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.”
As expected, the recent events in Malaysia have brought about a lot of connectivity solutions and we have been inundated with them. In the spirit of airline support for these initiatives, we bring a couple of them your way.
The tragic disappearance of flight MH370 is still very present in all of our minds. In an initiative to improve the handling of similar situations in the future the United Nations’ ITU (International Telecommunication Union) and the Government of Malaysia hosed an expert dialogue on May 26-27 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Panasonic Avionics was invited to participate in this event, contribute to their technical expertise, and present FlightLinkTM, a fully integrated aircraft communication, tracking and weather information solution. FlightLink has been provided free of charge to airlines from its launch in 2004. It offers Iridium Communications for cockpit voice, text and operational data as well as real-time fleet monitoring and simultaneously tracks all Panasonic equipped aircraft – 24/7/365 around the globe. Aircraft tracking services range from positioning reporting at no more than 5-minute intervals to live flight data streaming. Additionally, Panasonic Weather Solutions delivers real-time weather analytics and fleet monitoring by communicating data from TAMDAR weather sensors installed on over 300 aircraft. This is the only global satellite network dedicated to aeronautical connectivity, and with it, Panasonic enables passengers, crew and aircrafts to stay in touch with the ground throughout their flights. FMI contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Along the same lines as the above story, we got an input this week from Teledyne Controls that caught our eye.
Speaking at the Expert Dialogue on Real-time Monitoring of Flight Data in Malaysia on Monday 26th May, William Cecil, Director of Business Development of Teledyne Controls presented a case for providing virtually unlimited real time flight data monitoring by using existing aircraft systems and better ‘connecting the dots’: “It could be very quickly possible to enable black box data streaming in flight for many existing aircraft without installing any new technology,” he says. “By simply connecting a broadband flight data IP router on board with the broadband satcom systems that airlines are increasingly installing for the primary purpose of Internet access for passengers, we believe this is possible, and are planning to work with partner airlines and OEMs to prove this concept.”Broadband flight data IP router capability already exists on an increasing number of aircraft. Teledyne Controls’ own Wireless GroundLink® (WGL Comm+) unit that has this routing capability is being rapidly adopted by airlines to improve post flight analysis for flight safety. By way of context, Wireless GroundLink® systems are currently being installed on over two thirds of new delivery Airbus A330 and A380, and Boeing 747-8 and 777 aircraft and this adoption rate is increasing. “Connecting WGL Comm+ units to broadband satcom systems will enable airlines to realise real time flight data monitoring in a very short space of time,” adds Mr. Masood Hassan, President of Teledyne Controls, “and in doing so will resolve one of the last major headaches that airlines face – understanding the causes of an aviation emergency within moments of an event taking place.”
In another tracking endeavor, the improved SD Flight Tracker now has integrated position reports generated by Swift Broadband and features richer mapping capability using Google Maps. Satcom Direct’s Flight Tracker is a state-of-the-art global mapping solution that graphically displays precise fleet coordinates. Its ability to track aircraft globally has been enhanced with an additional source of position data. Satcom Direct has exclusive access to this data from Inmarsat and blends it with position data received from other sources including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), NavCanada and Satcom Direct’s own FlightDeck Freedom datalink to provide the most comprehensive flight tracking service available. “SwiftBroadband is updated every two minutes as compared to other sources. For some aircraft, this may be their only reliable source of position data. It allows our customers to track their aircraft worldwide and ensure they know its status at all times,” said Scott Hamilton, Satcom Direct chief strategy officer. “SwiftBroadband position reports are available globally whereas some sources, including the FAA and NavCanada, are only available regionally.” SD Flight Tracker also has been upgraded to use Google Maps which provides advanced mapping capabilities including street level maps which are useful for helicopter tracking. The SD Flight Tracker enhancements provide for a fast and intuitive user interface, and it can now be accessed on any mobile device. Previously, it was only available on PCs. Follow the link for more information regarding Satcom Direct.
