This issue of IFExpress always always raises a few feathers so let’s get started with some IFExpress predictions, then we will present the inputs from folks who were willing to provide their names, and finally, those who wish to remain anonymous will contribute as well. We should probably note that not all predictions landed in the IFEC category and thus it looks to be an interesting year – and things just might change anywhere!
IFExpress 2017 Predictions
- Narrower aircraft seats are coming in 2017, especially in newer low class offerings where only certain sized carry-on baggage will be permitted – smaller and surely less comfortable as well. We already know United Airlines has a new low cost Basic Economy package that will be copied by others. The rub will be what limitations will be placed on passengers who do not have the airline reward travel card! Hey, many folks can travel short flights and put up with almost anything. It is all a function of what they have to take with them. And yes, it will be in the back of the plane.
- More colored cabin environments will be here in 2017, but also as a result of new LED lighting in the plane – probably more blue! [We note: A recent Boeing study concluded that passengers will perceive that the airplane is cleaner, more comfortable, newer, and with better air and more room, all with the correct lighting. Even one German university test proved while flying with light that contains increased red, (not blue) light components, is more calming and cause less passenger stress.]
- We cannot say this enough but Data will be the big deal in 2017, whether it is an airline examining their routes with a goal for less fuel, to using social media to communicate directly with passengers or even potential travelers, to connection with the aircraft for more inflight system information for operation or security. OK, this is not much of a surprise!
- Some folks predict that light will be used to deliver connectivity. However, with all the issues involved with outside solar, safety lighting, and other sources of interference (Hasn’t this been tried earlier?), we think otherwise. Anyway, Bluetooth as a connectivity radio frequency has slipped under the radar and since most connectivity devices have the capability and the corporate jet world has adopted it, we expect an inflight commercial airline installation this year. With Bluetooth 5.0 alive there may be even more interest in a Bt connectivity solution. Hey, 4X range, 2X speed, and 8X capacity, and no power increase, what’s not to like?”
- Watch for an airline to test ground-based, high bandwidth 2.4 GHz, directed connectivity service like those proposed for SmartSky and Gogo. This is more of a 2017 sure thing than a prediction.
- We fear aviation manufacturing layoffs, let’s see what happens there but don’t look for that job just yet. The layoff scenario has already started at Boeing, who is downsizing to the tune of some 8,000 employees, and could reach 10% there. Airbus is next after production continues for a bit.
- Maintenance of aircraft will see more outsourcing, new technology products like AI and voice technology used in maintenance products, and more consolidation in the MRO world (Maintenance Repair Overhaul).
- While we hope it does not happen, but be very concerned that a hacker doesn’t get aboard a plane this year, transmit a fake Wi-Fi service and install a lot of ransomware (like doxware) on folks trying to get Wi-Fi service. In 2017 it is a possibility and be sure you know how to get online when onboard!
- What’s next for future SATCOM? How about Q/V bands: 33 – 75 GHz? If the FCC auctions get it together, perhaps even 14 GHz has a chance?
- We shy away from talking about aircraft control hacking, but have you thought about hackers using a DDoS attach or ransomware on an airline reservation system – might happen?
- The Boeing 787 will finally get the proper acclaim that it is the only commercial jet airplane where cabin/crew air is taken directly from the atmosphere with electrically powered compressors and not from engine ‘bleed air’! The health guru’s will help.
- Cybercrime damages will continue to grow (costing the world $6 trillion annually by 2021), up from $3 trillion last year; ransomware will be the fastest growing threat in terms of new attacks and costs. Global spending on cybersecurity products and services will exceed $1 trillion cumulatively over the next 5 years from 2017 to 2021. Easy procurement of cheap IoT devices or Wi-Fi enabled products introduces a serious level of risk — of which many people are unaware. As one expert noted: “Transportation systems may be immobilized.” Or, as another one said: “My second prediction for 2017 is that cyber personnel will become a rare commodity like we have never seen before. Organizations have received the message, and are staffing and investing, but that demand generates a supply that is not available.” Don’t you think there will be plenty of openings in aviation security in 2017? We do!
