connections.
• Panasonic has also reached commercial agreement with Airbus for line fit on the A380. This means they can eliminate the retrofit costs and they also noted that they will be adding offerability on the A350 as well. Panasonic has been undertaking this objective for the past 4 years. With respect to Boeing and the 787, Panasonic reports they are making progress on the 787 linefit as the result of their work on the 777.
• A major step in any satellite network is the ground connectivity portion. In an investment move, Panasonic elected to take a majority share of an existing satellite service provider, AeroMobile. AeroMobile operates a ground network that manages the relationship between the airline connectivity and the cell phone roaming partner. This feature is what Telenor brings to the party and Panasonic does not have, nor do they want, this additional complexity. As a result, Telenor, a minority shareholder is not leaving and is “absolutely involved in the venture”. AeroMobile switches from satellite to a global telco system on the ground where traffic routing begins. Furthermore, Panasonic provides pure IP traffic to AeroMobile, who translates it out to the network. Today, AeroMobile has a significant number of aircraft flying with Swift Broadband and in effect, AeroMobile is platform agnostic. This represents a great marriage for Panasonic.
• Did we mention that Panasonic announced they have 1300+ aircraft already signed up for their Global Communication Suite? Consequently, Panasonic has been searching for the best broadband network to provide economical service to airlines and passengers. Panasonic is focusing on designing a new Ku band network by providing maximum capability in areas where airplanes fly and none where they do not via spot beam selection. There goal: Maximum bandwidth at the lowest cost. To achieve this they are working with a new un-named partner who is “a player with global capability and of the highest quality in the industry”. This bodes well for eXTV.
• The net result of all this activity will be a service offering beginning in 2015 with North America and the North Atlantic covered first. Europe to Asia will follow and finally all of Asia.
• Along the way, Panasonic developed a Ka Band antenna as a candidate for high through put capacity. The irony was they found that capability in Ku. Noting that the airborne antenna is the most difficult design part of the process, by sticking with Ku very little change occurs to the aircraft – this is a major plus for the airline. (Note: One could assume that Panasonic has found clever ways to gang and steer spot beams in satellites with that capability. Obviously, receiver design plays a significant part in this as well.)
• The majority of the 20+ existing eXPhone customers will continue to work with the Ku equipped aircraft. These include operators like Virgin Atlantic, Malaysia Airlines, and Emirates. Gulf Air and Lufthansa will be onboard soon. We also understand Cathay Pacific, SAS, Turkish Airlines, and Etihad have signed up.
Editor’s Note: Mea Culpa! In case you lost your copy of Wheelock’s Latin, it means we are sorry to the nice folks at D.e.u.t.s.c.h. because we misspelled their name in the last issue of IFExpress. We say it again, “Mea Culpa!”
– Crystal Cabin Award Finalist 2012 Now Approved For Early Window Content
March 22, 2012– Airlines deploying BoardConnect, the innovative IFE solution from Lufthansa Systems, will now be able to entertain their passengers with the latest Hollywood movies. BoardConnect is the first wireless IFE system to have been approved by leading film studios for their “Early Window Content”. This term is used for movies not yet available for sale on the market on DVDs or Blu-ray discs, but which are released for distribution to airlines and hotels for showing on their in-flight/in-house entertainment systems.
To be approved for Early Window Content, systems used to broadcast such movies must first satisfy a set of stringent requirements in relation to data security in order to safeguard content copyright. Lufthansa Systems works very closely with leading Hollywood studios and the manufacturers of mobile devices to ensure that these content requirements can be met. The approval just granted relates to purpose-built in-seat display units and also to tablet PCs provided to passengers by the airlines themselves. Passengers’ own laptops, netbooks, tablets and smartphones are approved for “Late Window Content”, i.e. movies that have been released for commercial distribution.
