Okay, they never really left. With the new DivX IFE solution, Omniview, they are about to enter the IFE industry again, offering a streaming video entertainment product. If you remember back in 2003, the DivX hardware/software solution found it’s home on the digEcor line of handheld inflight video players. On February 5, 2015 DivX announced a new solution for video streaming applications and you are about to see a lot more from them! “DivX, LLC, a leading provider of next-generation digital video technologies, today announced the launch of its secure, In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) solution. An extension to DivX® OmniView, the new solution enables airlines and aircraft manufacturers to differentiate their in-flight entertainment experience and reduce costs. The release went on: “The DivX OmniView solution for OTT video delivery includes video encoding and packaging, studio-approved DivX DRM technology and secure players for multiple devices and platforms including iOS, Android, Smart TVs, set-top boxes and PCs. With the DivX OmniView solution on board, airlines will be able to offer passengers secure video on phones, tablets and PCs in-flight, with our without a connection to ground internet.”  The big deal here is the ability of airlines to load encrypted video entertainment on their servers and for travelers to securely stream the latest movies (or whatever) to their portable devices, preloaded with an airline’s DivX enabled App.

DivX has been around for 15 years and their core technology has been in video compression. The company has gone through several bouts of ownership but their focus has been on Internet video streaming. They admit that their technology has been installed on “billions of devices” and they have worked with all the major (and minor) studios in the process of protecting copyrighted content both in hardware and in software. Historically, DivX strength has been in the protection of content streamed via the Internet; however, their new inflight entertainment solution does not require Internet connectivity. Since they have developed a disconnected DivX DRM licensing server, they have a capability to operate without it. We note their solution works with Android, iOS and, Windows devices.

Here is how the system works (see the graphic above). DivX encoded movies and content are loaded via USB or SSD devices on the ground onto the aircraft Content Distribution Network hard drive. Prior to content loading, the DivX Omniview codec software is installed on the server. The DivX encoded content on the CDN server provides the streaming “intelligence” for transmission (via Wi-Fi) inside the plane. Passengers who have downloaded the airline App that contains the DivX “reader” software, can now view the secured movie on their device. The server software and the passenger device work out the secure network coding to enable the movie to play flawlessly. “By using a built-in feature called “‘quick start” which ensures DivX is first to frame 1, reducing the amount of time spent watching the spinning wheel and keeping viewers engaged,” the company said. They make a point that spooling can reduce viewings and reduce revenue. “DivX encoding profiles and device certification enable the service to reduce buffering, reducing the number of viewers that quit a program before its finished.”

Hans Baumgartner, Senior Director of Product Management told IFExpress, “On the plane, we provide the codec software, usually on LINUX platform, and DivX requires a very low CPU requirement so it is just software on the airline server. We also provide Player Packs for Android (or whatever) app developers from the airlines to build the downloadable software for passengers.”

And speaking of codec’s here is bit more on how they work: DivX uses industry-standard h.264 and HEVC codecs for their streaming technologies, and their secret sauce can be found in their streaming and security technologies. For now, most PEDs will use H.264 for video playback, but HEVC is making its way into new devices for a 30-50% bitrate savings! For adaptive streaming, DivX has created a set end of end set of codec profiles that are used both for the configure encoders and to certify playback solutions. The DivX rules configure the file structure and buffer rules to allow playback on any type of device, from phone to 84” TV, using the same batch of files. Consumer electronic products and playback software are thoroughly tested as part of the DivX Certification program at one of their test labs around the world. This allows DivX players to reliably and seamlessly switch between bitrates and resolutions as well as change audio and subtitle languages. All the media files are stored separately on the server to save space. The DivX Players dynamically pull down the individual segments of video, audio and subtitle files and combine them in the player so the server doesn’t have to package up all of the combinations of videos and languages. This scheme saves storage space, bandwidth and server horsepower… especially useful on a plane. DivX also allows a user to full-screen fast-forward and rewind through a streaming movie as if it were playing from a local disc. Behind the scenes, this is done with a special DivX trick-play-track that lets the user seek without hogging bandwidth or suffering through a bunch of buffering. For security, DivX provides supports both software-based and hardware-based security to meet studio robustness rules all the way up to 4k (but don’t expect 4k on the plane real soon!).

IFExpress asked the DivX team why they entered the inflight entertainment market at this juncture. They told us they knew they had the technology, and wanted to build a system that is better targeted for the IFE market… a secure system, even when “disconnected from the ground.” Mr. Baumgartner noted that when talking to top industry vendors, they saw a real need for the product because of the growing BYOD (bring your own device) demand and a need for an improved offering. With the acceleration of first run movies (early release), they understand the issues of the studios. The President and CEO, Dr. Kanaan Jemili said: “The new inflight entertainment capability of the DivX® OmniView solution furthers the DivX brand promise of delivering a better video experience across multiple screens. DivX is already delivering that experience at home and on the go, and now we’re extending our reach and capabilities to 30,000ft above the ground.”

