• Partnership announced today at Aircraft Interiors Expo 2016

Hamburg, Germany | April 5, 2016– Saudi Arabian Airlines has selected Panasonic Avionics Corporation’s (Panasonic) innovative eXO system for its fleet of 30 Airbus A320 aircraft on order.

At the 2016 Aircraft Interiors Expo, the carrier confirmed its commitment to Panasonic’s latest generation full HD inflight entertainment experience with the first aircraft due to be delivered in November 2016.

eXO is Panasonic’s innovative overhead solution available today with Panasonic’s new 12-inch 1080p retractable overhead monitors, near audio-on-demand and wireless support for passenger device streaming and interaction with the IFE System. It is designed for maximum flexibility and supports a wide variety of AVOD configurations including overhead video, wireless IFE, full AVOD and hybrid, cabin class-specific systems.

Paul Margis, President and Chief Executive Officer of Panasonic Avionics Corporation, says: “Not all IFEC systems are created equal. Our unrelenting focus on our customer’s unique needs ensures that eXO delivers unmatched flexibility at a very competitive price point. Even for an overhead system, the right technology can make a huge difference in how passengers experience an airline. With eXO, Saudi Arabian Airlines benefits from the ultimate combination of efficiency, performance and reliability to create a premium entertainment experience throughout the aircraft.”

eXO delivers the ability to mix and match cabin configurations based on an aircraft’s mission profile, the airline’s brand strategy, and the desired class configurations. It uses the same backbone as other X Series systems, enabling Saudi Arabian Airlines to launch a hybrid installation with audio/video-on-demand in the premium cabin and overhead video in the economy cabin.

Business Class passengers will enjoy individual 13.3-inch Elite full HD monitors and Video Touch Screen Handsets with a broad choice of on-demand content available through Panasonic’s IFE system. The screens are designed with enough processing power to display the content of both today and tomorrow, as well as the resource-heavy applications that will be introduced over the coming years.

Economy Class passengers will enjoy entertainment on large full HD retractable overhead screens that provide a home theatre experience throughout the cabin.

Director General of SAUDIA Eng. Saleh Aljasser said, “We needed a solution that was incredibly flexible and delivered a true HD cinema experience. The ability to configure a unique entertainment experience in each cabin class is what made eXO an easy decision for our airline. Our guests can now look forward to a unique entertainment experience in every class.”

For more information on Panasonic’s eXO solution, visit the company’s website

  • Asia’s biggest airline to be launch customer for new inflight entertainment offering

Hamburg, Germany | April 14, 2015– China Southern Airlines, Asia’s largest airline, is to be the launch customer for Panasonic Avionics’ eXO system, the industry’s most sophisticated overhead in-flight entertainment system.

The eXO system is designed with single aisle aircraft in mind and China Southern has chosen it for its new narrow-bodied fleet of Airbus A320s and A321s being delivered from early in 2016.

The new fleet being equipped will initially consist of 54 aircraft, with an option of a further 50 as the airline expands.

For the new China Southern fleet, the innovative eXO system will deliver overhead retract screens in Full 1080p High Definition (HD), clear digital audio, and in-seat high power USB charging for tablets and smart phones.

The superior Full HD resolution of eXO provides passengers with the same high quality video in the air that they enjoy every day in their home.

The offering includes availability of Near Audio On Demand, a provision unique to Panasonic, which lets passengers skip or repeat audio tracks with the press of a button on the capacitive touch passenger control units (PCU).

The new eXO system is both flexible yet powerful, capable of supporting not just Full HD overhead video and in-seat audio, but also wireless media to passenger PEDs and even seatback AVOD. All of this functionality is supported by just one single 4MCU server unit.

Panasonic Avionics CEO Paul Margis said: “eXO provides a low-cost, lightweight and fully integrated system that gives forward-thinking airlines like China Southern the power to scale the system as necessary and improve the passenger experience with our ever-evolving in-flight offering.

“We are delighted that China Southern Airlines will be our launch customer in such a dynamic market as Asia.”

For more information on Panasonic’s eXO solution, visit the company’s website at http://panasonic.aero/InflightSystems/XSeries/eXO.aspx.

Panasonic is about to unleash one of those industry game changers that will make the competition scramble, and it is not necessarily a technology you might think about. In fact you might say, the concept is a bit of a throwback, with a little Wi-Fi thrown in… but first, let’s setup this news with a back-story.