“Airlines can use BoardConnect to offer the broad and attractive range of high-quality content capable of satisfying the diverse needs of today’s discerning traveler”, comments Norbert Müller, Head of BoardConnect Program Management at Lufthansa Systems. “The quality and scope of in-flight entertainment is a key service component and strongly influences the overall travel experience. This is why BoardConnect can give airlines a decisive competitive advantage.”
BoardConnect works by creating a Wi-Fi network on board the airplane. Unlike traditional solutions, it works entirely without cables apart from the connection between the on-board server and access points. This means it can be installed during night stops of an aircraft. It is also lighter and thus saves up to 20 tons of kerosene annually per aircraft.
BoardConnect also provide airlines with new customer communication channels, as well as new information products and services that offer carriers additional sources of revenue. Condor and Virgin America are the first airlines to have installed the innovative system in their fleets. The Australian airline Qantas has just completed a successful BoardConnect test spanning several weeks in one of its aircraft.
BoardConnect from Lufthansa Systems has been nominated for the Crystal Cabin Award, which will be presented during Aircraft Interior Expo 2012 in Hamburg. Come and visit us at booth 7B9 to learn more about BoardConnect.
This week’s Single Aisle Solution comes to us from Lufthansa Systems, and true to its Teutonic techno naming convention; BoardConnect is a clever hybrid IFE system. Hybrid because airlines can have it both ways – wireless streamed seatback entertainment and/or pure wireless audio/video/game content to passenger devices. To date, four airlines have elected to install variants of BoardConnect on their planes – eliminating heavy wiring and costly hardware while providing the oft-demanded wireless content to devices that passengers carry aboard. This is the future of IFE – airlines provide the content, connections and wireless conveyance, and you bring your device. Welcome to the 21st century!
Q: What exactly is the LSY BoardConnect offering (baseline and options) for single aisle commercial airplanes?
A: First of all BoardConnect is a pure WiFi based in-flight streaming system designed to serve single aisle as well as twin aisle aircraft. The basic concept makes it possible for passengers to use their own wireless enabled electronic devices (PED), such as Smartphones, tablets or net- and notebooks or airline owned devices (AOD) instead of in-seat screens, to access and enjoy in-flight entertainment content such as on demand audio and video, games, and in-flight information. As an option, Lufthansa Systems will provide WiFi-based, lightweight in-seat screens. Currently BoardConnect supports PED/AOD running on Windows, Mac OS and iOS. Android device support is planned for later this year. Depending on the device model the system is approved to play Early or Late Window movie content based on DRM protection and encryption. The core of the system is a rule- and workflow based management system (BoardConnect Management System, BCMS) that enables faster and simpler content provision to the aircraft than many other systems on the market. In addition,BoardConnect facilitates the integration of third party applications to further personalize the inflight experience.
BoardConnect consists of only few components. It is fully wireless with a centrally provided BCMS to control all content, information, user interface and functionalities of the system. Therefore installation, maintenance and operation of the system is drastically reduced in comparison to currently deployed traditional IFE systems.
Q: Will the eventual system be offerable for the B737MAX and A320NEO (or any new airplane, for that matter) or will LSY prefer to install the BoardConnect System as a retrofit-only program?
A: Initially the system is available as a retrofit solution but we are in talks with the major aircraft manufacturers regarding line fits as some of our customers have new aircraft on order. However, due to the cable-less concept the installation of BoardConnect is fast and simple, making it the best option for retrofit programs.
Q: Do you see passenger connectivity being a part of all future BoardConnect system installations as a “basic” offering?
A: Currently BoardConnect does not include Lufthansa Systems provided connectivity services; however, the system can be easily integrated with any TCP/IP based solution available on the market. Future releases are planned to include either a partner solution (Satcom or terrestrial ground-to-air based solution) or an airline’s own connectivity service.
Q: What screen size offerings are available for the single aisle aircraft… seat back, in-arm, bulkhead, overhead? We also note that Wi-Fi connectivity to passenger PED is a very big feature of your system – please define how you see the importance of connecting with passenger devices and what type of content would be available to them?
