Isle of Wight, UK | October 28, 2014– IFPL, an Isle of Wight based company specializing in tailored engineering solutions for the global in-flight entertainment industry, was presented The Queen’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade on Wednesday, 17th September.

Each year The Queen’s Awards are presented in three categories to around 140 companies. IFPL won the award by demonstrating that the business had achieved substantial growth in overseas earnings and commercial success for its business size. The prestigious award, announced in April of this year, was presented to IFPL by His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent as part of a visit to the Isle of Wight. His Royal Highness was given a tour of IFPL and a product demonstration, followed by the presentation of the award.

IFPL Managing Director Geoff Underwood said the visit was an honour,

“The Queen’s Award affects us in two ways. Most of our customers are based in the United States and they understand that the award is a prestigious accolade. Additionally, the staff take great pride in the fact the company has been recognised. It’s a national award and we’re really proud of that. Last time when we won, it was 2008. We’ve doubled our sales in that time and we now have 46 employees.”

The Duke of Kent congratulated IFPL staff for their achievements,

“I just want to congratulate you on your great success in achieving another Queen’s Award. As you are probably aware, these things are not given away lightly and in fact the list of award winners every year is a very small one. You’re one of a distinguished band of top-class companies who’ve shown the world they can take on anybody. Many congratulations to everyone who works for IFPL.”

IFPL is an award winning international design and manufacturing company based in Calbourne on the Isle of Wight and previously won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade in 2008.

Remember BAE Systems? They were the folks that introduced a new in-seat power system at a previous IFE show. Well, that device has seen further development with boxes that supply 4 USB 5 VDC and 4 110 AC, 2 Amp, outlets… sort of a smart power junction box. But this story is not about inseat power, it’s about their new IntelliCabin, next-gen cabin control system that is the cabin crew interface to in-seat power, IFE, LED lighting, dim-able windows, seat diagnostics, and cabin management. Jared Schoemaker, BAE Systems Director of Cabin Systems told IFExpress that he felt that IntelliCabin was not only their future vision for the cabin system, it integrates with Samsung devices! More on that in a minute. The IntelliCabin solution provides, power to passengers, delivers enhanced passenger experience via tablets, integrates the latest lighting technology, centralizes and simplifies crew control through mobile devices, improves diagnostics (implements prognostics – we need to find out more about this), and reduces acquisition and operating costs. If the IntelliCabin product sounds familiar, it was the BEA System folks who brought about the Attendant Control Panel that is the heart of the interior lighting control for the Boeing B737 Sky Interior. Now, back to Samsung – BAE Systems has an MOU with none other than Samsung… whose name is cropping up everywhere in the aviation – now space – business. BAE plans to integrate the Samsung device world into the IntellicCabin architecture with their latest devices (tablets, phones, whatever), and they will integrate that model into crew management. Lastly, they plan to integrate these efforts into BAE systems global support network. We will keep you posted as this all develops. The BAE system demonstrated operation with a 12.2” Galaxy NotePro, a Galaxy Tab 10.1”, a Galaxy Note 3, a Galaxy S5 and the great Gear 2 Smartwatch.

A recent trade pub (FierceWirelessTech) noted that industry associations are taking the side of inflight telephony in the US: “The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC) said in a joint FCC filing that they support the commission’s proposal to remove what they called ‘outdated regulatory barriers for access to in-flight mobile connectivity.’ The commission’s plan has the potential to make in-flight mobile connectivity (IMC), “including data, text, and even voice connectivity,” available to consumers aboard airborne aircraft, the three trade groups noted. Despite public outcry over the FCC proposal, the groups contend that various stakeholders, “including IMC providers, off-board communications link providers, airlines and aircraft manufacturers, and industry associations, are generally supportive of enabling IMC in the United States.” Get ready to write your Congressperson.

We have been following Geoff Underwood’s Cashless Retail System (CRS) and we understand a trial is in work. When we asked him about an update, he cautiously responded; “We have been talking to Airlines about the system and are expecting a trial within the next month or so. That’s as much as I have today!”

