Last time we talked a bit about the aviation future based on recent activity at Farnborough and thus this week we thought it would be interesting to get a personal take on the aircraft interior.

So now, the question is: What can we expect in the future world of IFE, both in hardware and in content? We decided to ask two people who know as much about the future of IFE as anyone in this business, Rich Salter (hardware) and Michael Childers (content) and we chose them because in Rich’s case, the Lumexis Second Screen caught our attention and Michael because he has been on the forefront of movie sales, content development, captioning, consulting and so much more. Here’s what they told IFExpress about aircraft hardware/content future and their own environments:

Rich Salter, Lumexis’ CTO, had this to say: “Though we chose the name “FTTS Second Screen™” it also means “multi-screen” because that’s where the consumer and the technology is heading: to multiple screens in the home, office, and on the road as well. Today’s traveler wants to multitask on his/her larger embedded screen, laptop or tablet, and smartphone. But tomorrow’s generation (i.e., our young kids today) are even more into social networks and communicating (i.e., texting, tweeting, and posting photos) whenever and wherever with their friends and business groups alike – they are already adept at using multiple screens and running the app that runs best on each screen.

For high res movies, an embedded screen with fiber optic interface will always provide more capacity than streaming wireless to handheld PEDs, because no matter how much bandwidth the latest wireless standard provides, there is always another generation of higher resolution video content coming along (i.e., HD, Ultra HD (4K), 8K, etc.) that needs even more bandwidth (i.e., a bigger “pipe”). The fiber network (like the one to many homes today) enables the HD content to all the seats in the plane, and the future technologies for embedded screens will allow them to be thinner, lighter weight, and lower cost, with higher resolution and more touch gesture control and other human interfaces added.

As for passenger-owned devices, there’s going to be many screens brought onboard to compliment the main screen and make up the whole IFE system of the future. For example, “wearable technology” is now really beginning to gain momentum – I would not be surprised to see small flexible video screens begin to show up on the shirtsleeves of passengers just like the Apple iWatch and Google Glass are now creeping into our lives.

Content users are already using multiple screens simultaneously to consume different kinds of content, says Michael Childers, a longtime content management consultant, APEX Board Member, and chair of the APEX Technology Committee. “According to my friends at the Second Screen Society, watching videos on tablets and mobile devices has increased 719 percent since Q4 2011 and 160 percent year-over-year since Q4 2011. 73 percent of TV Everywhere views are on a second screen. 35 percent of first screen time is second-screened, of which 1/3 is with related content. 11 percent of the second screen experience is to interact with the TV, 14 percent involves social media related to the first screen program, and 24 percent is ‘discovery’—seeking additional information about the first screen content.”

During this year’s Academy Awards telecast, U.S. TV network ABC made major advances in second screen by including an enhanced viewing experience in its “Watch ABC” viewing app, said Childers. Users who opened the “Watch ABC” app during the Oscar telecast were given the option of going “Backstage”—sponsored by Samsung Galaxy—to enjoy a number of “companion experiences” that included video clips of the arriving stars, live camera feeds from alternate locations, and different camera feeds of the red carpet.

Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres set a second screen record by tweeting live during the telecast, including the famous selfie centered around Meryl Streep, said Childers.

Of course, live events and sports lend themselves to multiple screens, but what about second screen content in pre-recorded content and IFE? “Second screen has come to the movies,” says Childers. “Last year Dutch director Bobby Boermans incorporated a synchronized second-screen app in the storyline of his movie, appropriately titled App. Moviegoers were asked to download a free app before going to the theater, and were advised to leave their devices on their laps while watching the film. When second screen content was available, members of the audience were by their vibrating phones,” he said. There were 35 moments in the film where second screen content enhanced the viewing experience, but the movie was complete on its own for viewers not interested in carrying their PEDs into the theater.

The app for App utilized embedded watermarks and a digital watermarking technology from Civolution that was developed to prevent illegal downloads, said Childers.

More and more films are being made with second screen content, or just frame-specific metadata that can be used to create a second screen experience, said Childers. “With more and more people bringing smartphones, tablets and notebooks onboard, there are many new opportunities to use these devices to complement and enhance the IFE,” he said. Disney has been very active in second screen linking the movie to the viewer’s device through an audio cue, manual synch, or with a visual sync indicator. Disney released a second screen version of it classic Bambi on its Diamond Edition Blu-ray Disc back in March of 2011.

Devices such as Kindle Fire HD 2nd Generation, Kindle Fire HDX, Amazon Fire TV, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 4 are all equipped with a second screen window that opens an Amazon Instant Video app, but second screen isn’t just limited to those devices, says Childers.

Among the content enhancements coming to IFE, says Childers, are closed captions for the deaf and dynamic subtitling. “Interestingly a university in Spain developed a closed captioning system for movie theaters that involves downloading an app from Japan that enables smartphones and tablets to display captions that are synched to the image on the movie screen.”