A: Board Connect offers an in-seat screen for armrest, seatback and wall-mount. The size of the standard screens will initially be 10,6”. Due to the modular architecture of the BoardConnect display unit (BCDU) other sizes can be realized with minor effort. BoardConnect is clearly riding the wave of the mobility mega trend. Since it is the only system available that can distribute content to a full cabin without in-seat screens, it will provide professional entertainment not only in the traditional field of long haul flights but also on short haul aircraft. Traditional systems are simply too expensive and heavy for such scenarios. Surveys from various customers prove that already almost all passengers on board carry their own wireless enabled devices. At the same time mobile device sales show double-digit growth rates. BoardConnect therefore makes it possible for airlines to offer in-flight entertainment on passenger owned and airline provided handheld wireless enabled devices. Based on the product proposition airlines can in addition offer in-flight entertainment on embedded screens for first and/or business class as well as all classes. Currently the passenger owned PED concept is certified for Late Window Content only. Early Window Content is approved for devices provided by the airlines, as well as, for embedded screens.
Q: What do you see as the main advantage of Board Connect from a cost perspective?
A: Compared to legacy IFE systems our solution has much lower life cycle cost. The installation doesn’t need an extensive downtime like a major overhaul or a cabin refurbishment. Instead it can be done during regular maintenance checks. This saves costs and allows for a fast rollout of the product. Additionally, BoardConnectis less complex and uses of-the-shelve components. This means high reliability and lower maintenance cost.
Q. If your single-aisle offering is flying today, can you provide a bit more information like: how many seats are flying, which airlines are equipped, what aircraft are involved? Is there any airline or customer feedback you would like to share with our readers?
A: The system is already available on a Qantas Boeing 767-300 with 254 seats (which in fact is a twin-aisle configuration) and will be trialed in the same aircraft type of Condor early this year. A certified installation on an A320 of Virgin America was achieved in mid 2011. It is used for internal testing and development to facilitate the rollout of the system later this year. In the later part of 2012 the system will be certified and installed on a Boeing 737.
Q: What is the weight per seat of your offering and please explain the measurement conditions (for example: with cables, all hardware, etc.?)
A: It is not possible to provide an exact weight per seat since BoardConnect can be integrated in different ways (with and without embedded screens and different numbers of access points). The head end server weighs approximately 5 kg and the weight per access point is 2.5 kg (A 767-300 with 254 passengers is equipped with five access points, while an A320 has 3 to 4 access points depending on the seating capacity). The in-seat screen weighs approximately 2.0 kg. There are no additional components like seat distribution boxes, data cables etc.
Q: Do you have an updated sales brochure and/or technical specification brochure about the product? Please provide a link to it or a PDF (or jpeg) that our readers can download.
A: Please download from:
Q: What seat vendors are potential suitors for seat back installation – or – which seat vendors are presently involved with your single-aisle system? Are they new or retrofit installations?
A: We are currently working together with seat manufacturers for the seat integration of the BoardConnect Display Unit seat back and armrest integration. Currently this is scoped for retrofit installations; however, projects for OEM line fit installations have been initiated.
Q: Where does LSY see the single aisle market going…US, Europe, China, worldwide and how big do you see it becoming? Also, why did Virgin and Condor choose LSY Board Connect system?
A: In terms of deliveries the single-aisle market will be the most important segment. The recently announced orders for the new A320 NEO or the new Boeing 737 MAX underpin the growth potential of this segment. Especially in fast evolving markets like Asia, North America and Latin America.Also, in parts of Europe and Africa the fleet of single-aisle aircraft is set to increase significantly. In the past traditional IFE systems have been difficult to install, maintain and operate in large-scale implementations on single aisle aircraft. The low weight, reduced footprint and high flexibility makes BoardConnect an ideal fit for this market segment. Nevertheless, as stated before, BoardConnect addresses the twin-aisle market as well and we see lots of opportunities in these markets, too. Last but not least,BoardConnect is a perfect fit for airlines operating both single and twin aisle aircrafts since the BCMS enables fast and easy content updates/update cycles, as well as, easy adaptation of user interfaces and personalized information for passengers.