While the Gogo – AT&T saga continues, we wanted to give our readers another couple inputs on the debate. Firstly, Gogo has countered the AT&T announcement with their own view of next-gen solution for US connectivity that should make competitors a bit nervous – read it here.

Next, we discovered another article about one of the Big Dogs in the telephony business and it got us thinking: It seems Ericsson has been testing moving cellular connectivity in an article referring to cellular testing on/for trains: ”First up is Ericsson, the world’s largest network equipment provider, which said it is testing two new features–Dynamic On/Off and Dual Connectivity–that are being considered for LTE Release 12. Ericsson said the functions are both geared toward lowering the power requirements of wireless network base stations. Ericsson said Dynamic On/Off is a feature that mutes a base station when it is not transmitting data. The benefit is two-fold: inter-cell interference reduction and the possibility for the base station to go in a lower power consumption state,” Ericsson said. As for Dual Connectivity, Ericsson said the technology would allow a user to receive data from two base stations simultaneously rather than only from one. “In some cases, users will be able to download a file twice as fast as today due to the dual connectivity to the LTE network. Because users are served faster, base stations are more often inactive and thus can go more frequently in a lower power consumption state,” the company said. Then we discovered how they were testing… in a jet plane! Draw your own conclusions but it looks like they could build AT&T’s hardware.

Ever heard of the Lockheed Model 10 Electra? One reader, Robert Bogash is the kind of a guy who does. His retired-Boeing-other-job is with Seattle’s Museum of Flight at Boeing Field. Bob’s vision was to get one of the twin prop workhorses into the museum and his website has documented the story of doing it… in pictures. Very nice restoration, Bob is a genius with vision. Check it out here – you won’t be disappointed!

And speaking of Oldies But Goodies – The Dash 80 rolled out 60 years ago last week – May 14, 1954. The Seattle P.I. had a nice photo spread.

Isle of Wight, England | April 2014– IFPL, the international design and manufacturing company based on the Isle of Wight, is celebrating a tremendous achievement after being announced as a Winner of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade This is the second time that IFPL has won this most prestigious award, being previous winners in 2008.

This outstanding performance has been achieved by providing innovative, well-engineered products that meet aircraft builders’ and airline requirements on time with outstanding levels of quality. In winning the prestigious award IFPL has demonstrated substantial growth in overseas earnings and sustained commercial success.

As the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) unveiled the 2014 winners, Prime Minister David Cameron said, “In recognising their outstanding and innovative achievements, and their contribution to our economy, I hope other businesses and entrepreneurs will be inspired to follow their lead.”
IFPL Managing Director, Geoff Underwood said, “It is such a great honour to be awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, which is recognized around the world, particularly in our prime market of the USA; this award will provide our customers and partners with an unsurpassed level of confidence in our abilities”.

“As a small company based on the Isle of Wight, to have achieved success globally, is an outstanding achievement that reflects the hard work and dedication of everyone at IFPL, for which we are all very proud ”

IFPL was started in 1997 by Island born Geoff Underwood to design and manufacture a range of innovative products for inflight entertainment systems, including USB, ethernet and headset connectors. IFPL supplies parts to most of the leading worldwide airlines. Its success is based on meeting passengers’ needs for multi-media connectivity and reliable access to in-flight entertainment. Supply to the passenger airline industry has been key to IFPL’s core business, but the company is now extending its business into the executive jet and rail markets.