You might have not heard about the IFEC.2014, but if not, here’s the story: More than ten local airlines from China have confirmed their participation at the 7th China IFEC Summit. The airlines confirmed are: Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines, JuneYao Airlines, Lucky Air, Beijing Capital Airlines, Shandong Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines and etc. Based on your cutting edge technology, new innovations and professional experience in in-flight entertainment and connectivity, can you help these airlines solve the following problems? How innovative inflight services improve a passengers’ experience?
- How can airlines simplify the pricing models for in-flight connectivity?
- How to secure the data for inflight media streaming?
- How can airlines use in-flight media for marketing purposes?
- How can you provide IFEC services that run on passengers’ mobile devices?
Global Eagle Entertainment Inc. (Nasdaq: ENT) announced today that it has been selected by Indonesia’s flag carrier, Garuda Indonesia, to provide inflight entertainment (IFE) content to its passengers. Global Eagle will provide Garuda Indonesia with movies from studios in Hollywood, the Middle East, Europe and Asia. In addition, the content package will feature television programming, music, streaming radio, games and original productions that include destination films, safety films and entertainment guides. Content will be provided via the audio video on-demand (AVOD) seat-back systems on their wide-bodied aircraft.
We got a note from John Courtright who makes some good points about US taxation of frequent flier miles. He wrote: “I know the link below does not have a “clean” IFE or air-to-ground (ATG) reference but I bet many of your IFExpress readers would like to know that the IRS is looking to tax your frequent flyer miles as income. How would taxing frequent flyer miles affect airline choice? The IFEC industry bases most, if not all, of its value equation on the premise that the better, more up-to-date IFEC experience is a major contributing factor to a passenger buy decisions and passenger loyalty. But studies have shown that flyers first select an airline on a.) price and b.) schedule, and then other factors such as loyalty programs and the perception of better IFEC service come in further down the selection criteria list. If the IRS is successful in getting airline miles taxed, will this make IFEC an even more important factor in carrier selection? I think that’s a very good question? My opinion: I think IFEC’s importance will rise if miles are taxed. But I’d like to see an economic sensitivity model on this topic.” (IRS Sets Sights on Frequent Flyer Miles, Hotel Points)
Lastly, perhaps you read about Boeing’s Chief Exec, James McNerneys comments in the Seattle Times on next-gen planes. Having worked there in the past we were a bit surprised at this step-back from the problems at hand: “Boeing chief executive Jim McNerney said Wednesday the jetmaker won’t shoot for the moon in the foreseeable future by launching risky, game-changing new airplanes like the 707 in the 1950s or the 787 Dreamliner 10 years ago.” Meaning the B787 was a little too advanced for the existing engineering and manufacturing expertise there? The article went on – “All of us have gotten religion,” said McNerney, speaking to Wall Street analysts at the annual investor conference in the Fairmont Olympic hotel in Seattle. “Every 25 years a big moonshot … and then produce a 707 or a 787 — that’s the wrong way to pursue this business. The more-for-less world will not let you pursue moonshots.” After pointing out the above logic (or mis-logic) reader, Bob Bogash, wrote us, “I wonder what Mr. McNerney thinks of the stuff Apple has popped on the world the past 10 years or so?” (Meaning products like the iPod, the iPad, the iPhone, just to name a few.) He went on; “Bill Allen and all the great Boeing pioneers must be spinning in their graves.”
Editor’s Note: We usually put these notices at the end of our Hot Topic but this week we wanted to let our readers know that while our “Readers Predictions” are in the forefront we have a really interesting paper from Dr. Junkang Ma of CETCA fame. Dr. Ma put together an interesting piece on the inflight connectivity market in China… with an even more interesting solution to the problem of airline-ground interoperability – think SIP! Be sure to check it out.
The IFExpress team usually solicits yearly IFE predictions from our readership for our first issues and 2014 is no different. As you can imagine, they vary from the sublime to the incredibly interesting. You be the judge. Lets look at what some of our advertisers said first:
- The FAA’s and the EASA’s decision on gate to gate operation of PEDs in flight mode will further accelerate the trend towards wireless inflight entertainment. More than 50% of all European legacy airlines will adopt the new guidance in 2014. Norbert Muller, LHSystems
- “There will be a big shift away from brand name portables to portables specifically designed for inflight use.” Attribute prediction to Josh Rasmussen, digEcor.
