Lake Forest, California | November 28, 2016– Panasonic Avionics Corporation (Panasonic) and Safety Line today unveiled a strategic partnership that will enable airlines to benefit from significant fuel savings.

Panasonic Weather Solutions (PWS) provides Safety Line with enhanced global weather forecast through real-time weather data collection from its TAMDAR sensors and FlightLinkTM Iridium system.

TAMDAR data provides observations of wind, temperature, and moisture every five seconds as TAMDAR-equipped aircraft descend and ascend at nearly 300 airports across North America. It also collects about 3,500 profiles each day from several hundred additional airports located in East Asia, the Pacific, and Europe.

This data is used by Panasonic’s Forecasting Center of Excellence (FCoE), which develops detailed station-based weather forecasting, as well as enhanced weather forecasting.

Panasonic’s expert meteorologists will use these unique atmospheric datasets, as well as sophisticated 4D quality control and proprietary forecasting models, to provide Safety Line with state-of-the-art and unmatched forecasts.

OptiClimb from Safety Line uses such highly accurate, real-time refreshed PWS weather forecasts in lieu of the standard weather parameters to offer optimized climb profiles for each flight.

The process is fully automated from the weather live feed to flight plan analysis and climb schedule issuance to the pilot.

Airlines can reduce fuel consumption by up to 10 percent during ascent thanks to OptiClimb’s unique patented solution, which uses a combination of machine learning performance models for each individual aircraft, and the computing of optimized climb profiles issued ahead of each flight.

Transavia is the launch customer for OptiClimb, and will use the solution in the operation of its fleet of 26 Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

PWS FlightLink weather sounding and tracking system is already in service on 35 Airbus A320 aircraft at Air Asia, and there are 250 aircraft in service globally with PWS TAMDAR weather sensors.

Chris Lundquist, VP Corporate Strategic Innovations said: “This partnership with Safety Line further develops our proven weather forecasting strategy and delivers clear bottom line benefits for airlines.”

Pierre Jouniaux, founder and CEO of OptiClimb added: “Optimization is highly reliant on the accuracy of the inputs fed into the algorithms. Panasonic Weather Solutions’ accurate, real-time forecasts allow us to optimize climb profiles more efficiently, saving more fuel dollars and CO2 for our joint customers.”

As the weeks pass after a show like the recent APEX in Singapore, it is easy to start thinking about the next one; however, IFExpress will try to continue to cover some of the more important show participants and their new products, accomplishments, and sales. Importantly, a post show head cold and a recent election has caused focus issues in the past few weeks, but we are now in better control and we will start off with one show item that keeps coming back to haunt us – the concept of aircraft and Big Data. While IFEC is not the whole story, it is part of the issue, and over the last few weeks we have been doing our homework a bit on the subject. The folks at companies like Panasonic, SITA, Thales and many others have been chanting the “data” subject into our ears at each meeting – we really have been trying to understand the problems and potential solutions – and believe us, it is no easy subject, with few easy answers. A number of years back, Mark Thompson of Thompson Aerospace warned us of the impending data monster we were about to see but we had little idea at the time of its value and challenges. This data thing is not new but it is getting bigger!

Looking back to the late eighties, we saw a document developed about the importance of airplane data, in general, and how McDonnell Douglas was looking at the future of its importance in tying an airline together by connecting the “movable asset” back to the airline itself with the one connectivity-based solution available at the time – live, real-time data. Back in the day, the connectivity links were minimal but the requirement was still there.

Today, it is a cry that still is the important connecting piece of the airline business, but it is getting louder. However, we note, now it entails better connectivity, more information, passenger involvement, better worldwide connections, and generally more need for planning and action throughout the airline and passenger environment. Perhaps a computer programmer said it better than we could: “You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data.” – Daniel Keys Moran, an American computer programmer. Further, when you have 30 $250 million dollar assets buzzing around the world, data is the only way to see at any point in time, how your assets are delivering profits or losses. Further, it is a way to see what your customers are needing, in real-time.

We understand that we will not cover the issue in one IFExpress, and to that end, we have a few future interviews planned with IFEC companies and you will have the opportunity to see a bigger picture from them in the coming months. And speaking of ‘seeing the data’ issue, we really owe the folks at SITA a pat on the back for they have been trying to educate us on the value and need of standardized data.

Furthermore, not only satcom companies are part of the data solutions, as an example, the folks at SmartSky are developing a ground-to-air solution that may deliver the cheapest, and possibly the fastest over tera firma, data solution when it is up and running in the US. The point here is that data will be the driving factor when an airline executive or inflight passenger, or flight crew person, or a box on the plane needs to connect to a listener or data taker from the ground, and thus, it will be one of the next big things in our industry. Check out this Next Gen aviation connected electronic flight bag story;

With the growth of passenger data needs, the subject of data will become even a more important technology as time goes on. In SITAONAIR’s white paper published during the show, they noted that passenger connectivity is still the key motivating factor with airlines for adopting the service. Some 48% of their list of airlines in their study see it as the main passenger experience benefit. However, now some 20% of the airlines involved saw connectivity as a pilot and cabin crew enhancement driver, with some 15% seeing value in maintenance and ops monitoring. While a low number of planes today are outfitted with connectivity solutions, SITA expects three quarters will have some connectivity by 2017, and the big solution will happen by 2020 and some 12,500 planes will be so modified.

One big issue, notes SITA, is the lack of commonality or common standards in the aircraft data itself. Why is this important? We see it as a way to allow more entrants in the IFEC industry, more participants in the data business, more uses of the data itself, and a solution that becomes a standard where and when more people use it. Lest we forget, big data probably also means big bucks! If you want to see an example the application of common airport standards you might want to check out SITA’s AirportConnect Open.

Another area is the type of data from the various sources and its utility and application. The folks at Panasonic can see the data future and they call it “Big Data”. They envision the application of ground and inflight data as well as a lot more data applications from many sources – but we will have more on this subject in the future. We should also note that Thales has their version of big data and they are using their InFlyt Cloud for similar data solution for airplane data, metadata and big analytics. However, the message to folks in this business is perhaps, just perhaps, that the IFEC world might just be a smaller part of a bigger aviation world that uses data. It is a solution for bigger problems and future analysis – all way beyond IFE companies just selling hardware. Just possibly it may be the next generation of understanding about airplanes and passengers and the world of flying assets that are moving thousands of miles away from the home offices with hundreds of passengers all going to different places for many different reasons. Big Data has a future value that we don’t even understand today!

To make our point about where this is all heading, here is a very recent news release from Panasonic Avionics about their next generation of data connectivity solutions and it points out the widening of the acquisition of data sources sets the wider data picture being viewed by IFEC vendors. Said the release: ”The technology will enable the next generation of connectivity services to the aviation industry and multiple other markets.” The release went on: “Panasonic Avionics will implement Ericsson’s 5G-ready core solution through its subsidiary AeroMobile, a global inflight connectivity provider and registered mobile network operator. The contract is the first step of a long-term strategic collaboration between the two companies, which will focus on areas like 5G and the Internet of Things.” It went on: ”Panasonic Avionics can apply the 5G-ready core across a wide and ever-expanding range of markets, enabling connectivity for users not only onboard aircraft and ships, but also for the huge Internet of Things communication.” IFExpress notes the 5G is touted as the next generation of mobile technology because it “has the capability to radically lessen latency, accelerate download and upload speeds, enhance network reliability and spectral efficiency.” With this data, they also have the potential to support IoT development, by considerably escalating the number of devices that can connect to the network simultaneously.” Get the data picture? Stay Tuned on this one, soon we will talk more about data standardization and future data applications.


digEcor & IFPL

We like it when two companies in our industry combine their thoughts to develop a better product offering. We saw this during APEX Singapore this year when digEcor, in conjunction with partner IFPL, unveiled their GLIDE inseat power solution on AirAsia’s A320neos. The development effort was a collaborative one between digEcor, IFPL and Miras Aircraft Seating. The deal with AirAsia totals 55K seats and because AirAsia is a low-cost carrier they required a low-cost solution. This makes sense since inseat power is more and more significant as passengers are bringing their own devices onboard and the system is Wi-Fi driven by the onboard inflight connectivity. In fact, many LCCs are now looking to Wi-Fi for their IFE solution. From a hardware perspective, IFPL’s USB outlet is backlit and we understand that when power is available the unit is lit, making it easier for the passenger to find on the seat arm. If you are interested, we’ve attached images of the seat arm with the IFPL USB outlet and digEcor’s SEB!


NEWS

ViaSat/Arconics
Qatar Airways has implemented AeroDocs software from Arconics, a ViaSat company, to provide a single centralized repository to revise and track all operational and non-operational company manuals and documentation for operational readiness. The ability to create, author, edit and mark all changes in a visible manner over the web enables team members to easily keep abreast of, and be alerted to, relevant procedural modifications as and when they happen.

Boeing
The Seattle Times wrote: “In a surprise move, Boeing announced Monday that Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Ray Conner will step down from that position and be replaced by General Electric senior executive Kevin McAllister. In 2015, the Boeing board granted Conner a special award of 50,000 shares ‘to encourage him to forgo an opportunity to retire in the near future.’ With that award vesting on Dec. 1, 2017 provided he stayed at Boeing, it was expected that he would retire about then. Those shares are worth $7.35 million.” (Editor’s Note: Not a bad deal – $7 million & change for staying at Boeing for 2 years!)

Media Box
Heard about Media Box? The Media Box, which Media Carrier offers as an exclusive service to tourism companies in particular, operates as a web-based service and can be easily and conveniently used with any web-enabled device. To download their preferred business magazine or their usual morning paper, guests connect to the Media Box of the airline or hotel and gain access to their own personal reading material. Newspapers and magazines are presented unabridged and in the same layout used in the print versions, and can be browsed through easily and intuitively – check out this image. Even after downloading, the downloaded publications remain available to the reader for an unlimited time.  Established in 2011, the company is a subsidiary of the Munich-based MELO Group, whose central divisions are built on the two pillars: media and logistics. Media Carrier specializes in marketing and distributing digital content. It supplies the travel industry with e-papers through the Media Box. The digital media library is now successfully deployed with e.g. Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines and Eurowings as well as in more than 1,000 luxury and five-star hotels worldwide.