Lastly, the DivX team told IFExpress that their product was very price competitive, both airlines and vendors will like that, but we like the idea of first run movies. This looks to be a Win-Win solution. And if you want to talk with the DivX winners at AIX Hamburg they will be walking the floor. Contact: Jamie Potter, Senior Sales Manager, 858-882-0893, Jamie.Potter@divx.com for more information.

(Editors Note: MPEG-4 is still the standard under APEX 0403, we think HEVC is coming and will be addressed at the May APEX Technology Conference – but 0403 does not specify a DRM. Going forward the DRMs with the greatest likelihood of getting content provider approval are the DRMs codified in UltraViolet. The six UltraViolet DRMs are: Widevine, Marlin, OMA, Microsoft PlayReady, Adobe Primetime, and DivX, at least that is what we understand. We also note, Industry consultant Bryan Rusenko commented that as one of the approved DRM technologies available in DECE’s UltraViolet system DivX has been vetted by content owners. This is a huge advantage for content delivery, whether as part of a streaming solution, or a future configuration. Also, as of a few weeks ago, DivX is now part of NeuLion… the folks who power the top live sports apps for the NBA, NFL, NHL, UFC and many others, so there may be more cool stuff on the way!)

Start thinking about your April travel schedule – Aircraft Interiors is April 14-16, 2015, Hamburg, Germany… See You There!

A Redmond ,WA. Inflight Entertainment System Company, Aircraft Cabin Systems, is looking for a Mechanical Design Engineer to manage and assist in the development of straightforward designs for commercial and business aviation video installation for video monitors and assemblies, as experience will be a strong consideration for the prospective candidate. 3D drawing capability is required. Knowledge of FAA mechanical in-cabin requirements and specifications will be useful in this position. Other duties will be involved in this job opportunity such as the design of the mechanical hardware needed inside video display products. Actual aviation industry experience is desirable, but not a prerequisite, for the position. Interested individuals should contact Yukio Sugimoto (sugimotoy@aircraftcabinsystems.com) for more information.

The Closed Caption Working Group (CCWG) of the APEX Technology Committee will have until 25 August 2014 to issue its final comments to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on that agency’s Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) requiring the use of closed captions on inflight video, according to announcements made at the APEX Technology Conference held in Newport Beach, California, on 19-20 November by CCWG chair Jonathan Norris and APEX TC chair Michael Childers.

This was one of a wide range of topics covered by the Technology Committee at its annual fall conference. Additional topics included a keynote address by Doug Johnson, VP technology of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA); a final report from the APEX representatives to the Federal Aviation Administration’s  (FAA’s) Portable Electronic Device (PED) Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC); a Seat and IFE Integration Workshop; a DO-307 Tutorial on Front Door and Back Door PED Emission Testing; a report on the Entertainment Identifier Registry Association (EIDR) by the Metadata Working Group; an update by the HD Working Group on APEX 0403 1080p standardization; a report on off-aircraft and inflight connectivity; an update from the ARINC Cabin Systems Subcommittee; and a report on how social media is helping to shape Southwest’s inflight Wi-Fi strategy.

The APEX Closed Caption Working Group (CCWG) is working with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to represent the IFE industry’s issues as the DOT decides on the scope of the requirements, and the technologies that might be codified by the agency, CCWG chair Jonathan Norris, and APEX TC chair and APEX board member Michael Childers told IFExpress.

The DOT’s original NPRM requiring closed captions on all videos on aircraft flying in and out of the U.S. was issued in 2006, but was tabled in early 2009 after the DOT and APEX (then WAEA) reviewed the state of closed caption technology as of that time. Referring to the reports of APEX, IATA, and the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM), DOT concluded that closed caption technology circa 2006-2009 could not be implemented practically in IFE.

However, citing a timeline provided to the agency by APEX in 2006, DOT followed up for the maturation of these technologies with the result that the NPRM has been re-issued and APEX has once again engaged with DOT. The biggest difference between the state of closed captioning in 2006 versus today, according to Norris and Childers, is that new IFE installations today are based on MPEG-4 platforms that support Timed Text captions versus the MPEG-1/2 platforms of a decade ago that began supporting bitmap (“rendered image”) captions around 2007.

Among the issues, according to the CCWG report, is that while most of today’s IFE installations are MPEG-4, there are still more MPEG-1/2 files delivered today in IFE because of the preponderance of legacy systems. Therefore the CCWG will seek to ensure that the current APEX 0403 bitmap closed captioning standard is at least grandfathered, while Timed Text may also be included.