As you may remember, IFExpress has been concerned about the future of credit card fraud, especially with the advent of ancillary airline revenues. It’s also no secret that airlines are looking for more ways to get into your wallet during the three hours (or whatever) when you have nothing to do. As a captive audience, what retailer has a better opportunity? All the more reason to keep vigilant and with the recent hacks to US retailers, like Target and others, it will pay off in the long run if airlines figure out the issues with credit card security first. And that is a perfect segue into our ongoing discussions with Geoff Underwood, of IFPL fame. He told us: “I think the main thing to note is that IFPL brought this change to the attention of the IFEC industry back at the APEX TC in Nov 2012, but I think everyone was in denial! No one else had any idea that this was real – even the industry experts. What will be interesting is how the vendors (i.e.: Airlines) who have legacy card swipe facilities, will cope with the fraud risk. The way it works in the rest of the World, in simplistic terms, is that if you have any fraud with Chip-and-Pin, then the bank assumes the risk and will reimburse you. You can still use a card swipe, BUT, if there’s any fraud, then the VENDOR assumes the risk.”

Geoff went on to say, “So, my assumption will be that the Airlines will have to accept that they are running at risk if they continue to use their legacy card swipes in the seat backs. Or they can insist on cabin crew using a hand held PoS (Point Of Sale) device. The issue as of 2012, was that any chip/pin reader needs to be EMV/PCI compliant. That means anything designed to go in the seatback has to be super-secure. We looked at this in great detail and found that the cost per seat was going to be prohibitive for a seat back installation, so we have focused on our Contact-less solution that is very cost effective. It is satisfying to note that IFPL is probably still ahead of most IFEC companies when it comes to Chip and Pin, and Contact-less technologies, and we still have Chip-and-Pin on our technology road map, but, as usual, watch this space!” (Editor Translation Note: This usually means Geoff and his team will be demonstrating something hot at an IFE show in the not-to-distant future!)

As Mr. Underwood notes, this battle is not over and the more lax rules on cards and payment systems in the States are overshadowed by a good part of the rest of the world and the issue is probably one of the factors holding up wholesale installation of onboard payment schemes. Lastly, below are a couple of links to help you understand the difference between Chip-and-Pin credit cards and NFC technology.

Some Retail Malware Issues



On a similar theme as above, have you heard about “Hotspot 2.0” technology? It’s a way to securely transition between cellular and wireless connectivity. Too early to be seen on planes but this article will, no doubt, get you thinking!

Next, we note that there is an announcement about a Panasonic seatback IFEC big sale to Canada’s WestJet airlines – 120 destinations, 20 countries served. Looks to us like the sale includes some 105 present B737 Next Gen’s (B737-600, B737-700, and B73-800), with 25 more NG’s to come. The deal could eventually include 65 B737 MAX planes in delivered after 2017 as well… but we have no data there. We note, and you might too, that the press release notes: “And, with a mix of free and paid content, the new system offers the airline additional ancillary revenue opportunities.” Ancillary revenue is a big buzzword and Panasonic got the message! Check out the link to the story here.

With the Asia/Pacific Region offering almost $2T in airplane sales which encompass between 10,000 and 12,000 planes, it is no wonder both Airbus and Boeing focused on the Singapore Airshow 2014…  and $32B of orders is the result. While sales numbers have been announced and Airbus seems to have won in total monies, it remains unclear just how many of both company’s orders were only announced at the show. In other words, don’t get ‘up and locked’ on the $32B show number.

Lastly, we wanted to write a fitting tribute to David Peterson as last week we received his note of planned retirement and he wrote: “It is with mixed feelings that I advise I will be retiring from Panasonic on 28th February 2014. It has been a roller coaster ride over the last 10 years with many more ups than downs and I would like to thank you for support over that period – It’s time to let the “kids” take over. Should you wish to keep in touch I can be reached on” David Peterson’s retirement spans 3 decades of IFE history, IFE Manager at QANTAS, President of WAEA in the late ’80s, and Panasonic for some ten years. Imagine the changes he’s sen in 30 years! We tried to write a fitting tribute to an individual whose heart and mind were always in the right place in this industry. Not only is he a nice guy, David always had your best interest, (and that of the industry) in mind! Always! Stellar’s new top man, Peter McGlaughlin, another Aussie, told IFExpress, “David was a pioneer in the IFE industry I worked closely with David when we introduced the first In-seat videos on QANTAS in the early 90’s. He is a guy that wanted to make things happen and was focused on delivering quality. His contribution to the IFE industry is immense whether for a supplier or airline. His retirement will leave a void in knowledge in many aspects of the industry.” We can add little to that – Good Luck David.