· Panasonic Avionics Corporation will provide LTE technology to the air transport and business aviation markets with future expansion into maritime and mining markets
· The Ericsson 5G-ready core solution is based on Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and Software Defined Networking (SDN)

Lake Forest, CA | November 17, 2016– Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) has been selected by Panasonic Avionics Corporation to enable the next generation of connectivity services to the aviation and additional multiple markets.

Under the terms of the new contract, Ericsson will implement its 5G-ready core solution for Panasonic Avionics through its subsidiary AeroMobile, a global inflight connectivity provider and registered mobile network operator. The solution will enable crew and passengers on aircraft, cruise ships and yachts, and employees in the energy and mining sector, to enjoy 2G, 3G, LTE and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Ericsson will provide Panasonic Avionics with a 5G-ready core that can be optimized for use across a wide and growing range of sectors, enabling connectivity not only for passengers, employees and different services onboard aircraft and ships, and also for the massive Internet of Things communication.

Ericsson’s 5G-ready core using NFV and SDN technologies brings ultra-scalability, programmability and automation to the networks. Real-time instantiation of network functions and network slicing enable network resource optimization, rapid service innovation, new business models and greater customer value for Panasonic Avionics.

Paul Margis, President and Chief Executive Officer, Panasonic Avionics Corporation says: “This innovative collaboration with Ericsson is an integral part of our strategy to address the global communications needs of consumers and businesses in the future, and it demonstrates our commitment to enabling connected devices through the Internet of Things.

“Using this new global communications platform, we will help our customers — across all of our vertical markets — leverage ubiquitous connectivity to improve their operations with real time data across all of their connected platforms.”

Anders Lindblad, Head of Business Unit IT and Cloud, Ericsson, says: “NFV is an important technology for the 5G-ready core, and industry-leading operators around the world are already using our solution in live commercial service. We are extremely happy that Panasonic Avionics selects Ericsson as the sole supplier for their 5G-ready core.”

Charlotta Sund, Head of Customer Group Industry and Society, Ericsson, says: “We look forward to working closely with Panasonic Global Communications to enable them to offer consumers and businesses the next generation of global connectivity solutions. Panasonic Avionics and AeroMobile will be important strategic customers for Ericsson as we embark on a long-term business relationship together.”

The new contract between Panasonic Avionics and Ericsson is only the first step of an extended strategic collaboration the two companies are embarking on, with other areas of focus including 5G and the Internet of Things.

  • Panasonic Avionics partners with Plug and Play Tech Center to help select and guide the best of breed startups in the Travel & Hospitality space.

Sunnyvale, CA | August 30, 2016– Plug and Play, a leading startup accelerator based in Silicon Valley, today announced new collaboration with Panasonic Avionics Corporation (Panasonic), the worldwide leader in inflight entertainment and communications. As an anchor member of Plug and Play Travel & Hospitality, Panasonic will help select the most promising startups working on the next generation of travel & hospitality products and services.

Plug and Play Travel & Hospitality is on a mission to discover, support, and scale technologies that are defining the future of travel and hospitality. Using Panasonic Avionic’s extensive travel experience, Plug and Play will accept 20-30 startups in each of its two Travel & Hospitality classes of 2016. Startups accepted into the three-month program will receive mentor opportunities with leaders in the travel & hospitality space across all verticals including hotels, airlines, online travel agencies, cruise lines, and global distribution systems.

Chris Lundquist, Vice President of Corporate Strategy, Business Development and OEM Management at Panasonic Avionics said, “At Panasonic Avionics, we are constantly looking for new ways in which we can improve the passenger experience. Being part of this strategic venture with Plug and Play will help us quickly identify new opportunities to bring future innovations to the travel experience.”

“Our mission is to source innovative technologies that will complement Panasonic Avionics’ existing products and services as they relate to IFE. Ultimately Panasonic’s market reach gives them a huge influence over the passenger experience on almost every commercial aircraft around the world. We hope to play a positive role in enhancing their offering and strengthening their position as a market leader in the IFE space.” said Amir Amidi, Managing Partner and Director of the Travel & Hospitality Vertical.

      • Partnership announced today at Aircraft Interiors Expo 2016

Hamburg, Germany | April 5, 2016– Saudi Arabian Airlines has selected Panasonic Avionics Corporation’s (Panasonic) innovative eXO system for its fleet of 30 Airbus A320 aircraft on order.

At the 2016 Aircraft Interiors Expo, the carrier confirmed its commitment to Panasonic’s latest generation full HD inflight entertainment experience with the first aircraft due to be delivered in November 2016.

eXO is Panasonic’s innovative overhead solution available today with Panasonic’s new 12-inch 1080p retractable overhead monitors, near audio-on-demand and wireless support for passenger device streaming and interaction with the IFE System. It is designed for maximum flexibility and supports a wide variety of AVOD configurations including overhead video, wireless IFE, full AVOD and hybrid, cabin class-specific systems.

Paul Margis, President and Chief Executive Officer of Panasonic Avionics Corporation, says: “Not all IFEC systems are created equal. Our unrelenting focus on our customer’s unique needs ensures that eXO delivers unmatched flexibility at a very competitive price point. Even for an overhead system, the right technology can make a huge difference in how passengers experience an airline. With eXO, Saudi Arabian Airlines benefits from the ultimate combination of efficiency, performance and reliability to create a premium entertainment experience throughout the aircraft.”

eXO delivers the ability to mix and match cabin configurations based on an aircraft’s mission profile, the airline’s brand strategy, and the desired class configurations. It uses the same backbone as other X Series systems, enabling Saudi Arabian Airlines to launch a hybrid installation with audio/video-on-demand in the premium cabin and overhead video in the economy cabin.

Business Class passengers will enjoy individual 13.3-inch Elite full HD monitors and Video Touch Screen Handsets with a broad choice of on-demand content available through Panasonic’s IFE system. The screens are designed with enough processing power to display the content of both today and tomorrow, as well as the resource-heavy applications that will be introduced over the coming years.

Economy Class passengers will enjoy entertainment on large full HD retractable overhead screens that provide a home theatre experience throughout the cabin.

Director General of SAUDIA Eng. Saleh Aljasser said, “We needed a solution that was incredibly flexible and delivered a true HD cinema experience. The ability to configure a unique entertainment experience in each cabin class is what made eXO an easy decision for our airline. Our guests can now look forward to a unique entertainment experience in every class.”

For more information on Panasonic’s eXO solution, visit the company’s website

Hamburg, Germany | April 5, 2016– Singapore Airlines and Panasonic Avionics Corporation (Panasonic) have joined forces to deliver a broadband-connected, personalized, immersive entertainment experience across the airline’s entire 787-10 fleet and A350 Ultra-long-haul fleet. This announcement comes on the heels of the delivery of Singapore Airlines’ first A350 aircraft equipped with Panasonic’s flagship inflight entertainment and global connectivity systems.

Panasonic will deliver connectivity and inflight entertainment solutions that are custom-tailored to Singapore Airlines’ vision for an enhanced KrisWorld experience on board their B787-10 aircraft and A350-900 Ultra-long-haul aircraft. Singapore Airlines will be the launch customer for both fleets.

The eX3 system used by Singapore Airlines is Panasonic’s most advanced IFEC system. When used in conjunction with Panasonic’s Global Communication Services, it offers the latest in onboard technology communication solutions and over a terabyte of immersive entertainment options including the world’s most popular movies and television shows. Customers will also enjoy higher levels of personalization via the Panasonic companion app, which when integrated with KrisWorld delivers unrivaled opportunities around passenger engagement and value delivery. The experience will also include the capability to provide broadband Internet services to passenger devices and the seatback, as well as mobile phone services.

Paul Margis, President and Chief Executive Officer of Panasonic Avionics said, “We are thrilled to extend our partnership with Singapore Airlines to their new medium haul and ultra-long-haul aircraft. Together, we have continually pushed the envelope to discover new ways to engage passengers and to leverage the benefits of the connected aircraft. We look forward to working with Singapore Airlines for many years to come.”

  • As part of its launch, the airline is offering today Wi-Fi, free of charge, to passenger’s flying to Havana, Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo.

Madrid, Spain | March 7, 2016– Air Europa, the airline division of Globalia, continues to press ahead with its plan to modernize and expand and, as from today, offers Wi-Fi service to passengers on-board three Airbus 330, hand in hand with Panasonic Avionics Corporation, world leader in in-flight entertainment and in-flight communication.

As part of its launching activities, during today, all Air Europa passengers flying to Havana, Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo will enjoy Free Wi-Fi during the flight.

Progressively, the airline belonging to Globalia Group, will install Wi-Fi via satellite on all its Airbus aircraft that operate long distance routes, the new Boeing 787 arriving this month will also have this service. Additionally the B787 aircraft will come with the system eX3 IFE to offer the passenger a unique in-flight entertainment experience.

The aircraft that offer Wi-Fi on-board, thanks to the innovative system eXConnect of Panasonic Avionics Corporation, are two Airbus 330-200 and one A330-300, it is estimated that from the month of July the entire long haul fleet with have Wi-Fi service on board.

The Wi-Fi service will be activated, above 10.000 meters, when the seat belt light is switched off, therefore it is not available during take-off and landing. From then on, passengers wishing to connect must keep the airplane mode activated on the mobile device in order to connect to the Wi-Fi “Ontheair” and after opening a browser select that rate most suits their needs.

Air Europa has selected three rates to choose from 7 euros for 15 Mb; a popular rate of 13 euros for 30 Mb that permits a longer navigating time or a premium rate of 20 euros which permits 50 Mb to navigate.