Other closed captioning issues include:

  • Since closed captions are more plentiful in North America than in certain other regions, the CCWG is considering a proposal that allows for closed captions to be required on an agreed percentage of content—particularly on non-US carriers—rather than on all content.
  • Certain kinds of short content—like ads and movie trailers—are generally not closed captioned in other markets, so the CCWG will seek a category of content to be excluded from the rule.
  • The definition of captioning is the conversion of audio dialogue into text dialogue in the same language, plus descriptions of certain non-dialogue sounds. The CCWG will seek clarification that there is not an expectation that non-English languages be converted to English.

Just prior to the TC Conference, the DOT confirmed to the TC that it has changed its NPRM Publication Date to 26 June 2014 and the end of the comment period to 25 August 2014. This will allow the WG more time to prepare its recommendations and to further engage with DOT.

High Definition Working Group

In a report from the High Definition Working Group (HDWG), Bryan Rusenko, formerly of Technicolor, announced that additional work was needed to reach consensus on a security solution for 1080p, with the result that this modification to APEX 0403 was not voted on during the TC Conference. Rusenko, and HDWG co-chair Pierre Schuberth of Thales, will attempt to find consensus by the May TC Conference.

Consumer Electronics

In his keynote address to the TC Conference, CEA VP Technology, Doug Johnson, said that CEA predicts that the percentage of adults buying technology gifts during the 2013 holiday season will be 64 percent, the highest ever and up from 62 percent in 2012. As recently as 2010 his number was just 49 percent. He also said that the number of mobile devices purchased in this category will continue to grow, and that 50 percent of consumers will use a mobile device to help them shop for tech this year.

Johnson also said that the hottest trends at the 2014 CES in January will be wireless & wireless devices, integrated home/connected home technologies, and lifestyle electronics.

DO-307 Tutorial

One of the best-received presentations at the TC Conference was an RTCA D0-307 Tutorial by Billy Martin, Principal Engineer, at Cessna Aircraft Company, a member of the FAA PED ARC along with Rich Salter and Michael Childers of APEX. Martin explained that all electronic devices have spurious RF emissions and that interference with aircraft receivers is possible if:

  • The RF emissions have high enough amplitude
  • The RF emissions occur at the aircraft radio tuned frequency
  • The path loss between the PED and the antenna is low

He also explained that any electronic device can have RF emissions (these are not due to intentional transmitters), and that they can affect sensitive aircraft radio receivers through their antennas. This is called “front-door coupling.” DO-307 defines minimum (or Target) Interference Path loss between PEDs and the aircraft antenna connector at the radio receiver. Aircraft that demonstrate Target Interference Path Loss (Target IPL) have tolerance to PED front-door interference.

As for “back door interference,” Martin explained that a tabulation of all equipment and qualification D0-160 Categories or HIRF Certification can be reviewed and maintained. This listing can be used to compare with other installations and be used to approve the equipment to backdoor tolerance.

Southwest reports on entertainment portal, social media

Angelo Vargo, Manager Product Development, at Southwest Airlines, used the occasion to announce that Southwest has begun permitting the use of PEDs from gate-to-gate. Southwest currently has 440 Wi-Fi-enabled aircraft via Row 44, consisting of 75 percent of its fleet. Over 2 million passengers visit the Southwest portal each month to use Wi-Fi, live TV, VOD and messaging.
Thats the Spirit! “I’ve made friends at airports because I carry with me a cheap $4 extension cord with multiple outlets (5). I can plug it into one of those charging stations and power up my own laptop and then share the rest of the outlets with other travelers. Makes for interesting conversations at times. Best $4 Home Depot investment I have made to date.” – Ken Lew, Thales.

Readers of In-Flight Entertainment are probably tired of hearing what we have to say about the industry so we decided to turn the tables on you and asked what you thought about the latest WAEA TC Meeting in California last week and here is what you said (names withheld to protect the innocent).

Responder One: “The WAEA SFW on Connectivity was well attended, although there seemed to be fewer airlines attending than for the first SFW in Everett, WA in June 2009. Airlines are clearly embracing airborne connectivity for passengers and airplanes. IFE & C suppliers are mapping a future enabling those of us with mobile devices to stay connected in the air as we are on the ground. Without a doubt, most passengers under thirty years old have grown up with computers and cell phones, and have come to expect to be socially connected through texting, Facebook and Twitter. These are the business and leisure passengers of today and tomorrow; these passengers expect to be connected 24/7. Soon connected teenagers will be paying passengers and working adults. The WAEA SFW on Connectivity did an excellent job of highlighting this trend, this opportunity, this inevitable future.