This Hot Topic is all about Smartphones and the eventual complete immersion in, and interface with, the commercial airliner. We recently wrote a story about one IFE vendor (Thompson Aerospace) who has developed a Google-like Pay-Per-Click solution and that got us wondering about the future interactions between passengers and the plane’s wireless and/or wired systems. When we queried a number of IFExpress readers about this impending pax/plane interface we got a lot more data than we expected. For one thing, emerging technologies and industries will surely come to play in the interface revolution. And yes, we did say revolution. For example, there is no reason why the airlines won’t expect in the future to allow you to “turn on” all seat wireless connectivity and/or screened interface with a credit card, password, or whatever. In other words, ancillary revenue and real or perceived valued improvement. As people move away from credit cards into mobile wallet technology, expect the revenue hunters to zero in on your flight. For the seatback crowd, the credit card seems to be the de rigueur way to take money out of your pocket. There is a better way.

The Smartphone has a few more tricks: Carrier Billing, Card Readers, Apps, and Near Field Communication. While these are mostly self explanatory, we contacted Geoff Underwood regarding NFC, arguably our industry leader in that subject and got this response: ” As with most things, you will see adoption of mobile wallet technology and applications onboard as a follow on to when the technology gets adopted on the ground. What’s holding it back on the ground is the usual in-fighting between the various providers who still can’t agree on a standard. It’s getting there, and once they are all in agreement, then it will explode, but it needs a universal standard. It is a great opportunity for the IFE industry to actually get ahead of the game for once.”

Geoff went on, “Historically, we react to changes and trends in the consumer world, but this means we are always running behind, trying to play catch up. Because of our industry’s long development and certification lead times that inevitably means that airlines and their passengers get the technology too late. Over three years ago, IFPL saw the emergence of mobile payment technology and we decided to invest in its development and promotion. We have been encouraging the IFE majors to adopt the technology now – before their customers are even aware that its out there – so that when the industry wakes up to the great opportunities that this technology can offer, the IFE systems will be ready to go.”

Finally he noted: “When people get to understand mobile payments, they will understand how easy it is to pay for things (albeit small value items), and before long they won’t even think about it. When airlines realise how easy it is for their passengers to pay for small value items, such as sodas, sandwiches, movies etc., then they will be beating a path to the IFE suppliers to have the mobile payment capability on their aircraft.” We know IFPL has also been working on the UK branded “Chip and Pin” technology and the forthcoming IFE trade shows will most certainly be a showcase for these types of technologies.”

No doubt the field of Smartphone/Seatback future interactions will be involved in the trade for a viewing connection. If airlines can charge for a stowed bag can ALL IFE be far behind? The problem (and solution) is that the technologies are just arriving. We like to point out Mark Thompson’s (Thompson Aerospace) QR code use and how his system is taking Pay-Per-Click data collection to a new level. While many Smartphone users are just spooling up their Smartphone QR capability, he has implemented a data takeaway solution using them. And while we are on the subject of Future Interactions that might be revenue generators, here is a short list we have assembled: Payment (including passwords and coupon codes, i.e. loyalty deals), Pay for Play, Pay Per Click, Data Takeaway/Download, Entertainment Control, Crew/Pax inform, Wi-Fi Connectivity (Messaging, Surfing, etc.). All mentioned can, and will probably, be involved with some future form of payment, loyalty or data gathering efforts.

There will be a new world of IFEC when aircraft technology catches up with Smartphones, tablets and novices yet to be designed. No doubt the recent relationship between Boeing and Samsung will test and explore everything from crew device interfaces to better pax/airplane connection. The message here is think outside the box… no, make that think outside the plane!