The installation of Wi-Fi service on-board Air Europa aircraft, that aims to improve in-flight entertainment, ensuring a great comfort and amenities; is a new step in the modernization that the airline is immersed in and that aims to establish itself as one of the best and most modern airlines in the world. Also, from next April changes will be introduced to catering service introducing new menus, together with Newrest and the chef Antonio Fernandez, will be offered on-board medium and long haul flights.

In a continuation of their collaborative efforts on the economy class JAZZ Seat; four industry expert companies have launched a new standard in business class seating that provides the passenger with a harmonized seating environment with increased comfort and control. Said Neil James, Executive Director of Corporate Sales and Product Management at Panasonic BE Aerospace, Formation, Panasonic, and Teague got together and holistically thought out how a business class seat and IFEC should work together. Our goal was to design and build the next generation passenger seat and a symbiotic IFEC solution for aircraft seating. The objective was to work with our partners to develop a superior business class seat that would a) integrate the IFEC into the seat structure b) enhance the customer experience in an environment that is calm, comfortable, captivating and immersive. I truly believe we have achieved these objectives with Waterfront.”

Waterfront was debuted to the public at CES Las Vegas 2016 and reflects approximately 18 months of product development and refinement. Like the JAZZ Seat, Waterfront was designed from a clean slate, eliminating many of the disadvantages of building on legacy hardware and electronics. BE Aerospace and Panasonic Avionics are targeting delivery of this innovative seat offering in 2019. And in case you were wondering if there is a significant market for a business seat growth over the next 8 years check out this presentation from Tronos Aviation Consulting Inc.  We should also note that the study clearly defines a 2014 seat market size of some 3.4 million seats in the airline world, 7% of which were premium seats, the market that the new Waterfront product will live in. Obviously this market size will grow in the coming years as Waterfront becomes available. (Also, see the Editor’s Note below for a bit more on seat market value.)

“Waterfront is an evolution in seat design,” said Alex Pozzi, Vice President, Advanced Design Group, of BE Aerospace. “We really focused on personalizing the passenger environment. By using reinforced thermo-plastics and stronger aluminum alloys, BE Aerospace was able to offer a trimmer, more efficient seat while enhancing the passengers comfort.” For those who travel in business class, this translates to: 1) temperature control and air flow in the seat back, upper neck and seat bottom 2) additional knee room when the traveler is sleeping on their side or getting up from the sleeper bed 3) ergonomic storage for the tray table and the passenger’s laptop, with a ‘push’ release 4) and overall, a seat frame that is lighter weight. These are just a few of the enhanced features but we will delve into these enhancements later on.

Before we describe the Waterfront Seat and IFEC solution specifics, we should address some of the challenges facing the business class experience today. A) airlines are continuously trying to find ways to differentiate themselves in an effort to remain competitive B) passengers are increasingly desirous of personalizing their private space C) and the ever increasing technological advances available on the ground. In other words, it is a changing world. Changing because of airline desires for customer product perfection, changing because of passenger wants and needs, and finally, changing because the world of technology is changing both the airplane technology and passenger carry-on technology as well. Waterfront addresses these factors by leveraging the digital experience of the IFE system and the advanced functionality of the seat to create a seamless responsive environment from the perspective of the passenger.

In order to develop the evolutionary design, the team began extensive research, consulting with strategic customers to better understand passenger behavior. Prototypes of the industrial and interactive design were paramount to the development of a seamless end product. “An anthropomorphic data study previously conducted on BE Aerospace’s JAZZ Seat helped in (determining) the comfort and shape of the back and bottom cushion of the seat,” said Alex Pozzi. Full-scale, functional models were created for both validation and testing purposes, which resulted in a design solution that met the program’s objective and requirements. Amazingly, the resultant product achieved an over 12% weight savings and a 15% reduction in part count over present day business class seats.

Waterfront Features IFEC & SEAT function:

  • 24-inch 4K touchscreen monitor with edge-to-edge glass structure
  • Virtual Local Storage per seat group
  • Streaming Content from Head-End
  • Gigabit Ethernet backbone
  • Wi-Fi Connectivity
  • Passenger controls via:
    • PED (via an airline companion app)
      • Light ID
      • Bluetooth
      • Wi-Fi
    • Mini PCU
    • Tablet pop-up
  • Tailored GUI interface
  • Inductive Charging (Qi)
  • AC POWER
  • USB Power Ports
  • PED connectivity supported by: Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC
  • An IFE User Interface coupled to hundreds of individually controlled LEDS with:
    • Full Spectrum LED lighting
    • Multiple modes that coordinate seat position, light intensity and color.
      • Passengers can tailor the lighting, temperature and the rest of their environment depending on what they are doing. For example they can create a “theme” environment for watching a movie, eating dinner, or sleeping… just to name a few!
  • An innovative seat mechanism with individual head, leg, and back rest adjustments.
  • Full range of motion – upright to a flat 79-inch bed
  • 16.7 inches in the foot-well
  • Individual articulation of the head, back, and leg rests
    • Fixed presets
    • Capacitive touch controls
    • Customizable presets via the IFE interface.
  • Pop up storage compartment
  • Full coverage sliding door
  • Herringbone design allows for high-density seating configuration
  • A large, single piece tray table
  • A large fixed side table
  • Cable pass-through areas for electronic devices
  • Individual temperature control
    • Thermoelectric modules in the shell, foot-well, and seating surfaces allow for controllable ambient and direct heating and cooling.
  • An independently heated or cooled side storage compartment
  • Note: Panasonic will also be using Virtual Local Storage (VLS) storage in this seat and while SD card memory is common storage, VLS has 5 – 6 times the storage capacity, and further, they feel that they will be able to double that capability in the next generation system.

Enhanced service will be the end result through the ergonomically placed ‘touch points’ and passenger interactions zones. Communication between the passenger and the flight crew will also benefit via the slim 7-inch touch wireless controller/handset, which will display custom messages and iconography on the seat shell OLED display. The overall heating/cooling, both convective and conductive, can reduce overall cabin heating/cooling demands while providing more immediate benefit to the traveler.

From the IFEC perspective, the system creates what Panasonic calls “a passenger-centric solution.” Waterfront features improved reliability since it boasts a balance of the following: a) local data storage for content per seat, b) Virtual Local Storage per seat group to share local content, as well as, c) streaming content from the head-end server from a Gigabit Ethernet server. In fact, a version of this service offering is available today from Panasonic and is flying on some of Air New Zealand and British Airways wide-body aircraft. Furthermore, we asked about the 24-inch 4K screens and the availability of content and were informed that even if the content is not available in 4K format the GUI and Interactive experience is “very rich”, as is HD 1080p content viewed on a 4K screen. Panasonic is using Bluetooth 4.0 built into the display for ‘lite streaming’ requirements, as well as, Light ID for super fast, local low data rate transmission to PEDS. Provisions for NFC payments have also been implemented. All these features are to provide the passenger with an enhanced, tailored flight experience.

Like their collaboration on the JAZZ seat, each company owns their own IP and can work with other vendors as airlines demand. In fact, they are looking at working on future projects with traditional vendors, as well as, new entrants but together the team has developed a product that ostensibly is more than their individual additions – the whole idea behind a team.

As an aside, in 2014 at the Passenger Experience Conference prior to AIX Devin Liddell of Teague gave a presentation on the power of partnerships and how they were the most powerful currency at our industry’s fingertips. In other words, the team-made product is bigger than the sum of its parts. At the time he stated in his presentation that the capacity to partner has a big impact on influencing the customer and that we, as an industry, need to think about co-making, not just co-marketing. In our opinion that is exactly what Panasonic, B/E and the rest of the team have done with both JAZZ and Waterfront.

All this collaborative teamwork and disruptive design technology will virtually and physically improve the inflight experience for both the traveler and the airline. When we asked Mr. James about Waterfront and the benefits to the passenger and the airline he noted, “Panasonic likes to be dynamic and react to the customers’ needs and we use our capabilities to solve a customers’ problems. Waterfront is a holistic solution – not just IFEC in isolation.”

The new Waterfront seat will be at AIX in Hamburg as the early design has been entered in the Aircraft Interiors Crystal Cabin Awards – we expect they will do well.

(Editor’s Note: We wrestled with market size and price a little bit for the benefit of our readers and while no one discussed market size or price in this effort, IFExpress contacted a couple experts and here is what they told us: “The aircraft seat market is probably bigger than you might think. While the market itself is probably half new and half retrofit, it is growing. The seat price (no IFEC) is all over the map but premium sets are around 5 times what the price is per a single coach seat. The lie flat seats are priced about twice that.” As an aside, one outside industry source estimated that lie-flat seats for business/first with IFE can easily reach the $100K mark per seat when development, testing, OEM requirements, EMI testing and certification expenses are taken into account. Lastly, when you run the numbers with the assumptions we made here, the value of the total premium seat market is roughly the same dollar size of the total coach seat market! Thus, it is a market worth pursuing!)


News:

Gogo announced today that it will upgrade its satellite modem for use with its next generation 2Ku and Ku satellite technologies.  The new modem will begin flight testing on Gogo’s Boeing 737 test lab – the Jimmy Ray – in the coming months, with commercial delivery expected to begin in 2017. The proprietary features of the new modem will significantly increase throughput from the satellite to end users on the aircraft.  The modem will be capable of delivering 400 Mbps to an aircraft, which will be more than enough to support the anticipated capacity of next generation high-throughput satellites.  The modem will also have the capability to simultaneously support IP streaming and IPTV.  “Just like your home or office Wi-Fi set-up, you can make improvements to the amount of bandwidth delivered, but if the modem can’t support that bandwidth, you can create a choke point in the network,” said Anand Chari, Gogo’s chief technology officer.  “Gogo’s next generation modem is being built with a lot of room to spare so it will be ready to handle data delivered from next generation high throughput satellites and beyond.” Gogo has partnered with Gilat Satellite Networks for the development of the new modem.  Gogo and Gilat together are developing advanced mobility management features that will be incorporated into the new modem.  Gogo has been lab testing the new modem, which has already delivered 200 Mbps using Gogo’s 2Ku antenna. Gogo has already begun the licensing approval process for the new modem through the FCC and the FAA.