Today there are some 4,000 overhead video systems flying and the market is roughly split 70/30, with Panasonic holding the lion’s share of installations. There seems to be a small but growing trend to return to overhead days, especially in the single-aisle market, and particularly in China of all places. Panasonic, not wanting to miss this growth market took a long look at the trend and determined there are several new ways to look at an IFE solution for the growing hybrid IFE market (overhead in coach and seatback AVOD up front). Panasonic’s Neil James told IFExpress, “We wanted to be sure that overhead systems weren’t being left behind so we are launching a new overhead system that easily scales into a hybrid system. With eXO, we wanted a flexible system that would support various levels of functionality, from PSS only, to audio-only, to overhead, to the hybrid solution.” The next bit caught us off guard as Neil explained that the team is developing new 12.1″ retractable LCD displays to support the overhead solution. “The new 720p displays will have quad-core processors so we can run applications on the display – it doesn’t have to be used just for streaming video.” Panasonic doesn’t anticipate storing content in the display itself but rather interaction with the server will deliver needed code and apps.

Then Neil dropped the bomb, “Uniquely for the industry we will layer in a wireless capability in eXO to join the passengers’ PEDs and the overhead IFE in a unique social environment.” He went on, “Applications run on the display and that allows passengers to get involved with the system with their PED’s. We see applications like trivia gaming, promotions, advertising, and coupons promoted on the screen… even a social DJ application [play lists developed by the passengers, shared with other passengers] is envisioned and passengers could change the movie or functionality by zone by allowing the passengers to vote on what movie to watch. It gets more eyeballs on the overhead screen and that’s the idea – more eyeballs mean more advertising and promotion and that can affect an airline bottom line.” While details were sketchy, the Panasonic solution included surveying and statistical services and they are built-in to the product as well. “In this case,” Neil said, “the airline can run the survey and control the content, or, it could be done by a third party or advertiser, for example.”

So now we have new overhead monitors, new services, new wireless, and new audio for eXO. And speaking of audio, eXO features a new passenger control unit (PCU), very narrow in design to fit the arms of today’s economy seats. The digital audio emanates at the server, is transmitted over Ethernet to the small seat boxes. Passengers can even have it streamed wirelessly to their own device if desired. With eXO, Panasonic introduces the new feature Near Audio On Demand, which interactively allows users to skip tracks if they don’t care for them (forward and back). We are talking audio on demand to the seat PCU, not broadcast-only audio to the seat as is usual for overhead systems.

We were told the wireless router is a Panasonic part number, but we suspect partners make it. We also note that Wi-Fi is not new to Panasonic. Qantas 767’s are flying Panasonic’s wireless system, Rouge (Canada) is flying with their wireless system and there are 4 or 5 other unannounced customers as well. IFExpress expects several of these unannounced airlines could be Asian. More importantly, the new eXO will assure line fit offerability for the A320 and B737 markets. Further, eXO is being developed to support the A320 Universal Platform and the new B737MAX. Panasonic noted that the new system is even targeted to support Bombardier, Embraer, COMAC and the like. From a wide-body perspective eXO has PSS-only & audio-only configurations.

The eXO system is driven by a single new server that can support the overhead, hybrid, and wireless functionalities. The new server features all solid-state memory. (We understand that Panasonic will offer 300 Gigabyte and a 1 Terabyte unit).

In reality, Panasonic has just upgraded the concept of the Overhead system. It has the first “smart” overhead display that we know of, but there are many other unique aspects of eXO: Near Audio On Demand, lots of processor power in the overhead display, a whole new seat box (small and compact), a single head-end box with solid state memory, seamless integration of cabin-wide wireless IFE – all to create a new passenger environment and social interaction. eXO could stand for XtraOrdinary!

Lastly, the other Panasonic bombshell was the new eXK system. Following the words of Neil James, “…gracefully upgrading existing customers hardware without changing seats. We offer eXK as the solution to systems 2000e, 3000 and 3000i upgrades.” Since many premium airlines are flying these systems, Panasonic sought a way to keep away from expensive certifications, keep passengers happy and keep the customer, they will offer eXK as an upgrade that takes the head-end and slims it down to 2 LRUs and changes the network architecture, all without touching the seat. Keeping the existing seat display but changing only the seat box allows them to run an open platform and still maintain a high quality image at the display. No seat re-certification is the key to keeping the costs down. Also, getting rid of the dated architecture (Token Ring) permits faster data speeds, newer software and electronics, a new area distribution box and a new seat box that runs common media on an open platform! The new Ethernet backbone standardizes the network structure, software and components. In the word of James, “We can now preserve the display and not have to go through 16G certification – everything below the seat, including the seat box is changed but not the certification requirements. A lot of airlines have Systems 2000e, 3000 and 3000i so they can use common media and user interface technologies. Open platform applications will change the entire GUI. Because older displays were not being used to their full capacity at the time of their installation older 1990’s product are taken to today’s level of quality without having the seat recertification issue.”

eXO and eXK, the new Panasonic paradigm.

BOSE Corporation
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Danielle Glassman e: danielle_glassman@bose.com
Product/Services: Noise canceling headphones for the premium cabin