As far as technology goes, NFC doesn’t, and this is precisely why it might be a great technology to watch for future inflight payment applications. But, lets start in the beginning.

For a definition of Near Field Communications we first turn to Wikipedia:
“Near field communication, or NFC, allows for simplified transactions, data exchange, and wireless connections between two devices in close proximity to each other, usually by no more than a few centimeters. It is expected to become a widely used system for making payments by Smartphone in the United States. Many Smartphones currently on the market already contain embedded NFC chips that can send encrypted data a short distance (“near field”) to a reader located, for instance, next to a retail cash register. Shoppers who have their credit card information stored in their NFC Smartphones can pay for purchases by waving their Smartphones near or tapping them on the reader, rather than using the actual credit card.”

Having established a definition, let’s now look at some applications that are out there today. Here is a short list of NFC uses that you probably already know and love, and most assuredly, will grow: Mobile payments via PIN, PayPal, Google Wallet, Air (rail and ground too) ticketing, Boarding passes, Retail Point Of Sale (POS) and so on. But what is it exactly? We again turn to Wikipedia: “NFC is a set of short-range wireless technologies, typically requiring a distance of 4 cm or less. NFC operates at 13.56 MHz on ISO/IEC 18000-3 air interface and at rates ranging from 106 kbit/s to 424 kbit/s. NFC always involves an initiator and a target; the initiator actively generates an RF field that can power a passive target. This enables NFC targets to take very simple form factors such as tags, stickers, key fobs, or cards that do not require batteries. NFC peer-to-peer communication is of course possible, where both devices are powered.” We also note that has a max data transfer rate of 424 Kbits/sec and a working distance of 20 cm, or less. Being a technology with short range, minimizes the unwanted interception, a feature that has merit on an airplane. After seeing the IFPL NFC demonstrator at the last APEX meeting in Seattle, we asked IFPL’s Geoff Underwood about his interest in the technology.

Said Underwood, “IFPL has worked with contact-less technology for many years.  We have experience with the hardware and packaging and certifying it for use on-board aircraft.  This experience puts us in a market leading position for further developing this technology for use on aircraft. As Near Field Communication technology develops further, the possibilities for airlines to capture ancillary revenue increases, as NFC facilitates “easy purchasing”; no need for cash.  IFPL’s latest developments tackle the issue of making secure payments on board, through a combined NFC & chip and pin reader to increase the passenger’s payment options. Currently there is an NFC limit of around £15 per transaction using an embedded credit card.  When financial services institutions increase the payment limit, it will enable higher value transactions to be made on-board which will continue to be both secure and quick. The security eventually being embedded in the passenger’s mobile phone.”

Q: Why is this technology prevalent in Europe?
“In Europe and the Far East as well as Canada Chip-and-Pin technology has gained wide acceptance due to the secure nature of the payment, offering financial safety for both the user and the credit card companies.  NFC Technology is now available to allow people to make larger payments both to credit card companies and person-to-person with the same security, as credit card companies are on the verge of agreeing standardized security protocols.”

“Users will be able to manage all their payments through their Smartphone; this has led to the now familiar term ‘mobile wallet’ which opens up the option for airlines to increase their revenue streams through easy payment for on-board sales. For low cost carriers this could be used for pay as you go IFE, drinks and so on during a flight. Contact-less devices are the way many passengers will in future choose to pay for items instead of having to find cash and airlines will be able to build in the system without having to have a card swipe.  IFPL has developed a system which tackles the issue of making secure payments on board. The system includes an option for a chip and pin reader to increase the available payment methods. In America where credit card chip & pin has not gained traction, it is anticipated this market is more likely to bypass chip & pin and go straight to NFC.” 