More:

  1. The world of short haul twin-aisle aircraft seems to still be growing even tho the “new” single aisle planes (B737NG & A320neo) are coming on strong. IFEC vendors have to think about what developments are next to come along and how to modify or change IFE for a new plane seat concept- especially involving multiple classes. Here is a report from the CIT folks who say; “This is not a zero-sum game. Instead of siphoning travelers from established carriers, new airline business models will open international travel for a new class of passengers. A diversity of airlines experimenting with an array of business models will expand the operator base, increasing demand for both new- technology and current generation aircraft. Sophisticated owners will be well positioned to generate returns from a growing market for twin-aisle aircraft. “ Interesting report
  2. Last time we told you Bob Bogash is now going to try to get that rebuilt 50-year-old B727 off the ground on March 1, 2016… now delayed till March 2. We note that his website has over 4 million hits on the site and story!
  3. If you cannot get enough “airplane stuff” into your life, try the Boeing Store.

Last week we noted a few IFEC related products/services at this year’s NBAA in Las Vegas, thus, this week we will continue the dialog, specifically, those folks we normally visit at APEX and AIX… and a few that you might not see. Lets start with one you will see.

Aircraft Cabin Systems

One of the video display companies at the show was Aircraft Cabin Systems and this year we saw a few surprises in their booth. First, the retractable displays were shown available in the standard and new HD (1080P) models and because they retract, they present a new solution to more headroom in already cramped biz jet cabins . We asked ACS Sales Manager, Ken Muse, about the hardware – Attached are spec sheets for the 9.7″ and 12.1″ Retract.

Both of these units are designed as a drop-in replacement for Airbus. ACS is currently working on a Boeing drop-in replacement as well. As you can imagine, the design priority comes from our customers priorities.

The screen images of the new mounted HD video display units we also saw were stunning. Ken also noted: “The larger bulkhead mounted displays were all HD LCD Monitors displaying 1080p content with 32”, 42” and 65” models on exhibit. The 24” bulkhead mounted display was our Network HD LCD Monitor which is capable of displaying preloaded content and/or being controlled from an iPad or Android hand-held device.” Stay Tuned!

Panasonic and AeroSat (Astronics)

We visited Panasonic and their team at NBAA and were surprised at their involvement with Business jets as this a new market for them. David Bruner noted that the new partnership was formed to deliver high speed connectivity and global live television programming to the business jet community. Astronics will deliver the incredibly small Ku Band antenna (AeroSat) intended for tail mounted installation and Panasonic will deliver the “network”. By that we mean, the code and control of the system that handles the connectivity – all the while, the antenna and receivers are designed and built for others. Panasonic has a wealth of experience in the delivery of Ku Band satcom solution from satellites around the world. Basically, Panasonic has global coverage and massive download capacity, the biz jet market was a natural. David told IFExpress, “teaming with AeroSat allows us to enter the market immediately as the service provider. Looking at it another way,” noted Bruner, “when you get phone service from a company like AT&T, you don’t have to buy the phone from them – that’s how we look at this solution.” He mentioned that Panasonic has been looking for the right opportunity to get into this market. We should also note that a typical tail mounted antenna, because of size at Ku Band, doesn’t deliver the best gain characteristics, but when Panasonic saw the testing and performance data of the AeroSat model, they signed on. “From a performance point of view, Panasonic will be offering 3 levels of service,” noted Bruner, “So we are offering three different bandwidth levels that guarantees minimums – 1.5 Mbps, 2 Mbps or 4 Mbps that is guaranteed, most of the time we deliver more.”

SmartSky

Perhaps, SmartSky’s news release said it all: “SmartSky Networks, a next-generation aviation communications provider, is pleased to announce the launch of the nation’s first airborne 4G LTE-based network, SmartSky 4G. SmartSky’s technology will provide more than 10 times the typical speed and capacity of networks currently in the market by using 60 MHz of spectrum for its Air-To-Ground (ATG) data communications. SmartSky 4G will serve both business aviation and the airlines beginning with an exclusive beta-customer trial launch in the continental United States in late 2015. The rollout of nationwide commercial service will follow in 2016. Because the system hardware design can work at multiple frequencies, SmartSky is positioned to expand internationally in the future and provide coverage in locations where different frequency bands might be required. SmartSky is partnering with a leading group of airframe manufacturers, maintenance companies, and equipment and service providers to distribute SmartSky 4G to the business aviation community and will revealed these launch partners at NBAA2014. Similarly, the company is approaching the airline market through established distribution channels, including incumbent connectivity providers.” SmartSky President, Ryan Stone, said: “Last year the company filmed a live flight demonstration with multiple users on-board engaged in video conferences, streaming movies, sending and receiving large files, and other bandwidth-intensive activities all at the same time. SmartSky 4G provides an experience that exceeds the current gold standard of network performance – it enables live, two-way, high-definition video conferencing. SmartSky 4G’s robust performance means that we can also support communications needs beyond cabin Wi-Fi, including many emerging operational applications,” said SmartSky President Ryan Stone. We note the company would not talk about frequencies or beam patterns but as we learn more we will clue you in. From their limited tech hints, it looks like they plan their ground-based US solution to include towers that project an upward antenna pattern is a rough conical shape. Oh yes, and by the way, Mary Rogozinski (847 903-45540 has joined the Smarty Sky team Avionics Magazine :: SmartSky Receptive to Partnering ATG with Satellite

Astronics

As we noted earlier, Astronics and Panasonic are teaming for biz jet delivery of inflight internet connectivity and global live TV, and AeroSat designs and builds the tail mounted antenna. Their booth features also their other antenna and antenna installation products (including the adapter plate from the Astronics Armstrong division) and, of course, their WebFB product that delivers wireless connectivity to aviation handheld devices. WebFB (or web flight bag) is a clever device that connects to almost any device and is secure.

Astronautics

Presently, we are waiting for a presentation abut their NEXIS and PaTIO Security devices that look interesting if there is concern over inflight security – Stay Tuned!

F+S+B Aviation

The folks at FSB caught our eye when they showed us a free iPhone app (Android too) that you can download (Look up FSB Aviation in the iTunes store) and it gives a bit of info on virtually every commercial, regional, business and (US) military aircraft. You get dimensions (FBS is in the hangar space business) and, perhaps, next year, they will include a pix of each plane model and a bit of data on the average seating?

PlaneGard

Of course you have been paying attention to the Lithium battery issues but while at NBAA, we saw something that you might see on a future flight as the folks at PlaneGard promote a personal device fire containment unit. “Hydrogen does not appear to be a problem when there is a thermal runaway in a single device in the cabin or cockpit, based on Tech Center testing. Those are more of a nuisance type of fire,” says Hill. “The probability of it getting out of control in the cabin is next to nil, but you have to know what to do.” Standard procedures call for dousing the device in water or other liquids to cool the cells. Other uses in the cabin could be of concern, particularly for airlines that may want to use tablets or iPads in lieu of inflight entertainment systems. “If you put 50 of them in a closet and start charging, that could create a fire that could bring down an aircraft,” says Aviation Week’s John Croft. Perhaps, the PlaneGard product we saw might be in order for Pad-based flights?


More News

Airbus provides dedicated iPad mount capability for A320 Family pilots: “Certified in May 2015, the iPad ‘mount’ is now available for our A320 Family customers. The mount, which consists of a mechanical support installed on each window frame and a power supply connection (USB), can be used with an iPad (models 2, 3 or 4) and iPad Air (models 1 and 2). This solution enables the use of the iPad as an Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) during all flight phases. The first Service Bulletin (SB) is expected shortly with an entry-into service in 2016. The solution which can be embodied during a night shift has been developed following a strong customer demand for an Airbus solution.” Check out the Airbus release and image.

Additionally, according to a report from 9to5Mac, Apple is considering dropping the 3.5mm headphone jack from future iPhones in favor of its proprietary Lightning connector or Bluetooth-enabled earpieces. The report states that the next iPhone would come bundled with a pair of the new Lightning connector headphones that plug into the phone’s charging port. Looks like the potential for a lot of Bluetooth radiation could be in your inflight future, but don’t worry, there is a lot of testing at your back:
Aircraft_Safety_Report_for_Bluetooth-6.pdf.

Of course you have heard about the LED modulation (Li-Fi) as being a future potential for data transmission, but the jury is still out for in-aircraft usage. Much like a parallel, multi-visible light communications solution emanating from LED’s. Here is a good way of looking at it – “Using a digital modulation technique called Orthogonal Frequency Divisional Multiplexing (OFDM), researchers enabled micro-LED light bulbs to handle millions of changes in light intensity per second, effectively behaving like an extremely fast on/off switch.” Speeds of up to 1 – 1.5 Gb/sec have been achieved, however, it is unknown if, or how, this transmission effect would affect passengers, airplane equipment or personal devices that have light sensitive/controlled equipment. Further, it is known that lighting and microwaves can cause issues with Wi-Fi. Perhaps the folks at Lumexis might prefer a fiber optic cable output at each seat so your devices could “talk” to the network?

This may be a new “data and money-saverfeature for web-based satcom connectivity.


Lastly, we wanted to let you know what we have been planning something for a few months now and you might find it interesting. As you know, we talk to a lot of engineers and technical folks and our goal has been to develop a better understanding of some of the technology that is inherent in this business. As time advances, we are seeing even more need for this kind of subject matter, whether it be a hacking security issue or the use of previously overlooked technologies like Bluetooth, the times are getting more technical and IFExpress is developing a weekly feature to frame it. Stay Tuned!