- Lastly, as strange as it seems, “a self-driving” aircraft concept for passenger planes will be talked about this year – perhaps just for parcel delivery but projects like ALIAS are just the beginning.
Named 2017 Reader Predictions
Here are our reader IFEC predictions and we start of with those from APEX CEO, Joe Leader:
- Connectivity announcements and deployment will hit a new high for the industry.
- In-flight entertainment continues its expansion with more global IFE system installations and upgrades.
- Airline passenger experience will become less siloed inside of airlines as carriers look for greater market differentiation.
- On flights without built-in IFE or connectivity, “Near-FI” solutions offering, entertainment will become much more common. This will escalate in particular on low-cost carriers looking to differentiate their products.
- In-flight advertising will see the beginning of a new age of renaissance.
- The Internet of Things (IoT) will broaden from case-studies on aircraft to first tangible implementations.
- With the Bluetooth 5.0 specification released, we will see first announcements about Bluetooth connectivity to IFE in future products.
- Long-haul business class will enter a new era just as British Airways introduced the first lie-flat for business class in 1999. We could call it the suite era or the privacy era. This period will begin this year marked by increasing level of suite-like privacy on long-haul business class products. It will be initiated by visionary airlines in different manners and progress to a new bar for long-haul business class passenger experience over the next two decades.
Next, from Henry Chen Weinstein at Cockpit Innovations we have:
“I think 2017 in Tech will be about the upcoming implications of new technology on our current way of work. The [changing] place of startups in our space as more players understand the value of innovation on a global scale. Establishing new ways to take our aviation business forward.”
Here is the prediction note from John Courtright at SIE:
“I predict that the Modular Cabin Concept will generate a lot more attention from airline operators. The ability to transform a commercial aircraft from a “domestic” (2-Class) configuration to an “international” configuration (3-Class) on an overnight or less using palletized modules to swap out interiors will generate great interest from operators. Aside from the aircraft utilization flexibility, the Modular Cabin Concept will generate increased operational revenue (ROI) from a given aircraft asset by allowing the operator to customize their service level to different markets at a relatively low cost.”
Rich Salter, now with FTS chimed in with:
“All the talk about the death (or not) of seatback IFE is not the relevant question: the real interesting question is where will displays be located next – on the wrist, on entire seatbacks, baggage bins, sidewall of fuselage, VR or immersive glasses, etc., not to mention non-cabin locations like cockpit, baggage, lounges, etc. They could be thin as paper, and could be foldable/rollable (as are OLEDs). They will consume extremely low power and be fed data via wireless (WiFi). Smartwatches are only the beginning. In summary, advances in wireless streaming and display tech will lead to some fascinating implementations of IFE displays in unconventional places!”
Todd Hamblin at Global (GADC) told IFExpress in 2017:
- The Wireless IFE market will continue to grow, with Portable Wireless IFE being a subset for those ultra-low cost carriers.
- Companies based in China will become a larger part of the IFE and Connectivity landscape.
- An airline will attempt to install a Portable Wireless IFE system on their aircraft without permission from the FAA or EASA even though the server contains Lithium Ion batteries and might interfere with existing aircraft systems.
- The FAA will be impacted and safety compromised by the changing political climate.
“I predict that the first elastic virtual servers will creep into the cabin on airliners and it just might be Bluetooth that drives it. Elastic devices are the latest generation of server that expands and contracts based on demand. It’s a floating platform that can replicate itself in virtual space.”
Kelvin Boyette CEO of Latitude Aero observes:
- Mergers will dominate 2017, allowing the larger multi-national companies to offer a menu of turnkey services to both airlines and aircraft OEMs.
