– 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:
http://www.lhsystems.com/solutions/infrastructure-services/boardconnect/

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.

Contact information:
Condor Product Marketing: rainer.kroepke@condor.com
Condor Communication: Johannes.winter@condor.com
Lufthansa Systems Communication: sandra.hammer@LHsystems.com