Portland Oregon was a great place to hold the recent APEX annual IFEC soiree and IFExpress will deliver a few product summaries in this and the next IFExpress. We plan then to feature in-depth stories about what we saw… and we saw a lot. From a general observational note, the show looked to us as the beginning of an industry and technical turn-a-round. From a technology point of view, the inflight world is changing and new technology is partly responsible. Technology developed for products on the ground, and in the air, is very exciting to us and we will discuss and promote that change as best we can. The other part of the change we observed is you, our readers. The issue here is the attitude of the vendors and airlines. While the melding of ground-based and airborne technology is of great interest, the fact that a whole lot of people are now seeing the journey as a issue, not just the flight itself – the “experience”. How can you not be excited about that? We also want to be sure to say “Thank You” to our clients, advertisers, and all our industry associates – if it weren’t for you, we would not be in business. We apologize for asking so many questions and taking up your valuable time, but we have only one goal – technical truth. Stay Tuned!

First, the Show: “2750 Registrants from 51 Countries, and 207 exhibitors,” so noted new APEX CEO, Joe Leader. The IFEC event in Portland, Oregon this year clearly set out a new vision for the APEX team that now extensively focuses on the “experience” value of IFEC. This is a concept that is being heralded by more organizations as the new trip vision. The “Experience” tag line was noticed in print, on slides, and voiced by almost every show attendant. As noted by Mr. Leader, “We do not take a trip, the trip takes us.” – and there could just be some truth in this observation. Certainly, if travel gets difficult, as it often does, travelers do get an experience but it is frequently negative. When it does become a positive event, as many noted, it will result in a good experience. And, the APEX team see’s their job as helping to facilitate solutions throughout our industry.

Importantly, this positive experience includes a lot more than tickets, inflight movies, or food… a lot more. It includes the flight of course, but one can rationalize that the process of finding a destination, buying a ticket, waiting at the airport, interacting with airline personnel, getting one’s baggage… and so on, are all part of the trip; consequently, IFEC organizations and airlines are focusing on the “experience” moniker, and that is what this show is, and will be about, for some time to come. As a result, we detected a big change in the air this year and only time will tell if the IFEC crowd gets the message and forces change positively. Readers, this is a big deal so we hope you get on board with the concept. Last year alone, the airlines had $29.3B in profits, and that exceeds the previous year’s record of $16.4B. Many travelers say it could be that airline revenues are potentially inverse to joy of the experience… and thus there is a opportunity for the mechanics of change here. One way or another, experiences are being made for more and more customers and APEX now is in the thick of the change surrounding this growth. This ought to get interesting!

We should also say a few words about Joe Leader since we met and talked extensively with him. Joe is one of the most positive humans on the earth – that is a big deal. Why? Because if the new APEX mantra embraces positivism, the boss better be… and as far as we can tell, he is very positive. We asked a few show-goers what they thought and perhaps one discussion with a board member put it best. Michael Childers – APEX Board Member and Tech Committee Chair had this to say: “I think this APEX marks a new direction for this Association with the addition of Joe Leader as APEX CEO. With a full time executive working exclusively for APEX, and one who is technology savvy, we can do things we could not do before. I’m looking forward to working with Joe and with our Technical Director Bryan Rusenko to take technology to a new level of implementation.” So if you meet Joe, and you most certainly will, don’t be put off with the man’s ability to look at the good side of things. We had a few questions about the number of increasingly related meetings and groups that were overtly “experience” focused, and even some competitively so. His answers distanced his position from any competitive posture. Rather, he embraced the common focus and resultant teaming value as a beneficial result of multiple groups seeking a common goal or solution – a solution for a good trip “experience” and a future for many more of them.

With respect to this issue, we obviously, we can’t (and won’t) try to cover a show like APEX with one issue of IFExpress – it can’t be done. Rather, we will cover many of the speakers, vendors, products, meeting and general view of the next generation of IFEC with a lot more data. So, we chose to give you a rundown of tech teasers from many of the vendors we met with, and present a ton of teasers to wet your appetite for future Hot Topics, images, quotes, and product solutions with more to come next issue. And note here, this was a banner year for new stuff and while we did as much research and interviewing as we could, this is an intense and challenging communication job. Thus, we may be sending you a write-up for correction and updates about your products. Your help will produce a better IFExpress, and that is what we are all about. So, here are a number of tempting “bullets of information” or product teasers that impressed us early on:

GuestLogix: Craig Proud – SVP Platform of GuestLogix told us that purchase trends in consumer behavior included digital wallets, self-service retailing, and cashless & paperless payments. Further, he noted the global mobile payment forecast is growing some 30% per year. And if you don’t think some of that growth won’t happen on airplanes, ask yourself if you ever bought anything on a plane with a credit card and then note what you have done on the ground over wi-fi. This may also help generate drivers for inflight Wi-Fi. Hello Amazon Inflight!

The folks at Lumexis told us that they announced an order for 8 B737 FTTS + Screen systems from Caribbean Airlines. Also, they now are the first IFE company to implement the Android Lollipop OS. We think there a few more announcements coming soon too and we see more browser solutions in their future.

Panasonic, the Big Dog in the industry with over $2B in IFEC sales last year, had a ‘banner winning’ at the Pax Choice event. All 5 airline winners in the 13 “Best of..” award categories were using Panasonic hardware (Emirates won 7 of the 13 categories). Further, some 516 aircraft have Panasonic installed connectivity since April of this year with 400 more committed for wi-fi since the Hamburg IFEC show. This chart tells the story! We would love to talk about their industry party with the Portland food trucks but… More later!

BOSE is always a fun visit and we proved that the lightweight 20i portable headphones really make the world of inflight listening very similar to that with the fixed cups. Now, if they would just remove the wires and include a Bluetooth… sorry, we can’t say that!

Telephonix + PDT:  The company highlighted the Summit Product Line of (IFEC) equipment for the show and we finally got a hands-on session. The Telefonix Summit line is comprised of state-of-the-art system components designed to enable unique and innovative in-flight connectivity and entertainment solutions. Here are the hardware elements: Cabin ACe Wireless Access Point (WAP), Cabin Pinnacle general purpose airborne server, Cabin Peak pico cell, and Cabin Vista attendant display can be added to enhance existing in-flight entertainment systems or combined to create a unique IFEC solution. More on this later, but in the meantime you might want to read this link… the security stuff intrigued us!

SIE, the folks that know how to get electronic equipment installed and certified on jet aircraft achieved notoriety along with others who provided technology updates and VooDoo doughnuts

Thales: During an interview with Duc Huy Tran, new VP of Strategy and Marketing, he told IFExpress: “If an airline doesn’t have streaming video, they will have disappointed passengers, and if they don’t have a big enough data pipe they can’t cover the needs… but it has to be cost effective,” he said. “Devices will grow tenfold in the 10 years and the passengers want to be there.” He also told IFExpress “There is a trend toward two-way engagement, not just entertainment,” but he noted, “The more you engage, the more you can monetize,” and that tells the story of the connected aircraft and where this is all going!

The folks at Gogo are pretty B to B focused and as you might guess, they mostly talk to airlines and partners and this accounts for their Crew Connect and Voice tech apps. It has noise canceling capability in it,” noted Steve Nolan. IFExpress asked about the 2Ku status, and he said; “We are most excited about 2Ku based on the performance we we have seen to date – we are also excited about bringing more bandwidth to the aviation market.” We will have more on this as many folks were talking about their 2Ku system. Visiting Gogo is always a tech trip… and this year they were one of the 5 or so booths that featured some Beacon technology. Further, they also showed robots, 3D printing and the best airplane seats ever… just kidding, they were vibrating massage chairs… with screens.

Lufthansa Systems BoardConnect – What you will see in the link below is one of the early shots of one of the more amazing things to be taken aboard an airplane. Amazing because it delivers streaming Wi-Fi to 50 passengers in approximately 1 Mbps streams, and runs on batteries (or fixed power)! It is about the size of a large book and it works by just turning the device on and placing it in a baggage bin for operation. “Much like your own streaming server, it uses no outside access points and the system is a faction the cost of an installed IFE system,” noted Norbert Müller, Senior Vice President BoardConnect at Lufthansa Systems. “… and the SSD storage holds a lot of movie choices as well.” Here is a picture of the device and we will have more on this one later.

We will have a lot more hot gadgets and stories about them, and yes, more data in the coming months, so if we ran out of room for your story in this issue, be patient! Stay Tuned!

“As Peter Drucker said, well before the advent of the information age, the sole purpose of a business is to create a customer. It’s clear that brand building will only go so far.” Harvard Business Review – Marketing

If you have been asleep since 2007 or not directly involved in the marketing of a product in that time period, you might not be aware of the change in business relationship strategy in many product oriented companies, especially at the marketing level. This observation, and an intense Q&A with Panasonic after Aircraft Interiors Expo, taught us a few new lessons on the subject. In the Panasonic press briefing at AIX, Executive Marketing Director, Neil James presented a couple of these refocusing concepts that told IFExpress two things: 1. Panasonic Avionics’ marketing approach to airlines has changed to a “business for business” model, and 2. We had better study up on the new marketing analysis and processes involved to communicate them to our readers.

How does this process differ from the traditional approach to selling a product, you might ask? Panasonic no longer goes to the airline and says: “You need the next new widget we’ve built.” Instead they meet with the airline and ask questions like: “What are your business challenges, goals and objectives? What role can your IFEC strategy play in addressing these? Here is a process on how we can help you achieve your goals.” The process is a collaboration aimed at selecting the solution(s) that fits their goals and objectives… with the appropriate combination of Panasonic Avionics’ products. “The airlines know their passengers and their operating requirements better than we do. We ask them to tell us what they want IFEC to do for them, and then make a virtue of coming back with suggestions about different options for them to consider”, says Neil James.