- 2017 will be the year that seat refurbishment emerges from its “niche” status. New products, such as IFE and ISPS, are emerging faster than new seat OEMs can get them into the seat, so the refurbishment centers are where the airlines will turn to offer the most up to date, modern, passenger experience to their clientele.
- Both BYOD and embedded IFE will flourish. I do not believe only one will succeed. Both will explode this year.
Michael Reilly, VP Entertainment Services, Arconics – A ViaSat Company notes:
- My key prediction for the year is that those airlines who don’t take the step into connectivity in 2017 will certainly take steps on the ‘path to connectivity’ – and there’s a couple of different ways to define that… I think a lot of airlines apart from the obvious cost barrier to entry to connectivity are waiting for other developments – competitive and even marketplace ie: changes to the vendor side of the industry – be that product, pricing etc.
- Naturally as we get more airlines closer to connectivity, security is becoming a hot topic, as is bigger and better use of data.
- Another prediction is that effective use of data will help break down the traditional siloing that has always gone on in the airline business and that’s exciting.
- I’d sum up my prediction by saying that 2017 is ‘finally’ the year where. Connectivity, Wireless and Mobile finally made the strides forward that moved the needle on the bottom line for airlines.
Craig Foster of Valour Consultancy said:
- We will see one of the in-flight connectivity service providers acquired by a much larger company. Additionally, we’ll also see at least one wireless in-flight entertainment vendor snapped up by someone with much more clout.
- The number of aircraft with in-flight connectivity systems installed and activated will surpass 7,000 by the end of the year. Regions aside from North America will continue to witness strong growth and we will likely see another carrier based in Latin America announce connectivity plans before long (in addition to Avianca Brasil and GOL).
- More and more airlines will announce plans to deploy IFE systems that allow passengers to pay their personal electronic devices to the main screen in an effort to match expectations around second screening and to better personalise the experience.
Unnamed 2017 Reader Predictions
We start off with predictions from a “Cabin Solution Provider”:
- The exponential growth of cabin Wi-Fi usage within the confines of the same aircraft will lead to more congestion in the cabin. One prediction says that passenger data to and from aircraft will more than quadruple in 2017. We knew that something like this was coming. However, what’s new is the speed at which this is happening.
- In 2017 the speed of the PED-pull in terms of passenger experience, apps etc. will increase even further. It certainly will be very much faster than the gentle ambling in which many of the aircraft hardware-push industry players are used to operate.
Another few from another Unnamed Predictor:
- Low cost carrier mergers and acquisitions will accelerate globally.
- With airline capacity surpassing global market demand, this will be a year including news of airline deferments and reductions. The exception to this rule will be in next-generation aircraft connecting previously unconnected city pairs. For the industry, this will be a relatively landing.
- Airlines in a more challenging global environment that raise their passenger experience will outperform carriers that focus on reducing passenger experience to reduce costs.
And lastly, still another Unnamed Predictor told IFExpress:
- Hacking the Baggage Systems at major hubs will occur to misdirect luggage?
- Hacking will occur to shut down refueling facilities at major airports.
- Hackers will find a way to infect the IFE system to download passenger data and airline sales information direct from the aircraft, putting at liability Airlines and IFE suppliers. Class Action suit to follow. Revenue streams will be jeopardized for both airlines, IFE suppliers and product/service providers accordingly.
- All economy seats on American / Domestic airlines will follow the pay as you go scheme: everything short of the toilets will be ‘pay to play’: boarding sequence; stowable baggage; check-in bags; food; drink; entertainment; EVERYTHING.
- Donald Trump’s administration will make significant progress to privatize government agencies and systems – a la Russian Model – Air Traffic Control will be privatized and sold off; FAA will be privatized; and the Space Programs under NASA will also be spun off. If not in this coming year, the effort may take at least part of his first term. (Editor’s Note: IFExpress apologizes to this predictor as we just did not have the space (nerve?) to post all the input – Sorry!).