- “Airlines across the world will continue to increase the provision of both Wi-Fi and cell phone connectivity: the technology is reliable, affordable and very easy to install and operate. The US will remain the exception, until the debate about voice services is resolved.” Axel Jahn, TriaGnoSys
Readers also sent in their predictions and we really like the following:
- “With increased gate-to-gate PED use, the demand for seat power will increase tremendously on regional aircraft.” – Mr. Mark Milauskas, Armstrong Aerospace Inc.
- “The inflight use of cell phones in US won’t cause any more problems than it has in the rest of the world. And there have been no problems in six years, over five continents”, Ian Dawkins, OnAir
- “ The demand for streaming IFE over Wi-Fi will see the highest increase in customer demand and force the movie studios to implement an encryption process to allow for early window viewing.” – Mr. Todd Hamblin, Global Aerospace Design Corp.
- “By the end of 2014, a bird strike compliance path will be forged and system providers will begin installing IFE satellite antennas again.” – Mr. Mark Milauskas, Armstrong Aerospace Inc.
- “US airlines will not allow inflight mobile calling because of the feedback from their frequent fliers and flight attendant unions.” – Mr. Todd Hamblin, Global Aerospace Design Corp.
- “4k Ultra High Definition (4k UHD) Networked monitors designed specifically for Business and Commercial aircraft use will be in service by midyear 2014.” Bill Baltra, Retired
- “By the end of 2014, the US government (FCC) will lift the ban on the use of cellular technology while in-flight.” –Joe Kupfer, Armstrong Aerospace
Lastly, as can be seen from the above, inflight cell phone connectivity has a lot of interest, and a lot of different opinions so we asked John Courtright to opine on the subject and he sent us the following:
Here is my prediction and a follow up clarification to the question,
- In the US, at least one airline will “test” the applicability of inflight cellphone calling.
Prediction: Yes, I expect a small number of U.S. airlines to permit inflight cell phone calling. Furthermore, I expect the first airlines to allow inflight cell phone calls on short-haul flight, flights of two hours or less. The first to test the cell usage issue will either be a.) an independent Regional Operators, such as Mesa, Republic, and Nantucket, or b.) Regionals affiliated with a Major Carrier, such as American Eagle or Jet Blue.
The first set of carriers found in a.) above will figure that their flight operations are short haul and the “obnoxious factor” is mitigated by the short duration of the flights as well as being affected by the higher ambient noise on RJs. The second set of carriers, those associated with a Major Airline( (b.) above), will see a competitive advantage in and out of the Major’s hubs as well as being a guinea pig for the major carrier to assess passenger acceptance.
Longer range prediction: Carriers will NOT create a cell-phone usage section, like the old smoking section. Too much policing by the flight attendants. Carriers will initially allow cell phone usage on short-haul, high density routes. Think SFO-LAX or LGA – DCA where the clientele is largely business based. I see cell phone usage to expand to a flight duration-based judgment and to have a cut-off point at two hours.
The above predictions, of course, are moot if the DeFazio Amendment is extended and thus inflight cell phone calls are prohibited by statute. But absent a specific law, I see the usage to be flight time based. (Editor’s Note: We called Senator DeFazio’s office and he has yet to get back to us on the status of his Bill.)
While predictions seem to have taken center stage in this IFExpress, we have been working with Dr. Junkang Ma, a brilliant Program Manager at the Chinese avionics manufacturer CETCA, and he has put together a very good vision of the developing Chinese inflight connectivity market for us. Here is a bit of the story: “In December 2013, the MIIT of China (Ministry of Industry and Information Technology) released the 4G frequency license to the three government-owned telecom operators (China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom), establishing that the Telecom industry of China has officially entered into the 4G generation, beginning from TD-LTE, although 3G has only been used for around 4 years in China. While the ground-based Telecom industry is rapidly developing, one large area in China appears to be forgotten – the area in the air. The cabin of the civil aircraft has become the last “isolated island” of the information age, which makes the passengers on board feel like being back in the early years of the 20th century. The Chinese civil aviation market is experiencing accelerated growth and as more travelers are flying, passengers require a similar communication experience like they enjoy on the ground, which will result in an accelerated and diversified growth phase for China’s connectivity market…” You can read the whole story here .