The marketing world, as we said before, has changed at least in understanding the value of customer relationships. Due to the greater opportunity for direct relationships with customers via the web, there has been a progressive shift in value away from the brand (Brand Value) towards the value of the repeat customers themselves (Customer Value). Read the following article to get a better understanding of the timeline. Being able to understand the time-line of the relationship with customers means that the new ROI of marketing includes words like Impression, Perceptions, Opportunity, and Engagement. And yes, we are talking about new marketing measurement tools, some that focus on current monetization (Efficiency) and others that focus on the long term relationships (Effectiveness/Engagement).

The changes have been subtle, but they have been fundamental. We are speaking of the “new involvement” of businesses with their business customers, as well as the involvement of the airline customers with their travelers. Many successful businesses today have structured their customer relationships to begin by asking them (in this case, airlines) about their relationships with their own customers (passengers) to better help (the airlines) select products that will help them achieve their business goals. Got that? It could be better entertainment, it could be better connectivity to enhance customer communication, or it could be something as simple as more viewing choices on their PED’s. But, in the end, it is all about Panasonic’s understanding and enhancement of the airline’s business goals… with a built-in intent of delivering a better airline product – that is, a more goal-achieving one. In other words Panasonic is providing better Business FOR Business solutions.

That’s it in a nutshell but, as you well know, the airline marketing world is much bigger than that. Improving customer relationships brings more customers to the airline for their travel, which improves the airline’s bottom line and, with that, Panasonic’s. But the process of understanding airline objectives is not always easy. Obviously, it involves meeting with airlines, but sometimes a stated goal or product related influence involves understanding the perspective of different constituencies within the airline – operations, marketing and finance in particular. Working with airlines is key to understanding their goals and objectives and this is exactly what Panasonic Avionics has been doing. We have observed that the approach used attempts to fully determine what the airline/passenger relationship goals are, as well as how connectivity can improve operational efficiency. And since there is a process that makes this happen called PACE, we should talk about it next.

Panasonic Avionics defines their vision as being to: Delight Passengers and Enhance Airline Value. They have a roadmap to help achieve this vision; it is called PACE. It is an acronym that stands for Perspective, Analysis, Configurations, Evaluation, a four step process that they utilizes to understand and agree upon the specific airline customer goals and objectives.

PACE is about business outcomes. It is a structured, collaborative process to establish an optimal IFEC strategy, meeting each airline’s unique objectives, while taking into consideration the different IFEC configurations with their various functionalities and cost. It uses detailed modeling to establish the financial impact of the various configuration options to help the airline maximize their investment.

Let’s review the evidence for how this Business FOR Business (B4B) marketing process has been received by the airline industry by looking at the Panasonic Aero sales successes, as reported at AIX.

1. InFlight Entertainment
In 2014, Panasonic Aero won some 155 IFE programs equipping some 1,134 aircraft. We note that the average program size was 7 aircraft… which seems to dispel the myth that Panasonic only gets large program orders! They also installed hardware on 1,002 planes (a 10% improvement above 2013). Additionally, there were some 12 key innovations that included Next Generation IFEC, Companion Application, Developer Programs, HD Audio, PED Integration, JAZZ and Hailstone Seat integration, and more.

2. Global Communication Services
Today, there are 56 customers with the Panasonic Ku service and some 700 aircraft installed with the capability. eXPhone now has 293 aircraft with installations. Furthermore, 205 aircraft are now offering real-time TV, and some 2,600+ airplanes are committed for Panasonic service. Note the Panasonic airline market share for global communication services which ends up being a 46% market share. Global Coverage Growth Chart.

3. Panasonic Services
It is interesting to note that Panasonic has the world’s largest MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul) capability as there are some 37,000 aircraft turned each month! (means that 37,000 aircraft are swept and repairs if needed are done each month. Work is performed in 64 locations by some 1,300 dedicated staff and partners.

4. Key Acquisitions
ITC Global – A provider of connectivity services for business critical communications that expands Panasonic’s connectivity capabilities.
Tactel – A leading provider of software, apps and consulting services that expands Panasonic’s capabilities in user interface design.

These acquisitions underscore the value of vertical integration that Panasonic displays with pride. The company relies almost totally for the manufacture of its products from inside the company. A good example of this is their Ku band antenna manufacturing and assembly in Lake Forest, California. The antenna plate elements require precision installation and rely on robots built by Panasonic in Japan. Panasonic firmly believes that vertical integration helps develop lower lead-times and consistent products. This is one of the key strategies Panasonic uses to deliver on-time, high quality products and services.

All in all, it is pretty clear that Panasonic Avionics has hit upon a marketing solution that has present and future value for the business objectives of its customers.

Hamburg, Germany | April 14, 2015– Panasonic Avionics Corporation (Panasonic) has reached a major milestone with the 700th aircraft installation of its eXConnect inflight Wi-Fi system.

Panasonic Avionics President and Chief Executive Officer, Paul Margis, said, “We believe that every aircraft should be connected, regardless of its mission. What was once viewed as a passenger amenity has quickly become a business imperative for our customers.”

Margis continued, “The connectivity discussion with our customers has moved beyond the size of the pipe. What matters most for our customers is how they can use connectivity to improve their business. Only Panasonic provides an ecosystem that uses connectivity for a wide array of services benefitting both the passenger and the airlines’ bottom line.”

No other provider has the ability to integrate state-of-the-art in-seat entertainment with broadband Wi-Fi, live television and 3G mobile phone services. Panasonic’s uniquely global Ku-band satellite network lets passengers surf the web at broadband speeds, send and receive email, watch live television and use 3G connectivity to make and receive phone calls, send and read SMS text messages or email, and browse online using mobility services from AeroMobile.

A connected inflight entertainment (IFE) system lets airlines offer passenger concierge services from its cabin crew and ground staff, and tailor on-board advertising with specific content aimed at individual passengers. With connectivity, real-time credit card validations help prevent fraud and let airlines offer higher value items through passenger devices and the seatback system. Live monitoring of the IFE systems and passenger behavior such as content usage statistics allow the airline to adjust their product strategy and serve their passengers better.

Connectivity is also transforming the way airlines can do business with real-time aircraft tracking around the globe, electronic flight bag services for cockpit operations and a real-time interface for flight and cabin crew with airline ground operations. A connected aircraft also enables proactive maintenance by continually streaming operational data including engine data to the ground, enabling quick analysis and the provision of fixes and solutions where necessary, and the quick mobilization of ground maintenance to ensure minimal operational disruption.

After solving birdstrike, Panasonic installed 250 aircraft with eXConnect in 2014. Over 300 are planned for installation this year to achieve the 1,000th aircraft in 1Q 2016. In total, 56 airlines, seven of which have committed in the last 8 weeks have committed over 2,200 aircraft with Panasonic’s eXConnect system.

The company will introduce massive capacity increases coming later this year, including 200mbps over CONUS (Continental U.S.), the Atlantic Ocean and into Europe with HTS (High Throughput Satellite), providing increased bandwidth. With future updates planned over Europe and Asia, HTS will cover all of the world’s high traffic areas by Q4 2017.

In addition Panasonic, the leading provider of inflight connectivity systems globally, has received 210 regulatory approvals including connected flights over China.

Hamburg, Germany | April 14, 2015– Panasonic Avionics Corporation (Panasonic) is pleased to announce the acquisition of Tactel AB (Tactel). Tactel is a leading mobile app and software consultancy in Sweden that counts many prominent Scandinavian companies as its customers.

This acquisition is part of an ongoing strategy to enhance Panasonic Avionics’ leadership and capabilities in software and design.  Tactel will augment Panasonic Avionics’ existing engineering and software expertise in the consulting and development of apps, portals, visual and interactive design and back-end services.

Tactel will operate as an independent unit of Panasonic Avionics and will continue to deliver a diverse range of solutions to its customers in the media, mobile and financial services industries under the leadership of Jonas Andersson, CEO. 

“We are excited to join Panasonic Avionics and participate in the profound change that mobile technology can bring to the modern inflight experience,” said CEO, Jonas Andersson.  “Panasonic’s market leadership coupled with Tactel’s unique mobile industry experience will provide innovative software solutions for the aviation industry.”

Paul Margis, President and CEO of Panasonic Avionics said, “Tactel is a unique and innovative company that delivers custom solutions with the personalized, rich experiences that today’s connected passengers demand.  We believe that Tactel’s unique blend of solutions and services will help enhance our inflight entertainment and broadband connectivity offerings, and also help our customers become even more successful.”

Washington DC | March 16, 2015– Panasonic Corporation and ITC Global announced today that they have entered into a definitive agreement for Panasonic to acquire ITC Global, a leading provider of satellite communication services for the energy, mining, and maritime markets. Founded in 2001 with regional headquarters in Houston, Texas; Sion, Switzerland; and Perth, Australia, ITC Global serves customers at more than 1,300 remote sites across 70 countries and all the world’s oceans.

Panasonic, through its subsidiary Panasonic Avionics Corporation, is a leading provider of inflight communications and entertainment systems to the aviation market. By combining complementary strengths, ITC Global and Panasonic Avionics will become a new leader in global satellite services poised to support long term customer requirements as demand for bandwidth and efficient, reliable communications solutions continues to grow across the energy, mining, maritime and aviation markets. Panasonic Avionics’ satellite network already covers 99% of all airline flight hours and 98% of all maritime traffic routes, and the organization is in the process of adding High Throughput Satellite capacity that will wrap around the globe.

Upon the closing of the acquisition, ITC Global will become “ITC Global, A Panasonic Company” and will operate as an independent unit of Panasonic Avionics. ITC Global will continue to execute its current strategic plan under the leadership of Joe Spytek, ITC Global’s founder and Chief Executive Officer, who will report to Paul Margis, President and Chief Executive Officer of Panasonic Avionics. ITC Global’s management team will remain in place and will continue to focus on its customers in the energy, mining, and maritime markets, while Panasonic Avionics will remain dedicated to its customers in the aviation market.