So there you have if from the experts’ mouth, but if you want a good second screen infographic, check here.

Next, we contacted the folks a APEX and asked for a few comments for the “not to be missed” APEX Annual event in California and they told IFExpress the following:

“We can already tell that this is going to be one of our most impressive shows to date. ‘Early Bird’ registration is higher than it’s ever been, and we can feel the excitement growing. We expect more than 3,500 APEX and IFSA members from more than 100 countries – not to mention hundreds of airline representatives eager to see what’s new in the passenger experience.” – Dominic Green, chair of APEX Events & EXPO Committee

“APEX EXPO is different from any other show serving the industry because it’s driven entirely by people working within the passenger experience industry itself. These are individuals who clearly love what they do and that’s demonstrated by the energy and passion exhibited on EXPO floor, and at the educational and networking events.” – Russ Lemieux, APEX executive director

“Our educational sessions are generating a lot of buzz. We’ll hear about the connected journey from IATA, and Cisco will discuss the exciting ‘Internet of Things’ movement that could revolutionize not only the passenger experience but also our everyday lives.” – Lauren Beneri, APEX program director

Be sure to remember that Disneyland is nearby!

The folks at digEcor have a new President of Europe, Middle East, and Africa, Mr. Paul Thorpe. He will call the United Kingdom his home and direct activities from there. His background includes a stint in sales and marketing n the business aviation world, and management roles in aviation and IFE. His last posting was with Rockwell as Sales Director of Northern Europe. Welcome aboard Paul!

And lastly, Gogo announced recently that it has received regulatory approval to provide Ku-band satellite connectivity service for aircraft flying over the eastern and western regions of Russia. This approval is granted based on Gogo’s agreements with AltegroSky and RuSat to provide Ku-band satellite service.

If you have not heard about the recent FAA announcement of new rulings regarding the use of passenger PED’s on aircraft at the gate, during taxi and take-off… essentially less than 10,000 feet altitude, you have not been paying attention. We want to assure you that, as Michael Childers, one of the ARC (Aviation Rulemaking Committee) members noted, “It is NOT true that the rules were loosened because they were wrong, and it is NOT OK to use your PED inflight unless the aircraft has been certified PED-tolerant.” We agree and asked Michael for a bit more background. “The ARC reviewed the matter of PEDs inflight thoroughly and concluded that while newer aircraft may be more likely to be PED-tolerant, and newer PEDs may be less likely to interfere with cabin communications, we did NOT conclude that the rules were unnecessary or that there are no risks. We determined that aircraft must undergo specified risk assessment and mitigation procedures based largely on RTCA DO-307. Unfortunately, too many in the press were willing to declare the rules unnecessary and to erroneously state that unlimited PED usage can begin. This may very well result in mass confusion and rampant disregard for the rules.” Michael went on; “Just got on my AA flight BWI-DFW, and was talking with the flight attendants about the new policy – they said it would cause them problems until their airplanes got approved (and right they are, as everyone was talking about it on my flight). The pilot also made announcement that the “airline’s procedures still needed to be approved by FAA, so PEDs off.”

So, where do we stand today? We asked Rich Salter, another ARC member, and he told IFExpress, “The aircraft and its avionics onboard need to be analyzed and/or tested before PEDs can be allowed to remain powered-on gate-to-gate, and until all planes are shown to be PED tolerant we will have a mixed fleet of aircraft (with some having been shown to be PED-tolerant and some that have not).  In an environment where many cell phones are already left on in flight, this is a critical time period where passenger confusion about PED usage could lead to even more non-compliance with the power-them-off policy for non-tolerant aircraft. The best situation is to have all airlines get their aircraft analyzed/tested as soon as possible. Take a look at the ARC report. Rich went on to say, “The requirements for PED certification are testing or analyzing the front door (through the antenna) and back door (through the wiring or through the cases of the radio boxes themselves) EMI interference. We are going to have a tutorial on this (DO307) at the next APEX TC meeting (Nov. 19-20 in Newport Beach) – you should not miss it. Also, we’ll have 7 members of the ARC committee there for a session on this – if you are interested plan on coming down for this one.” If you are looking for a good link on the subject, check this one out.

The bottom line – PED usage policy will vary from airline to airline and thus will not change overnight – check with your airline. Current PED usage policies will remain in effect till the safety assessment is made on an aircraft model basis by the airline and receives approval from the FAA. The one caveat is the use (transmission or reception) of wireless information (data, and voice is still prohibited) upon leaving the gate till arrival – think ‘Airplane Mode’. If an onboard Wi-Fi system is employed it most probably will be shut off till the plane reaches 10,000 feet and then you can use it only for wireless data transmission and reception till the decent to 10,000 feet.