And lastly, A large French IFEC company is looking for engineers in the Irvine area we have heard and if you are so inclined you might send your resume to them! Systems, Software, Platform, Project, Logistics, Field Service Engineers and even Financial Analysts… so we understand. Good Luck!
Recently IFExpress heard about the award of the APEX Outstanding Achievement Award and rather than another recoup of his achievements, here is the story as we got it:
Industry veteran Michael Childers, currently Chief Consultant, Content and Media Strategy for Lufthansa Systems, will receive the Airline Passenger Experience Association’s (APEX) Outstanding Achievement Award at the Annual Meeting next month in Anaheim, California, the seventh recipient of the award since its launch in 1998.
Childers has been chair of APEX/WAEA’s Digital Content Management Working Group (DCMWG) for more than 12 years—the longest running working group chairmanship ever in APEX/WAEA—and has been a long-time member of the APEX Technology Committee leadership team, and numerous other working groups. He has been APEX’s liaison to the MPEG Industry Forum and Internet Streaming Media Alliance.
In granting the award, APEX said that Childers “has been at the forefront of APEX’s push to be recognized globally as a leading authority on IFE.”
In nominating him for the award, Michael Planey, principal at H&M Planey Consultants, said, “His leadership during the transition from analogue to digital media within APEX has led to the establishment of industry standards, a streamlining of content management, and improved integration of IFE within the content producers’ ecosystem.”
The first recipient of this award, in 1998, was Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Airlines. Other recipients include Wade Hanniball, vice president of digital cinema technology at Universal; Lonnie Weber, inventor of Sony Trans Com’s 8mm film cartridge projection system; Arnold Stevenson, founder of Air Vision and inventor of the seatback entertainment display system for airlines; Bryan Rusenko, most recently vice president at Technicolor, and designer of the original subtitling system for Crest Digital; and Ken Brady, Chief Engineer at Thales, and developer of numerous inflight entertainment systems and cabin equipment designs.
Childers has been in IFE since 1979, and from 1984 to 1996 he headed IFE’s first independent motion picture distribution company, representing major independents like PolyGram, Miramax, Castle Rock, Morgan Creek, New Regency, Beacon Pictures, Spyglass, and many others. His company distributed movies like When Harry Met Sally, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, The Shawshank Redemption, Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Cinema Paradiso, and Fargo.
In 1996, he purchased the company with investors and launched LightStream Communications Group whose subsidiaries included e-source, The Entertainment Resource Company, Airlandsea, and LightStream Communications, a company whose focus was the automation and integration of IFE’s digital content delivery supply chain. After a period of independent IFEC consultancy he served as Managing Director, Content and Media Development for The IMS Company from 2006 to 2009, and then served as Managing Editor of APEX’s newsletter for nearly two years.
He was a co-founder of WAEA’s 0395 Working Group that developed IFE’s first digital delivery standard, chaired the association’s Satellite Content Delivery Working Group, and has—with Lumexis’ Rich Salter—represented APEX on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Aviation Rulemaking Committee that is recommending safe standards for the expansion of the use of personal electronic devices inflight.
He joined Lufthansa Systems in October 2011. He is currently a candidate for the APEX Board of Directors.
