Recent news from Europe confirmed last week’s ‘Rumor’ and if you had not seen the IMS and Lufthansa news releases we have linked them for you here. From a round-up perspective, the Brea California company has secured 10 customers for its’ RAVE System, securing some 165+ planes with sales and options. The only popular plane missing is the A320 and we bet that is not far behind. This certainly validates the IMS design goal to put all the electronics and content at the seat (seat-centricity).  Moreover, RAVE continues to validate the concept of embedded IFE. No doubt most of the next generation of IFE will be influenced by this type of installation. Yes, there is still room for portables and Wi-Fi features, but for some time, pundits have been dissing the installed hardware and attendant cost, weight and installation challenges. After viewing the RAVE system at AIX, we could clearly see why airlines are excited about the product. The light-weight, removable seatback unit is the system! Since content is stored locally the probability of a single failure catastrophe is practically eliminated. If you want to dig deeper, here is a link to a recent RAVE presentation that should answer a lot of your questions regarding the system and installation.

The latest news pegs the Lufthansa deal at 80+ planes. With the acquisition of 10 new customers in the last 18 months, IMS is in the enviable position of only looking up to the two biggest IFE vendors, at least in terms of sales. This proves that good ideas result in sales popularity… the rumored 50% reduction in per seat unit price doesn’t hurt either. We can’t think of another IFE product company (past or present) that has accomplished what they have in the time they have had to do it –  concept development through production, as well as airline customer sign-ups – especially when you consider IMS is a relatively small company (size, revenue, personnel, etc.) as compared to the industry leaders. It goes without saying that airlines are attracted to this product and IMS for many reasons.  IMS Sales & Marketing Vice President, Harry Gray told IFExpress, “IMS has grown substantially over the past several months, with over 200 employees as well as over doubling the size of our facility – mostly to support RAVE.  We have a stable business, been around for 16 years, and are poised for future growth, yet we also remain nimble and customer friendly to meet the needs of the market.  Providing a premium product and shorter lead times – without the premium price – remains the mantra at IMS.”

Mr. Gray went on to say, “Our concept of ‘outbound support’ is really gaining popularity with airlines. Typically, airlines must have multiple outstations for spares and (3rd party contracted) line maintenance due to possible IFE system failures. Since the RAVE displays are dock-able, they can be replaced during flight with no need to have spares at outstations.” No doubt, airlines really latch on to this feature because there is now a way to keep passengers happy during a long flight where they would otherwise have to move to an empty seat (“if” it was available) or go without IFE at all because of a hardware failure. The RAVE feature-rich-environment doesn’t stop there, so be sure to check out the previously mentioned presentation. No doubt, tech-competent Lufthansa did their homework and the IMS team should take a bow. 

RAVE is flying on a Lufthansa B747-400 and expect to see it on their A330-300’s, A340-300’s, A340-600’s fleet. Installations will begin next year with full incorporation to be completed over some three years. We now wonder when Boeing and Airbus line fit installations of the RAVE product will be approved? You can bet the airlines will be talking RAVE in Seattle and Toulouse during their next visits. 

Finally, from an engineer’s point of view and what we have learned, RAVE is an installers dream. A full aircraft installation can be accomplished in 5 days (retrofit), there are no special test tools – they are built-in, the VCC hardware requires no cooling, all the SDU’s (of the same screen size) are interchangeable, and 6 gigabit seat loops are used for greater seat coverage and reliability. Hat’s off to Joe Renton (CEO) and his team, this is IFE history. When it is all said and done, RAVE will probably be better known as an airline and passenger centric product that just happens to be installed in a seat!

Germany | May 31, 2012 — Live TV with Sports 24 enters trial period – new Rave entertainment system
Good news for sports fans: Lufthansa’s in-flight entertainment service now includes a first integrated live TV channel: Sports 24. The signal is transmitted directly on board by satellite via Lufthansa’s FlyNet broadband Internet service and from there to the entertainment system. Unlike the Internet, this service, which is already available on three recently delivered Airbus A330s, is free of charge for passengers.

Sports 24 has special airline rights for all major sports events such as the UEFA European Football Championship (opening match, all German matches, finals) and the Olympic Games in London. The English-language channel will also broadcast Bundesliga (as of the 2012/13 season) and Premier League matches, all Formula-1 races, the NFL Superbowl, tennis with Wimbledon and the French Open, and golf with the Ryder Cup and US Open.

In addition, Lufthansa is investing in cutting-edge hardware for in-flight entertainment and will equip its long-haul fleet with the Rave system by the California-based producer The IMS Company. As of next spring, passengers on board B 747-400s, A340-600s, A340-300s and A330-300s will successively be able to use the system with the familiar ease of a tablet. They can navigate simply by stroking or wiping a touch screen (Economy Class) or by using a remote control with so-called one-finger navigation in First and Business Class. Image resolution is higher than that of the existing solutions and the system reacts much faster to user input. As all the programme content is stored in each seat display unit, it can even be used without connection to the server.

Brea, CA | May 31, 2012 — After a successful trial period, Southern California-based solutions provider The IMS Company’s next generation seat-centric inflight entertainment system RAVE™ has been selected by Lufthansa to be deployed across at least 80 wide body production aircraft. According to IMS’ chief executive officer and founder Joseph Renton, “IMS is extremely pleased and honored to have earned the trust of Lufthansa. We have been working together as one team for quite some time now and feel that together, we are both fully committed to making RAVE a great success for Lufthansa.”

The airline plans to equip a variety of aircraft including A330’s, A340’s and 747’s.

This contract award marks what has been an amazing 12 months for The IMS Company. Approximately one year ago, IMS won the prestigious Crystal Cabin Award for Entertainment and Communications for RAVE at the Aircraft Interiors Expo. Since then, IMS has added to its RAVE customer base, which is now up to 10 airlines, and has successfully launched RAVE into service. According to Renton, “We are flattered by the market response to RAVE. With 15 aircraft in service and approximately 160+ on backlog, our focus now is to meet our obligations to our customers by focusing on execution and fulfillment.” RAVE is based on a revolutionary system architecture that stores content and playback functionality independently in each seatback display unit (SDU), thus eliminating the single-point-of-failure scenario that potentially compromises head end-centric systems, as well as eliminating distribution boxes and seat electronics boxes.

In this architecture, the head end contains the System Control Unit (SCU), which loads future content to the SDUs in the background while passengers watch current content that is played back from an SD card in each seat.

The result is an architecture that is inherently more reliable and reduces maintenance cost while being significantly lighter. According to Christian Koerfgen, Lufthansa’s’ Vice President Product Management & Innovations, “Our trial with RAVE has gone exceptionally well. Our passengers have been impressed by the quality of the screens and the ease of navigation. Considering the product quality and its attractive operating cost structure in comparison to classical IFE systems, we are really looking forward to getting RAVE installed on our aircraft.”