Thank you to everybody who contributed and we close with the words of Arthur C. Clarke: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
While we did not necessarily expect large changes in IFEC at a show the size of APEX Singapore, we were wrong – there is a lot going on in the way of change pertaining to the world of cabin experiences. The big driver of course is what passengers bring on the airplane and their expectations of how air travel will be a continuation of their ground experiences and lifestyle. This would explain the need for better connectivity on the aircraft and the increase in demand for connectivity based solutions. Another area that appears to be growing is demand for engaging the passenger throughout the travel experience – from the initial ticket purchase all the way to arrival at their destination. The goal is to engage the passenger in an end-to-end experience. This is being facilitated by the airline apps now available, as well as, the various connectivity solutions that are permeating both the airport and the aircraft. With the availability of real-time data analytics the airlines can finally interact with their travelers seamlessly throughout the entire journey. The message here is data, and a lot of it. This expansion is creating new products, services, new jobs, and a new way to capture the aviation business. Consequently, the passenger, the airplane, and the airline are all operating as if the aircraft were ‘tethered to a gatelink on the ground’ – the next industry growth phase will include more data about the passenger, more data about their travel experience, more data about the aircraft, and we can thank connectivity for bring about these changes.
1) Airlines are looking more and more to connectivity and Wi-Fi for their single-aisle solutions, as well as, their twin-aisle aircraft. Wi-Fi and connectivity are critical for both the connected aircraft and engaging the passenger throughout all aspects of the trip.
2) With the proliferation of handheld, semi-embedded and Pax PED devices we saw an increase in agile, brandable software/GUI.
3) With the advent of true broadband coming into service we saw IFE vendors embracing the availability of a large pipe by offering aircraft operations evaluation real-time, as well as, passenger services.
4) New methods of power delivery as well as capability with the latest upgrade in USB based power. In fact, Inseat USB power is now the expectation – and USB C is here now too! Obviously, this demand is to support the connectivity/PEDs brought onboard the aircraft by the passengers, among others.
5) There is a growing market for a lower cost connectivity solution for smaller amounts of data or chat style connectivity. At the show we saw 2 new ground based connectivity solutions being developed and another that was based on Bluetooth.
Gogo celebrated 25 years in business (1991 – 2016)! Congratulations may the next 25 be even more momentous. One of the technology surprises was the newly announced network that will use unlicensed spectrum, a proprietary modem and a new beam-forming antenna to produce peak network speeds of more than 100 Mbps. This next generation ground-based network for the aero market will utilize LTE technology and leverage Gogo’s existing first generation North American network and infrastructure of more than 250 towers. “Gogo’s next generation network will also be backward-compatible with Gogo’s first generation network, which means an aircraft will be able to seamlessly switch between Gogo’s two networks similar to how a cell phone on the ground connects to the fastest available network,” said Anand Chari, CTO of Gogo. The benefits of the network for commercial aircraft operating within the United States and Canada include: low equipment cost and weight, overnight installation, and low drag on the aircraft due to the small size of the antennas. It also has big advantages in terms of latency compared to satellite solutions. It should be noted, that this system is using the same frequency as 802.11 – the 2.4 GHz band but the solution is not Wi-Fi as such. Gogo did not go into any description of the modulation technique used. We point out that the press release that was distributed in late September on this subject came out on the same day as SmartSky released theirs – interesting!
FTS is probably the newest full system IFEC provider in the industry today. At the show they announced that their Wi-Fi IFE system is already flying on China Southern’s 737 for a trial, and will be flying on another airline in Asia and a North America-based carrier in the near term. While the company is in the midst of a market re-branding and product renaming, their young engineering team impressed us with their understanding of an inflight connectivity solution and some potential new products that we have yet to see on an aircraft. The company is focusing on the B737 family and A320 family aircraft and are targeting small airlines and LCC’s to get their product off the ground. Basically, the company is in the start-up phase and moving very rapidly into the IFEC realm. They have brought on some industry notables to help facilitate this goal: Darrel Chua (GM, Singapore FTS); Rich Salter, CTO; Ben Fuller, Director of Marketing for the Americas; and Jack Sunabe, Director of Program Management. Here is an image of the team in their booth at APEX.