The interference potential depends on the aircraft, the aircraft systems installed, and the characteristics of the personal device you are using. The issue is aircraft onboard receivers that may still be susceptible to signals emanating from your device. (Note: While we don’t imply that there can be multiple issues like bad grounding or shorted cable and the like, if they exist they just increase the problem probabilities). The interference issue can come into play during IFR conditions and localizer and glide slope approaches may be affected as the signals are obviously subject to interference… even if the frequencies differ. There are other issues like stowage of heavier electronic devices (think laptops) for take-off and landing because of the potential for reduced egress or flying object damage in the case of emergencies. No doubt, this one will take some PAX learning and cause flight crews more headaches. We see lots of signage, placards, announcements and messages for passengers on this one. Obviously, as we mentioned above, IFR conditions under 10,000 feet will probably be at issue as well so we hope travelers buck-up.  Even ALPA joined in on this one, “We urge passengers, to realize the potential seriousness of using a device when any crew member – pilot or flight attendant – advises them that it is unsafe to do so.”

In the end, the airlines (worldwide) have to go along with this PED usage change. They love the $27 Billion garnered from Ancillary Revenue and want nothing to create an environment of cabin discontent to cloud the arena. Yes, it will cost them money but it will be lost in the AR gains. Stay Tuned.

On another note:
“It seems that the sad news about passing’s comes in three’s,” one IFE’er told IFExpress. “First it was Lou Donaty, next Brian Payten, and now, John Landstrom.” He was the ‘real deal’ and is synonymous with Sony TransCom, and as one industry expert told us; “I think we’d all agree that John made TransCom a special place to work… more fun than a ordinary job.”

Airlines flying in and out of the United States may be required to close-caption all video content for the hard of hearing under rules that might be released by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) as early as February of next year.

This will be the subject of an industry panel to be held during the APEX Technology Committee Meeting on November 19-20 at the Hyatt Regency, Newport Beach, California. The Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) has established a working group chaired by Jonathan Norris of Lumexis to review existing closed-caption standards (see APEX 0403) and to determine if these standards should be updated or expanded.

In September, APEX board member and chair of the Technology Committee Michael Childers met with government officials and identified representatives of the DOT, the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (“Access Board”), and technology advisers to the DOT with whom APEX may work to establish closed-caption technology standards that would be acceptable to both the DOT and airline community.

A conference call was held at the end of September in which these officials and APEX representatives established the ground work for collaboration. While these efforts are temporarily interrupted by the government shutdown, APEX’s Closed Caption Working Group (CCWG) is building membership and identifying the issues for review.

A conference call between these representative of the DOT, Access Board, and technical advisers, and attendees of the APEX TC is planned, according to Childers. The CCWG will also report on its work during the TC. CCWG consists of representatives of airlines, Hollywood studios, post-production facilities, and IFE systems providers.

The subject of closed captions in IFE is not new. In 2006 the DOT issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would have required closed-captions on all video content on aircraft flying in and out of the U.S. APEX—then WAEA—responded to the NPRM drafted by Pierre Schuberth, currently with Thales, and Childers. This response explained that IFE systems are proprietary closed systems whose monitors are not equipped with Line-21 captions like terrestrial televisions, and that implementing closed captions in 2006 meant loading two versions of every movie and TV show onboard—one with captions and one without.

The response advised that the IFE industry was beginning migration from MPEG-1/2 systems into MPEG-4 systems which more easily accommodated closed captions and suggested a timeline for that migration. The DOT and the APEX TC worked closely in this review and in 2008 the DOT announced that it was reluctantly tabling the closed-caption requirement due to the state of IFE technology and that it would continue to monitor the industry’s migration.

In 2007, APEX adopted a closed-caption standard based on bitmap—a “rendered image” solution that enabled captions to be provided without boarding two complete versions of every movie—one with and one without captions—but short of the simplicity of Timed Text (in 2006 still referred to as “DFXP”). Emirates was the first airline to offer this kind of closed captions, provided by Panasonic, but few other airlines have adopted closed captions. Panasonic, Thales and Lumexis all offer closed captions in accordance with the 0403 bitmap standard.

While the IFE industry has migrated into MPEG-4, the timeline envisioned by APEX in 2006 has moved more slowly due to the recession at the end of the decade. While systems delivered to aircraft today are MPEG-4, content deliveries to existing systems are still nearer to 60 percent MPEG-1/2 and 40 percent MPEG-4.

This raises the question of whether a single closed-caption standard is practical in an industry where the lifecycle of an IFE system might be 15 years, or whether a dual standard involving both bitmap and timed text solutions might be codified.

Editors Note: To the best of our knowledge, Emirates is the only airline to offer closed captioning. If you are interested in closed captioning, we suggest you contact the industry expert, Michael Childers

At APEX last, we ran into Bryan Rusenko who told IFExpress that he is going out on his own and if you seek digital workflow business development, he is your person –

No doubt you have seen the Airbus Long Haul Standard Seat Size news release, aside from the issues the competition might have with it, we agree based on increased age, increased girth, and increased need for space…we like it! And, we like the info graphics as well! Infographic #1 Infographic #2

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!)