The IFExpress team has known Michael since we started this business and as we are biased about Michael and his skill-set, we talked to a number of other IFE’ers and perhaps one of the best inputs we received came from SIE’s John Courtright: “I’ve known Michael Childers since the late ’80s when I bought films from him at Swank. From the beginning, Michael understood the value of entertainment & information content in a world where technology was constantly evolving. He has helped our IFE industry keep focused on content delivery, Digital Rights Management, high production values, and ‘staying agile’ when it comes to technical advances.“
We thought it also prudent to contact the studio crowd and sought an input from Wade Hanniball, Vice President, NBC Universal who told IFExpress: “I’m delighted to hear that Michael is receiving this award! Michael is the thinking man’s IFE expert. He’s been an unparalleled educator and promoter of new ways of doing business as IFE converts from analog to digital technologies. Industry participants may have first learned from Michael terms like codec, bit rate, and metadata, as well as acronyms like DAM, DRM, MPEG and XML. Michael has helped drag IFE, sometimes kicking and screaming, into the digital world, occasionally as a necessary disruptor, but always with intellectualism and passion.” We can’t add anything to that input!
Lest we forget, the annual APEX event for IFEC is next month in Anaheim, CA (Sept. 9 – 12) and it is a ‘must do’ conference/Expo if inflight entertainment and connecitivty is your thing. APEX will team with IFSA for what they call “the largest and most comprehensive industry-driven event in the passenger experience”. We agree and you can preview the amazing Education Agenda. Don’t miss it!
(Editors Note: Readers who vote for APEX Board Members might want to take note that Michael Childers is also running for the APEX Board of Directors — good timing!)
With this week’s announcement of the iPad Mini, we thought it appropriate to look into the relative value of using an inflight mini tablet (7 inches, or so) for one’s own personal IFE device. Aside from the size advantage in portability, it has just enough size benefit over the iPhone for reading, game playing, movies, and any other visual oriented task. We predict that these tablets in the respective 7″ size domain will eventually rule the personal IFE device space. Why? Ask yourself, what are the iPad sized tablets disadvantages? Relative portability, viewing quality/resolution, and battery performance. No wonder laptops are getting a run for their money as portable units flaunt dual and quad core processors and 10 hour battery life. Further, the smaller tablet field is just developing and it looks like this market segment is the next big thing. Personal IFE usage could be one reason travelers will respond to them.
From a total tablet perspective, Apple holds 50% of the sales (and dropping), which the iPad Mini is expected to bolster. The first three days of sales appear to prove this growth expectation with 3 million unit sold. While the total tablet market quarterly sales rise is roughly 7%. In the non-Apple ecosphere, the Google Nexus 7 and the Nook/Kindle/Galaxy devices make up the other 50% of sales and they will be growing in numbers because of the smaller size, performance… and price point in some cases.
As noted above, price and performance will wring out sales winners and losers this forthcoming year. While the tablet is mostly a visual experience, audio is not to be forgotten and that is where a good audio accessory is also a necessary add on. The real deal is a good pair of noise canceling headphones with a built-in microphone (headset) if you get telephony on your device. We have reviewed the Bose MIEi2 Mobile headset for a reason, they perform great and they have the phone/tablet audio interface (level/microphone) built into the cord.
No doubt, size, price and performance will drive this market and in the case of IFE, these are similar influences. Access to you personal entertainment is within easy reach. This may be a bit more difficult if your are trying to round-up a 10″ tablet in a protective carrying case. Let’s face it, the iPad is a two handed tool; whereas, a 7″ tablet is potentially a one-hander… almost like your phone. Unlike the larger tablets, it stays in your pocket for the duration of the trip. For you book readers, since text size is expandable, a lighter (smaller) device may aid in one handed reading. You might just have to turn the page a bit more often.
We asked a number of travelers about the future of the 7″ tablet and we got the same responses from almost all of them in the same order: size for portability, screen quality (as a result of reduced size), available “apps”, price and availability were the most common responses. We think the size will be the sought benchmark for travelers. Period. The original 10″ iPad has become the portable laptop for many, while the phone has become the portable personal assistant. The 7″ tablet will become the portable traveling entertainment device. From another perspective, almost all business travelers take a laptop and a phone with them on a business trip. If a laptop and a phone are a given, then why wouldn’t a reduced size and weight tablet be a plus? Not withstanding, the laptop and the mini tablet could be packed together. No doubt, some smart manufacturer will also provide one power source to carry as well!