“Panasonic’s acquisition of ITC Global highlights the natural alignment of customers across the aviation, energy, mining and maritime markets, all of whom require mobile broadband, high reliability, global coverage and responsive customer service,” said Margis. “ITC Global is a proven leader and we share a common passion for excellent customer service. Together, we look forward to taking satellite communications services to a new level of value and performance.”

“Panasonic Avionics’ global capabilities and leadership in satellite-based communication will enable ITC Global to enhance our core service offerings to all of our customers,” said Spytek. “This combination assures ITC Global’s long-term access to next-generation satellite technology resources and strengthens our ability to deliver optimal value and service to meet our customer’s current and future mission requirements.”

Boston-based private equity firm, Riverside Partners, has owned ITC Global since 2011. During that time, the company experienced an exciting period of expansion, quadrupling sales through a combination of organic growth, new customer wins, and successful acquisitions.

The transaction is expected to close after customary conditions have been met and regulatory approvals have been obtained. Centerview Partners acted as Panasonic’s exclusive financial advisor. Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP and Thompson Hine LLP acted as Panasonic’s legal advisors on the transaction. Choate, Hall & Stewart acted as ITC Global’s lead legal advisor.

ITC Global and Panasonic Avionics will be available at booth 5109 to discuss the announcement during the SATELLITE 2015 Conference and Exhibition, being held March 16-19 at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

Background: Now after almost two years and the brainpower of four unique and capable design/development/manufacturing organizations (BE Aerospace, Formation Design Group, Panasonic and, of course, Teague), the much anticipated JAZZ seat is about to hit the street… or should we say, “the rails”. If you look up the definition of the word “jazz,” you will find words like, “radically different” which sets up our sense of what the recent interview with Neil James, Executive Director of Corporate Sales and Product Management, Panasonic… was about.

“Well, we started with a clean sheet of paper,” began Neil, and then he went on to tell IFExpress how the Jazz seat/IFE design team set about some 18 months ago, with one goal – to design and build the next generation passenger seat and symbiotic IFEC solution for aircraft seating. During our interview, Neil proudly implied that they had achieved their goal… and then some. Perhaps better said, the goal is as follows: The corporate team worked with our partners to develop a superior, long-haul, economy class seat that would a) integrate the IFE into the seat structure, b) enhance the customer experience in an immersive and comfortable experience, c) reduce total weight, and d) reduce complexity. When IFExpress asked Mr. James why the design team elected to target economy class as their first initiative he said, “The biggest opportunity out there is in economy class. It is where the most people travel today. And we want to bring a touch of the premium experience to those traveling in economy.” He went on to say, “Panasonic has been pretty successful in the IFE industry today and we want to make sure the message is out there that we are not standing still. We are proactive. Panasonic is doing and funding these things without a current customer. We are investing in the industry and its future.

Before we describe the JAZZ seat/IFEC solution in specifics, we should address some of the issues that exist with the passenger experience on a jet plane today. Lets just say that in coach class, it could be better. Perhaps the biggest issue today is that there is not much room – legroom, knee room, and psychological room between you and your seat, and between you and the seat in front of you. Our interviewer referred to “the lack of vertical space.” While the new design provides more than just the illusion generated by the new black color, the mechanical features deliver more to the passenger in function and perception.

From the airline perspective, a new seat should be lighter, slimmer for more of the dedicated available space to be for flying guests. They should be less complex and more reliable… and if they do suffer a failure, they should be easy and straightforward to fix… after all, they are the part of the airline that is in contact with passengers longer that any other part of the service… and your trip.

Additionally, the entertainment screen could always be bigger and easier to see, there could be more adjustable lighting, there could be more and easier power availability, there could better storage for passengers devices. Issues like spillage and sliding (think: turbulence) and table size and storage are always at issue. Connectivity could always be better, and if your device, no matter who made it, could be charged without a special jack, that would help with the plug wiring nightmare. Tray tables could be more passenger-friendly and they could be better designed to secure cups with fluids. In other words, the airplane seat space needs be “adjustable” to fit your needs and the seats could always be better designed to fit “you”.

Basically, the team shrunk the seat while fitting it in the same dimensional footprint, and at the same time improved almost every feature and function of an aircraft seat… while keeping, or improving, seat safety and egress. We note that the weight savings are due to the integration and work between BE and Panasonic. The monitor and seat were designed with the attachment points built in. This eliminates additional brackets and weight from the system. In addition this modular design allows for fast removal of the monitor with a single screw. Here is a real-world definition of a “win-win”. While there is not enough room in an article like this to outline and describe each new feature of this industry changing development, here, in outline form, is a rundown of the feature list. Thus, you can see the advantages of this design above the competition, and at the same time, obviously note the improvements and benefits. Here is a quick look:

MECHANICAL

  • Two new internal seatback designs were developed for this project – called Sandbox and Beachfront. These offerings differ in mechanical features that give preference to the tray and/or storage. Both designs are mandrel free. An anthropomorphic study set the stage for a “new” back shape design. Another way to look at all this development is that the seat occupies less volume – virtually the same width and height, it is just “thinner”.
  • Redesigned cushion with new compression structure technology
  • An adjustable seat tray and cup holder – folding option
  • Peripheral station/storage in seatback – patented “Beachfront” option
  • Increased “knee room” mechanical design
  • There are two streamlined seatboxes: a SPM in the seat pan and a SIB on the leg.
  • An innovative seat cover
  • Lighter weight means less fuel burn – enough said!

ELECTRICAL/ELECTRONIC

  • New personal LED mood lighting control at the seat
  • A full screen touch remote display
  • New, 13.3, 1080p, LED display/touchscreen – integrated into an edge-to-edge glass seatback display monitor
  • Built-in attendant call, AC power, USB ports, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, and wireless device charging

PSYCHOLOGICAL

  • The design included the concept of “more vertical space”
  • A bigger video screen will better replicate the home experience
  • Simplified installation maintenance and upgrades will change the airline and passenger view of long haul seating
  • More feature control, storage, space will help reduce the high level of aircraft travel angst that exists today
  • There is psychological value in a clean new look

All this teamwork and disruptive design technology will virtually (and physically) improve the flight experience – what’s not to like about JAZZ?

Look at it this way, if you have the same number of aircraft seats in a row, each passenger now has more room than with older seats – it looks better, it feels better, and it performs better. Another way to look at it, if the seat legs are installed in the same place, the seat has “shrunk” in actual dimensions giving you more room – at the same time the IFE has improved, storage and user interface has improved, thus improving your physical interface to the plane.

One caution, a thinner seat does not always mean a more comfortable seat. The Panasonic folks tell us that the seat comfort is a result of extensive studies on the seat shape that have been optimized for comfort on the seatback as well as the seat pan, while the cushion material plays a part too. We can’t wait to try it out.

When the IFExpress team asked Panasonic about the nature of the relationship between the seat vendor and the IFE vendor, we were told that the relationship is not agnostic. Each company owns their own IP and can work with other vendors as airlines demand. In fact, they are looking at working on future projects with traditional vendors, as well as, new entrants. Additionally, IFExpress anticipates this design concept to spread to the premium classes in the near future.

As an aside, last year at the Passenger Experience Conference prior to AIX 2014 Devin Liddell of Teague gave a presentation on the power of partnerships and how they were the most powerful currency at our industry’s fingertips. In other words, the team-made product is bigger than the sum of its parts. At the time he stated in his presentation that the capacity to partner has a big impact on influencing the customer and that we, as an industry, need to think about co-making, not just co-marketing. In our opinion that is exactly what Panasonic and the rest of the team have done with JAZZ.

The new JAZZ seat will be at AIX in Hamburg as the early design has been entered in the Aircraft Interiors Crystal Cabin Awards – we expect they will do well. (Editor’s Note: While JAZZ was quietly debuted at AIX 2014 then rolled out at CES 2015, the first delivery seat group may very well be a variant of the unit at AIX 2015.)

  • eXW IFE provides a vast selection of entertainment content to passengers using their smartphones, tablets and computers for viewing in flight


Lake Forest, CA and Sunnyvale, CA | February 24, 2015–
Panasonic Avionics Corporation (Panasonic) and Intertrust announced today that Panasonic’s wireless in-flight entertainment (IFE) system, eXW, uses Intertrust’s ExpressPlay Marlin Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology to protect and manage in-flight content libraries.

“We selected Intertrust’s ExpressPlay technology for two reasons,” said Laurie da Silva, Senior Vice President of Engineering, Panasonic Avionics. “It is a proven technology used in consumer devices like TVs and consumer gaming consoles, and it meets all of our IFE specific requirements for eXW. With ExpressPlay, our customers can offer a premium wireless entertainment experience backed by robust security endorsed and approved by the leading content providers that serve our industry.”

Panasonic’s eXW is an advanced wireless IFE system that delivers on-board movies, music, news and in-cabin services to passengers’ personal electronic devices. It supports Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, as well as laptop computers with Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome, and Firefox browsers. DRM helps protect copyrighted material by ensuring secure delivery and distribution of content during flight. Marlin’s unique ability to provide offline DRM provisioning is especially important in aircraft that do not have a data connection to the ground. This advantage can eliminate the need for passengers to download an airline-specific app before boarding their flight.

“Panasonic and Intertrust have worked together for years on DRM and a variety of other projects in consumer electronics and content distribution,” said Gilles Boccon-Gibod, SVP and Chief Architect at Intertrust. “Working on building Marlin into their latest wireless IFE systems is a privilege as it puts all of the features of our Marlin technology through serious moves to build a brilliant and dynamic content distribution system for travelers”

Toronto, Canada | September 18, 2014– Flight Level Media Ltd. (FLM) and Panasonic Avionics Corporation have signed a 5 year Software Applications License Agreement that supports the integration of FLM’s passenger applications for Panasonic’s inseat and wireless platforms.