Their next generation Wi-Fi entertainment and information system is fully FAA/EASA compliant and supports 802.11 ac standards. The system is ultra-light weight, which greatly reduces fuel burn when compared to legacy IFE systems. The system requires one or two Cabin Wireless Access Points (CWAPs) to cover the entire cabin. This interacts with their General Network Server which uses high-capacity SSD drives to support HD media streaming, as well as the latest applications. Their Terminal Wireless Cellular Unit (TWCU) is for multi-band 3G/4G cellular data communication, activated when the aircraft is on the ground, and can be used for content update and usage data offload. Also, we should mention they exhibited a nifty smartwatch for flight attendants that served as the CMT.
Wi-Fi, while not sexy unto itself, controls the cost and manufacturing requirements and quality of the system that a new entrant can handle. More importantly, since all their LRUs are manufactured by FTS’ parent company (FeiTian), they do not have to integrate with anyone else. Also, they don’t have to outsource their software – it is all controlled in house. By operating in this mode they do not have to rely on suppliers; however, we do note that they want to create partnerships from a marketing perspective in order to enhance ancillary revenue generation. Furthermore, products like customized games can be easily added.
In closing, we note that the parent company (FeiTian) has been around for 11 years with a backbone built on bullet trains in China. Additionally, it should be mentioned that by year’s end their will be four FTS company (aviation-focused) offices: China, Singapore, Newport Beach, and a location in Europe – so the company is very interested in aggressive expansion. In our interview they mentioned that they will have four airlines in their first full year of operation – WOW!
SITA OnAir demonstrated how the passenger experience is being transformed by their e-Aircraft concept. The e-Aircraft presents significant opportunities for airlines to streamline operations and improve efficiencies. It also presents the major challenge of what to do when confronted by terabytes of data produced during each flight. Some of it will be stored for downloading on the ground. But increasingly, the demand is for real-time interaction, for the aircraft to be connected nose-to-tail throughout the flight for both passengers and the airline. They discussed the key developments based on the advent of the global high through-put satellite link, GX Aviation from Inmarsat. In fact, they showed how the increased connectivity affected 6 key ‘audiences’ (aircraft included) for the improved data rates: 1) Passengers benefit from a richer, more interactive infotainment experience. At the Expo they launched their latest inflight portal for passengers, 2) Cabin Crew can now personalize passenger interaction with real-time information available at their fingertips. Also, they demonstrated their latest CrewTablet developments, 3) Cockpit Crew can also deliver a safer, more comfortable journey to passengers thanks to live weather updates sent directly to EFBs, 4) Flight Operations can enhance passenger safety by tracking aircraft wherever they are in the world using AIRCOM FlightTracker – and a number of airlines have already signed up, 5) Aircraft transmits maintenance requirement data, ensuring teams are waiting at the gate to keep turnaround time to a minimum, 6) And finally, Air Traffic Control enhances both safety and efficiency by streamlining communications between pilots and air traffic managers. SITA likes to call these ‘nose-to-tail’ solutions.
2016 APEX Awards:
This year’s APEX Awards were expanded from previous years. In fact, there were eight categories in the new format. Competition was particularly high especially in the areas of “Best Inflight Entertainment Innovation” and “Best Original Video” – I think many of the judges wished they could handout co-winner awards!