The question of why our customers selected BoardConnect could of course be better answered by them. Virgin America is definitely looking for solutions that appeal to their typical “modern life style” target customers. Innovation, mobility, fast content exchange and social networking are key features to attract the typical Virgin America passengers.
Condor, as a typical charter airline, wants to differentiate from its competitors by providing additional services. The mobility trend has also reached the leisure segment. Most passengers carry their own devices making BoardConnect the perfect choice for the cost sensitive charter segment. Both airlines plan to also use the system as marketing and sales tool in order to increase ancillary revenues before, during and after flight.
Plans Unveiled for New Hybrid Technology Platform, Offering Both Seatback Content and Connectivity via Personal Electronic Devices Carrier to Upgrade Award-Winning Red Platform, Testing Now Underway on First Aircraft – an Airbus A320 Named #nerdbird
San Francisco | September 13, 2011 –- Virgin America today announces the selection of Lufthansa Systems’ BoardConnect platform, as the technology partner for the hotly anticipated next iteration of the airline’s Red™ in-flight entertainment system. At the 2011 Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) Expo in Seattle today, Virgin America and Lufthansa Systems unveil their cooperation to develop the new platform – which will be the first of its kind in the domestic skies. Slated for launch in late 2012 and now under development, the new Red platform will offer an entirely new approach to in-flight entertainment, with hybrid technology that will give travelers a variety of ways to play, interact, connect and be entertained at 35,000 feet – similar to the multi-faceted consumer technologies they have access to in their lives on the ground. Virgin America is the first U.S. carrier to use the innovative technology foundation developed by airline IT specialist Lufthansa Systems.
BoardConnect is a cost-efficient, easy-to-install system which replaces complex legacy in-flight entertainment solutions via an onboard WiFi network. It will allow Virgin America to build a next iteration of Red that offers the best of both worlds: a larger, high-definition touch-screen seatback monitor with full WiFi connectivity and a breadth of curated content unrivalled in the skies, along with the ability for flyers to use their own personal electronic devices to connect to the system pre-flight, in-flight and post-flight. This month, Virgin America launches back-end testing of the new platform on its first aircraft, a new Airbus A320 aptly named: #nerdbird.
“The idea behind Red has always been to reinvent the flight experience, by offering travelers more options, more control, more content and more interactivity. Even though we believe that Red has raised the bar and is still head and shoulders above anything else in the U.S. skies, we’re not the kind of Company that rests on our laurels,” said David Cush, President and CEO of Virgin America. “Our focus on innovation is a core part of our business model and guest offering, and BoardConnect will allow us to not only leap even further ahead of the airline pack, but also pace the larger consumer trends in mobile technology. We now have the architecture we need to design a dynamic entertainment experience that is the next logical iteration of Red.”
Although back-end testing of the new system by the technical experts at Virgin America and Lufthansa Systems is already underway on one aircraft (N841VA – #nerdbird), the airline plans to roll out the new Red platform for guests starting in late 2012. Virgin America remains one of the fastest growing U.S. airlines, with its current 40 aircraft A320 Family fleet projected to grow to 57 aircraft by late 2013. Although further design details and functionality for the new system are still under development, the new Red platform will be entirely interactive, connective and entertaining – with content and services offered both via the seatback system and guests’ personal electronic devices. The new Red platform will offer travelers an unmatched range of media and connectivity choices via the seatback, as well as the option to connect their personal electronic devices to the system. The system will reflect Virgin America’s focus on innovation and the brand’s entertainment roots, with an unrivalled selection of dynamic media and a fully connected and social experience.