Another possible traveling advantage of a 7″ tablet has to do with the issue of denied overhead baggage storage. While most tablets are small enough, there is nothing like being able to slide your portable IFE in your suit or jacket pocket instead of fumbling around with repacking your bag on the gangway. While electronic boarding passes (EBP) are a long way from being the default airline ticket, the phone/tablet storage device seems like a no-brainer. With a device that has cell service instead of only Wi-Fi, the phone probably has an edge (no pun intended). However, because of problems in foreign countries, lack of Wi-Fi (or cell) service, and a myriad of technical issues, the advantage of either device may be void.
Here are a number of links to explore the tablet world and decide for yourself:
Why Apple Really Built the iPad Mini – TheStreet
This week’s “IFEC BUZZ” quote comes from John Courtright. John is VP-Programs for SIE, a systems integration & structures engineering firm specializing in installation of connectivity systems on commercial, VIP, and Mil/Gov aircraft…among other services. We asked John this week for a quote because he has helped put SIE on the IFE map (Kinda rhymes, doesn’t it?).
Since in-seat IFE screens were introduced in the late ‘80s and now installed on thousands of passenger seats, there has been an ongoing airline maintenance and customer service problem about scratched and damaged LCD screens in the seatbacks. IFE providers have done a good job providing good quality screens but the inevitable wear-and-tear scratching, and the less common screen vandalism, does occur.
This lead-in brings us to the Hot Topic subject that began with an attempt to protect an iPad screen from the inevitable screen and scratch problem that plagues so many portable devices. On a recent trip to a mall just south of Seattle we found the solution in a Ghost Armor kiosk and the installer happily told us about the mindset of the users who were lining up to drop anywhere from 20 to 35 clams to get their iPods and iPads clad with a clear plastic screen protection sheet (and back too). “Why?” I asked, “to keep the value” was the most common reply. “No scratches or screen divots means better resale value.” One user told us he spent $100 for a new screen for his $380 iPod – cheap insurance. Watching the installer, it was obvious that some skill was required to correctly place the shields and squeegee them in place. This was particularly true on the back more so than the front. We tried to contact Ghost Armor but it might as well haven been ‘Ghost Company’, so we sought out the ‘big dog’ in the industry – ZAGG. Their invisibleSHIELD-HD product works the same way so we contacted Nate Nelson at ZAGG and he told IFExpress, “We have over 5,000 different designs for various devices, with significant efforts in design and R&D on our end, and that we would certainly be willing to consider custom designs for big customers.” Custom designs, hmmm!
Then it hit us. This might work on aircraft? Probably not a new thought but the first issue would certainly be certification. So, we contacted the aviation certification experts at Chatsworth, CA-based SIE to determine if a new screen protection product, ZAGG’s invisibleSHIELD-HD, would be suitable for installation on passenger aircraft from a certification point-of-view. The answer is “YES,” according to John Courtright, SIE’s head of Sales and Program Management Director, noting that all aircraft cabin materials must meet applicable flammability and toxicity test criteria called out in 14 CFR 25.853, Part 1 of Appendix F. “However, since the invisibleSHIELD product, being a .2mm thick plastic film overlay, has already been installed as screen protection for avionics on military rotorcraft and aircraft, invisibleSHIELD undoubtedly underwent and passed MIL-Standard testing and thus would be permissible for commercial air transport applications.” Also, there is a possibility that the product would fall under the FAA’s small part waiver for cabin interiors compliance for flammability/toxicity testing. “But since the military is already using it, there should be little problem in satisfying the regulatory requirements for cabin safety,” says Courtright. He adds: “I think it would be a great product to have because it would likely reduce the number of screens needed to be replaced by ground personnel and that translates to a big savings in manpower and spares provisioning.”
If this concept rings your bell, contact Nate Nelson at ZAGG for more information about invisibleSHIELD custom made for your IFE seat-back screen solution or your handout player. If certification is your issue, you might contact John Courtright… and yes, tell them IFExpress sent you.
Don’t forget to check out our free, cheap, and/or interesting Apps – get NOAA Weather Radar on your iPhone for a buck!