Award winners are as follows:
- Best Video Curation – Air Canada enRoute Programming
- Best Original Video – Etihad Airways Virtual Reality Film
- Best Original Audio – American Airlines Exclusive Content
- Best Inflight Connectivity Innovation – Finnair Nordic Sky Wi-Fi
- Best Passenger Comfort Innovation – Singapore Airlines A350 Business Class
- Best Personalization Innovation – Air New Zealand Airpoints
- Best Cabin Innovation – STG Aerospace Green Floor Path Lighting
- Best Inflight Entertainment Innovation – Air New Zealand Innovations
- Newcomer Award – SkyLights and ImmFly
- CEO Lifetime Achievement – Goh Choon Phong, Singapore
Did you get to the APEX sponsored networking event in Singapore on Wednesday evening? If not you missed a fantastic band called Full Circle that played class rock’n roll. We were so impressed we want to extend a ‘thank you’ to Ande Rowe | Manager, Meetings & Expositions for APEX who booked them. Full Circle really made the event one to remember!! Their facebook page can be found here.
Newport Beach, CA | October 26, 2016– FTS Technologies Inc. today announce that their revolutionary Cabin Wireless Solution has been selected by an undisclosed North American airline for installation on their fleet of B737’s. Launching in Q1 of 2017, passengers on both charter and commercial flights will enjoy FTS’ newest and premium entertainment option.
“We are delighted to be working with FTS to introduce Cabin Wireless Solution on our B737 fleet,” said the airline executive. “We are committed to delivering superior customer service and exceeding passenger satisfaction so adding FTS next generation IFE will allow us to achieve that standard.”
FTS Cabin Wireless Solution is completely designed and manufactured in-house within the organization. The system features a high performance 2-MCU embedded file server, 2 wireless access points that support the latest 802.11ac standard and a revolutionary 3G/4G cellular modem that takes up to 4 sim cards. Passengers can connect to the onboard wireless network through their own mobile devices and enjoy streaming HD-quality video and audio entertainment, play single/multiplayer games, read latest news, view 2D/3D flight progress maps and indulge in shopping.
“We are very excited to secure our first launch airline customer in the Americas region and we look forward to partner them to immerse their passengers into a whole new level of service and onboard entertainment,” said Mr. Duan Shiping, President and CEO of FTS. “We are working closely with the airline and FAA to apply for STC (Supplemental Type Certification) approval. With the expected issue of STC in early 2017, that will start opening up new opportunities worldwide and establish ourselves as a respectable global player.”
Newport Beach, CA | October 24, 2016– FTS, a fast rising new provider of inflight wireless entertainment platform, today announced that two Aviation and Inflight Entertainment industry luminaries have joined its senior leadership team in USA. Rich Salter has been appointed as Chief Technology officer (CTO) while Jack Sunabe has joined as Director of Program Management. The new additions shall further boost FTS product development capabilities and also strengthen program delivery to FTS’s inaugural launch customer in North America. This news follows the company’s previous announcement that well-known industry marketing executive Ben Fuller had joined FTS as Director of Marketing for the Americas.
Rich received his B.Sc and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering from Ohio University and interned in its Avionics Engineering Center. Later, he cofounded Airshow map displays and consulted on in-flight entertainment for airlines and suppliers. In 2003, he cofounded Lumexis. Rich has served on the board of the WAEA (now APEX) and its Technology Committee (TC), ARINC Cabin Systems Subcommittee and the FAA PED Aviation Rulemaking Committee. Rich received the APEX Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001, which is the highest accolade in the industry.
Jack’s illustrious career spans over 25 years in the Aerospace industry. His In-flight-entertainment (IFE) experience started at Sony Trans Com then with Rockwell Collins after its acquisition. He took on positions of Product Line Manager and later, Principal Program Manager. Prior to joining FTS, Jack served as the VP OEM Programs and New Product Development at Lumexis where he was instrumental in managing the process to become a Boeing approved IFE supplier.
“We are indeed most fortunate to have both Rich and Jack join FTS at the right time when we are rapidly expanding” said Mr Duan Shiping, President and CEO of FTS. “Rich and Jack each bring a wealth of knowledge and experience across the different aerospace fields, including avionics hardware, software, testing, certification, program management and quality. Their presence will help propel our global R&D and program management teams to new heights, ultimately delivering world class inflight innovations to airline customers.”