“We’re pleased to announce that an airline known for its unique design, inventiveness and the quality of its entertainment experience will be the launch partner for BoardConnect. BoardConnect opens a new world of opportunities for airlines and their passengers. It is a perfect example for how Lufthansa Systems as a technology leader in airline IT provides innovative solutions which help their customers in many ways to set new standards in passenger service, lower their cost and stay ahead of their competition,” said Stefan Hansen, CEO and Chairman of the Executive Board of Lufthansa Systems. “BoardConnect gives airlines an unprecedented degree of flexibility to develop new entertainment applications as well as to create new sources of ancillary revenue.”
Most current IFE solutions are complex and hard-wired, making them expensive to purchase and install, difficult to maintain and often inflexible in use. Instead of connecting every single seat to the content server through several miles of cables, BoardConnect requires just a few access points. While some domestic U.S. carriers eschew any seatback entertainment, Virgin America remains committed to offering choice – with both a best-in-class seatback touch-screen platform and WiFi connectivity (through the seatback and via a traveler’s own personal electronic devices). BoardConnect will offer travelers and airlines multiple hybrid options that make better use of off-aircraft bandwidth. Virgin America was the first carrier to offer fleetwide WiFi as of May 2009. The airline plans to continue this service and regularly sees up to one-third of guests on flights logged on.
“Our travelers want connectivity yes, but they also want access to more media content and services that will improve their trip. We were the first airline to offer WiFi fleetwide as of May 2009, yet we’ve seen use of Red only grow since then. We want to give our travelers more options instead of fewer, including the ability to multi-task across platforms – just as they do in their lives on the ground. Offering both connectivity to personal devices and accessible dynamic content will allow us to deliver the best of both worlds,” added Cush.
From even before its 2007 launch, Virgin America has harnessed innovation from its headquarters in Silicon Valley to create a new standard of service. The airline is known for tech-forward and design-driven features like touch-screen personal seatback entertainment, power outlets at every seat, new aircraft with mood-lit cabins and fleetwide WiFi. The airline regularly surveys its guests on its next amenities and has worked with Silicon Valley business leaders and consumer tech experts (who also happen to be frequent flyers) on the design of the next iteration of Red.
In the 2011 APEX awards yesterday, the airline’s current Red entertainment platform took top honors for “Best In-flight Entertainment in the Americas,” “Best In-Flight Video” and “Best Overall Passenger Experience.” In 2010, the airline captured “Best Overall Passenger Experience,” “Best In-Flight Entertainment in the Americas” and “Best In-Flight Connectivity and Communications.” The system also was named the “Best Single Achievement in In-Flight Entertainment” in 2009. Virgin America currently offers guests their own touch-screen seatback monitor that is 25 percent larger than the average domestic coach in-flight entertainment screen. The current Red platform offers touch-screen and remote control interactivity and a wealth of interactive content and options, including;
“Watch”: Live satellite TV, cached specialty channels, 35+ on-demand films and premium TV like HBO;
“Kid’s Play”: With content, games and even parental control settings;
“Play”: Multiple videogames navigated by a Qwerty keyboard handset;
“Talk”: A seat-to-seat chat feature inside the aircraft, so guests can chat with someone in a nearby seat;
“Journey”: Interactive Google Maps that zoom at eight levels and track the aircraft in-flight;
“Eat”: A first-of-its-kind on-demand menu that allows guests to order what they want, when they want it during a flight;
“Shop”: An on-demand shopping and a Make a Difference section;
“Listen”: A 3,000 MP3 library and platform to create playlists in-flight and an on-demand music video library.
The carrier continues to invest in the current Red system, most recently debuting features such as an “open tab,” enhanced terrain view Google Maps and a digital Shop platform in July 2010.
With topnotch service, beautiful design and a host of high-tech amenities, Virgin America has swept the industry best-in-class awards for the quality of its service since its 2007 launch, including “Best Domestic Airline” in Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 and “Best Domestic Airline” in Condé Nast Traveler’s 2008, 2009 and 2010 Readers’ Choice Awards.