Next, our second responder told us: “At the TC there was consensus for moving forward with a list of additions to the MPEG-4 Settings that include: a) Specifying Progressive video input as a Best Practice, b) Designating MPEG-4 Part 10 Main Profile, Level 3.1 as a Best Practices default, c) Limiting the number of reference frames to 2. We were not able to reach consensus on data rate however. There were expressions of preference for codifying either 1.5Mbps or 2.0 Mbps, and some favored a range between the two. But in the absence of consensus we will deliberate in committee in an effort to reconcile. We will continue investigating an HD and 3D spec.”

Thirdly, our next responder (Three) told us, and we quote; “Some presentations in the workshop were informative; others had way too many details about antenna and frequency allocation technology. Airline attendance was low even though most of the presentations were targeted towards airlines. No question connectivity is a hot topic and everyone is on board from airlines to vendors to OEM’s. Reminds me a lot of the air-to-ground telephony industry back in the 90’s where it was deemed as a must have on every seat on every flight. None of those companies are in business today and the usage was far less than advertised. While I agree that future generations expect to be connected 24/7, I question the ultimate success of any company selling any product in flight that requires a passenger to pull out their wallet. If the service becomes free as it is in many airports and lounges today, that is an entirely different story.”

Our fourth responder asks the rhetorical question: “Is there an HD standard in IFE’s future? The WAEA’s Technology Committee meeting in Los Angeles last week was very well attended, with over 150 IFE professionals sharing their opinions on MPEG4, High Definition video content, and the future of 3-D video in IFE. While the discussion about standardizing MPEG4 settings and the future formats of 3-D video displays were “interesting,” the discussion about HD video for IFE was downright scintillating, with diverse opinions from all segments of the IFE business. Here’s just a sampling of comments, opinions, and factoids heard at the meeting:

Hardware provider: 720p makes most sense for HD IFE – 1080p does not make sense, since it means having to store more data that does not noticeably improve picture quality on mostly small screens. 32” displays are the threshold for perceiving increased quality offered by 1080p.

Hardware provider: Resolutions of 1280 x 720 and 1920 x 1080 are used by US broadcasters, while 1920 x1080 is that of BluRay. Further, BluRay uses variable bit rates of 25-30 Mbps. If we continue to use constant bit rate (CBR) for IFE encodes, we will have to encode everything at the highest bit rate or lose quality on the fast changing scenes.

A hardware provider’s point: 1080p will be the resolution of choice for display systems in the next 5 years.

A content provider’s counter-point: 720p is the standard for the content already – broadcasters may transmit it in 1080p but the content is 720p.
Another content provider’s counter-point: Resolution is not going to stop at 1080 lines – we are already seeing 2000 and 4000 lines, and 8000 lines has been demonstrated in Japan.

As you can see from all these divergent viewpoints, we are a ways away from agreement on what the standard HD content format should be for IFE – or even if there should be a standard at all (a view espoused privately by a few attendees). What do you think: should the TC have its working group spend the time over the next few months to hammer out a standard for some aspects of HD video for IFE (could save airlines on costs for content?), or should they let the marketplace duke it out for a while and see what settles out?”

And lastly, responder five told us: “The WAEA TC Single Focus Workshop had its usual sales pitches given under the guise of imparting technical information and approaches. However, two presentations in particular stood out for their clarity and the amount of usable information presented. OnAir’s Henri Broussalian made a very good case for mobile voice onboard aircraft based on experience on over 100,000 commercial flights. Broussalian cited that there have been “zero” complaints about passenger cell phone use and that the U.S. restriction called the “Hang Up Bill” is ill-advised based on this experience. He indicated that the U.S. should immediately reconsider this policy of denying passengers this kind of connectivity. Despite raising the bar on the number of acronyms used, DDEi’s Peter Lemme gave an excellent overview of the structure of current aircraft “operational” communications environment and a cogent approach to deploying these applications over the newer broadband solutions being installed. Mr. Lemme noted there are certain regulatory issues to be resolved both not only in the aeronautical industry but also in the world telecommunications arena so the progress will be slow but steadily moving to broadband. This author’s view, based on my work with operational communications, is that airlines will cautiously use the broadband pipe that is becoming available for passengers through the deployment of category 2 and 3 EFBs to support operational efficiencies. The growth in the use of broadband for operational communications will lag slightly, by 6-12 months, the deployment of the broadband systems on a fleet-by-fleet basis. As operational experience with broadband grows, the airline industry will naturally seek to fill this much larger “pipe” with more aircraft management applications in an effort to reduce costs and operate more effectively.”
That’s All Folks!

Editor’s Note: Breaking news has Emirates and Ryanair dropping OnAir service. It looks like one of our responders was pretty much on the money!