Q.   What all is involved in the hardware?
“Payment systems are centered around a controller that communicates with the host IFE system over USB.  For a contact-less installation a short-range flat antenna is needed to establish the link to the passenger’s device, be that an NFC enabled credit card or “Mobile wallet”. A Chip-and-Pin payment system requires that all components of the payment sub-system are maintained secure at all times, even when un-powered.  Thus the reader, antenna and controller modules all have additional physical features that prevent loss of the passenger’s personal information. The range of the contact-less signal is considerably smaller (typically 1” – 2”) than other more familiar wireless connections which lends itself to a more secure passenger connection. We see NFC as the “next big thing” allowing a passenger’s phone the ability to, be a boarding card, pay for on-board extras, log the passenger into the on-board system etc.  NFC can be more secure than the current chip & pin system.  We see this technology gaining real momentum in a very short time frame. Said Underwood; “Embedded NFC has no moving parts and will give amore long term reliability than card swipe or chip ‘n pin.”

Q: What devices can work and what will they need in the way of software?
“The number of devices that can use this technology are increasing all the time.  In the UK one of the main smart phones is the Samsung GTS5230N; however, currently there are over twenty phone types available that are NFC enabled.  In the US the options are more limited; however there are big companies like Google (Google Wallet) who are trying to ensure the jump from Mag Strips to NFC will happen in the near term. Contact-less payment is quick and easy, just “tap ‘n go”!  After the purchase the receipts will be organized in the phone – no need for a wallet full of receipts!”

Q. What all is entailed in using the system?
“All the passenger needs to do is select the product(s) they want and choose their payment method.  To use their NFC enabled smart phone, it’s very simple – click pay, “tap ‘n go” the phone and the transaction is complete. The user can enable a code to be entered on their phone first to increase their security.”

Neil Thomas, IFPL’s Business Development Manager, says that passengers will benefit as, “Contact-less technology allows easy connections, quick transactions, and simple data sharing”.

Q:  How is the back office/data network implemented and what options are available there?
“Although this is part of the NFC process, it would not be covered by us. Our understanding is that right now there will be a secure information store which will store all the transactions until the aircraft reaches its destination. In future as more aircraft are fitted with communication systems to the ground, payment validation could become real-time using those links. Currently payment information is being stored on board aircraft while in flight. This is generally done in two ways; 1) the hardware which is built within seat backs sends information to a secure server; 2) flight attendants use card reading handsets which store all the information.” 

“Both options are only able to send the information further down the chain to the banks when the aircraft has arrived at its destination. This process incurs a percentage of risk as the airline will only be able to authenticate the information after the transaction has taken place, this is balanced by their customers generally spending small amounts and this is where NFC will fit perfectly offering the ability to make small simple payments with the minimal amount of hassle.”

Q:  What are IFPL NFC plans going forward?
“Currently while the NFC infrastructure is being developed by the financial institutions. Today the transaction value is low; however it has the potential for secure high value transactions. We are keen to work with partners to realize the full potential of our devices.”

IFPL’s NFC solution unlocks the potential NFC technology for the traveller.  For example a passenger will be able to use their phone to: Check-in and receive a digital “boarding card”, Store and utilize Frequent Flyer information, Store IFE preference data, Pay for movies, purchase food or drinks on-board, and in the wider environment,  NFC could control cabin lighting and be used for advertising.

Q: What is the cost of implementation?
Currently it is likely that NFC will be much cheaper to implement than chip & pin whilst at the same time being as secure. We see this time as an opportunity for the IFE industry to get engaged early and help shape their requirements.

Q: What are the difference between various approaches for NFC designs/systems?
“The design of a contact-less payment point depends on the size of the antenna which receives the payment information. This means that receivers can be placed in obvious positions such as seat backs or hidden within armrests or screens. Currently the NFC payment stakeholders are working to define a standard format that all banks and mobile phone providers can adhere to. The scenario that needs to be avoided is more than one closed, incompatible architecture. We look forward to working with you, for more information on NFC, please contact us.” You can reach Geoff at or call them on their new telephone number – 44 1983 555900.

To dig a bit deeper follow this link.

As an added note, we would point out that Geoff has a penchant for charity work in Africa dealing with, and upgrading, the school system. If you would like to help him, check out