Leave it to the German early adopters, Lufthansa and Condor, to roll-out a new Wi-Fi-based inflight entertainment system in Europe. Dependent on your own personal entertainment device (iPad, Tablet, iPhone, Android phone, etc,) if it has Wi-Fi, your entertainment system is in your pocket. The BoardConnect System from Lufthansa Systems is being installed on 2 in-service aircraft as a litmus test of the demand for this offering. IFExpress contacted Condor’s Rainer Kroepke, Head of Product Management and Marketing at Condor Flugdienst GmbH. “In-flight entertainment is an important part of the travel experience and a way to stand out from the competition, particularly in the tourism industry,” said Mr. Kröpke. “BoardConnect opens up entirely new possibilities for us. In addition, the system costs much less to install and operate than other solutions.”
We asked a few questions about BoardConnect and here is what Kroepke told us:
Q: How many (Condor) aircraft will eventually have the new entertainment System?
A: “We will implement the system in the two wide body airplanes that we are about to integrate into our fleet. According to the customer feedback, crew experience, and that of our crew and technical support, there is a high probability that we will eventually have the system on our whole fleet. We are planning to fly with the new IFE system beginning of summer 2011 so it is a little early for passenger reviews and therefore we cannot provide any comments on performance yet. However, everybody is excited about the world premiere of this system.”
Q: Can you describe a little bit about the on-demand delivery to any Wi-Fi enabled device?
A: “We plan to offer our Comfort Class passengers tablet type devices during flight. Premium Economy and Economy class passengers can access the system by using their own devices (PC, phones, laptops…) and will be able to watch movies on overhead screens. In the first phase, Condor will not have a data link into the Internet.”
Q: Does Condor plan to offer seat-based displays?
A: “Condor does not plan to install in-seat displays. However, BoardConnect from Lufthansa Systems offers those as well. All content is streamed directly to the devices in DRM (Digital Rights Management) encrypted form. At any given time only 20 seconds of a movie will reside in the devices memory, be decrypted and displayed.”
Q: How many seats/mobile units/streams does the system support?
A: “As many as we have seats on our airplane and more. For the long haul aircraft, that would be 270 seats.”
Q: We assume Lufthansa Technik will perform the installation. Where is this done?
A: “We are in the final stage in discussions about the question where we will be installing the hardware. Due to the simplicity of the system this can easily be installed.”
Q: Do you have any idea how long the IFE part of the installation takes?
A: “The installation does not take a lot of time. As Condor does not plan to install in-seat screens, the system can be up and running within 6-8 hours.”
Q: Will this system be announced/displayed at AIX in Hamburg ?
A: “Lufthansa Systems does not plan to showcase the system at AIX in Hamburg. But we can arrange a demonstration of the system at the Lufthansa Systems’ facilities in Frankfurt.”
Q: Do you have a picture of the screen GUI and does Condor charge passengers for any part of this service?
A: “I will gladly send a picture of a possible GUI. We are still working on the question what content will be delivered. In any case, the largest part will be free in our Comfort Class and Premium Economy. All movies shown in our overhead screens will be free to all passengers with the added comfort of watching them on demand via their own devices.”
Q: How many Network Wireless Access Points (NWAP’s) per airplane type are planned?
A: “Each access point covers around 100 devices. For our B767 aircraft we plan to install four to five access points.”
Q: Are any seats, equipped with external in-seat power?
A: “All seats in Comfort Class already feature in-seat power.
IFExpress greatly appreciates the help in bring our readers this story and would like to thank Johannes Winter and Rainer Kroepke for their assistance in bringing it to you. Further, they provided a graphic of their system for better understanding.
Condor Product Marketing: email@example.com
Condor Communication: Johannes.firstname.lastname@example.org
Lufthansa Systems Communication: sandra.hammer@LHsystems.com