One of these applications, Postcards From the Plane, is about to launch on a major European carrier as an enhancement to the airline’s onboard Wi-Fi portal powered by Panasonic’s eXConnect system. The application invites passengers to compose personalized postcards and to send them either digitally by email or via social media; or as actual print cards delivered by post to the passenger’s recipient in about 7 days. With rich destination imagery sent down to the ground and wrapped in the airline’s colours, the app acts as both a strong brand vehicle for the airline and also a revenue generator through print card and advertising sales.

“Postcards From the Plane is a great example of the next generation of inflight applications that take advantage of connectivity to provide an enhanced passenger experience and new revenue streams” added Scott Scheer, Director, eXTV and Ancillary Services for Panasonic Avionics.

Peter Ronn, Flight Level Media’s President, said: “We are thrilled to have Panasonic’s support to bring our passenger applications to the inflight market.”

All of FLM’s passenger applications have an e-Commerce component, use flight-data to present an experience specific to the passenger’s actual flight and provide the airline and their partners unique ways to benefit and connect with passengers both during and after the flight.

Mexico City, Mexico and Lake Forest, California | June 5, 2014– Aeromexico, Mexico’s global airline, has chosen Panasonic Avionics Corporation (Panasonic) as its ground-breaking global in-flight broadband Wi-Fi provider.

It will become the first airline in Latin America to offer in-flight broadband by choosing Panasonic’s Ku-band satellite service – the only global network solely dedicated to aviation.

Aeromexico has selected the in-flight Wi-Fi service for nine of its new Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner fleet.

Andres Conesa, Aeromexico’s CEO, said: “This exciting development underlines our commitment to provide the very best service to our customers with the very best technology, on board the best aircraft with the finest crew. We are delighted to further extend our partnership with Panasonic.”

Panasonic Avionics CEO Paul Margis said: “We are thrilled that Aeromexico has chosen Panasonic to provide such an exciting and strategic service. Their passengers can now expect an incredible entertainment experience and broadband Wi-Fi everywhere these aircraft fly.”

Aeromexico’s 787s also will include a state-of-the-art Panasonic’s in-flight entertainment system with 16” Elite High Definition Panasonic screens in Clase Premier and Eco Monitor Touch Screens in the Economy Class cabin. They also will offer a moving map application that provides flight information in real time, a Jukebox application that allows passengers to create a personalized playlist from the 1,500 songs featured in the system, and Panasonic’s SeatChat solution, which lets passengers use the IFE system to send messages to other travellers throughout the cabin.

Lake Forrest, CA and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | May 25, 2014– 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 will host an expert dialogue on May 26-27 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Panasonic Avionics has been invited to participate in this event, contribute to their technical expertise, and present FlightLinkTM, a fully integrated aircraft communication, tracking and weather information solution.

This communication system 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.

Andy Fellows Vice President of Panasonic for the Asia, Japan and China regions will present on behalf of Panasonic on 26th May.

There will be a webcast for the opening ceremony and closing press conference. To schedule an in-depth interview with a Panasonic expert please contact: Brian Bardwell, Corporate Communications Manager -Panasonic Avionics Phone: +1 949.462.1742 Email: brian.bardwell@panasonic.aero

Tucked into a corner of this year’s Panasonic Booth at AIX in Hamburg was a computer display screen running an actual map with moving indications of commercial aircraft flying their scheduled routes. While this wouldn’t seem odd in many other booths, it caught our eye as it was marked “FlightLink” and had nothing to do with IFE. Panasonic’s Don DeBlasio, Sr. Director, Corporate Strategic Initiatives, was on hand and told IFExpress that Panasonic had acquired a company, previously known as AirDat and now named Panasonic Weather Solutions, just prior to the 2013 AIX Hamburg show. The product is now installed on over 300 aircraft providing Iridium communications, flight tracking and weather, data day in and day out, to commercial customers worldwide. We were caught a bit speechless because the newly named FlightLink solution was humming along in the booth of the largest IFE vendor in our industry. Obviously, Panasonic saw something we did not, but more about that later. If you guessed that the California company was expanding it’s horizons, you might be on the right track… but more of that later too.

From a definition perspective, let’s look at the features of the FlightLink service. FlightLink is a global communications (voice & data) system that delivers aircraft flight tracking and dynamic event alerting as well as weather reporting. FlightLink is an independent GPS-based system that features triggered event reporting, with archived data, all supplied through a secure web portal. In other words, Panasonic has read the commercial aviation tealeaves: airlines will need more data about the flight environment going forward. Significant is the fact that Panasonic, an IFE company, has decided to move into the next phase of their growth and development – Beyond The Cabin. Historically, the company grew the IFE market. Next, and with the addition of satcom availability it moved into the connectivity world and now has orders for over 2,000 plane installations. The progression is obvious, IFE + Connectivity, and now adding FlightLink: Iridium flightdeck communications, flight tracking, dynamic event alerting and weather data. It appears to us that Panasonic aims to make a broad mark into the aviation market and if you talk to Paul Margis or David Bruner you have to come away with that perspective.

To give our readers a better idea of how the system works, here is a bit of dialog we had with Don at the show that might set the stage for a better understanding of FlightLink:

IFExpress: Tell us a bit about FlightLink and what it is designed to do?

Don: “We feel that the name appropriately captures the overall product solution of ‘linking’ the aircraft with the ground, whether it’s for flight deck voice or data via Iridium, tracking the aircraft’s location and communicating other parameters, or gathering precise weather data for Panasonic Weather Solutions.” He went on, “Our message is constant connectivity with the aircraft. With FlightLink, we’re now streaming data from the aircraft and expanding Panasonic’s capabilities into flight deck connectivity. This new name enables differentiation from our Ku-band connectivity solution.”

IFExpress: Can you give our readers a better idea of what we are talking about when we describe the FlightLink System?

Don: “It’s a very simple system comprised of: a forward-lower fuselage mounted external weather sensor; a 3 MCU box called the TPCU that contains: Iridium radio transceivers, independent GPS, data processing and aircraft interfaces; and an antenna (small, iPhone size) for Iridium & GPS.”

IFExpress: Can you give us an idea of coverage?

Don: “Today, Iridium is global (including polar and remote oceanic). In 2015, Iridium will launch their NEXT platform which will also offer true global coverage with even higher bandwidth than what is available today.”

IFExpress: With over 300 installations, the system is, we assume, certified?

Don: “We have FAA and EASA STCs already in hand for numerous airframes, as well as FAA PMA.

IFExpress: With knowledge of winds aloft there must be reduced fuel burn, and we assume, other savings?

Don: “There will be significant opportunities for airlines to use FlightLink to improve operational efficiencies. For example, they can leverage improved wind grids to improve an aircraft’s approach for landing.

IFExpress: During a flight what data is sent between the aircraft and the airline network center (via the Panasonic FlightLink Center)?

Don: “Typically, we are delivering aircraft position (lat & long), altitude, heading, ground speed, GPS time stamp. With the weather sensor, we are also gathering data on wind, temperature, relative humidity, icing, turbulence/EDR (Eddy Dissipation Rate). More options are available as well, if the airline wants to truly leverage the service.”

IFExpress: With the installation of GCS (Global Communications Services) in over 400 planes today (eventually over 2000) we see value in using the greater bandwidth of Ku for the data, realizing that Ku it is not as global as Iridium? In other words is this tied to a bigger plan… a shift to Ku-Band for more data?

Don: Panasonic’s concept of a truly connected aircraft is one with an optimized flow of data through our Ku-band GCS network as well as Iridium.

We at IFExpress are convinced that as a reasonably priced communications, flight tracking & weather data solution, FlightLink has an important job to do and we believe that FlightLink and ADS-S are complimentary components of an overall CNS/ATM aviation industry strategy. ADS-B is for global air traffic management and control. The Panasonic solution enables airline communications with, and connectivity to, their aircraft knowing 100% of the time when and where they are, not relying on the presence of ADS-B or ATC transmissions.  It also provides an independent communications link for airline operations which enables the movement of any amount of desired data over that link. In summary, FlightLink at this point is an answer for many aspects of the “C” (Communication) of CNS/ATM, potentially providing significant help into the ATM portion, especially via weather. The “N” (Navigation) should likely be left up to the FMS manufacturers and the “S” (Surveillance) likely left up to those that make TCAS, ATC Transponders, WX, and TAWS/EGPWS.

Make no mistake; FlightLink is not designed to compete with ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance) the next generation of ATC communication and reporting system. Years ago, FlightLink started as a flightdeck communication and weather data collection system. But, if you are thinking about recent events, you might be like the rest of us. ”Hey, there is another use…”

On Another Front:

AT&T is to be in the US inflight Wi-Fi business, or so the press is saying. Using ground-based antennas (Whose and where?), AT&T will be featuring 4G LTE connectivity to provide greater bandwidth to planes starting as early as 2015, and notably, using the existing AT&T spectrum. Honeywell is named in the new program as a partner, and, we understand Gogo’s stock is down. Think about it, with AT&T’s more than 116 million wireless subscribers, 16.5 million total broadband subscribers and service for many of the world’s largest corporations, including all of the Fortune 1000, they have leverage. Expect new and hi value deals if you are a customer and fly domestically! We will have more on this later as the AT&T solution develops.

Hamburg, Germany | April 9, 2014– Panasonic Avionics Corporation (Panasonic), the world leader in in-flight entertainment and communications, has signed Icelandair as a customer for its FlightLink solution. FlightLink leverages Iridium’s global satellite-based communications solution to support flight deck voice and data, independent GPS, continuous real-time aircraft tracking, and weather data aggregation everywhere commercial airplanes fly. Aircraft that are equipped with FlightLink are connected to an airline’s ground operations 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year.

A key component of FlightLink is Panasonic’s patented Tropospheric Airborne Meteorological Data Reporting (TAMDAR) sensor, which collects extremely high quality weather data from the atmosphere during the flight. Data is streamed back in real time via satellite to Panasonic’s weather operations center. It is then assimilated into specialized, high-speed computing clusters that produce the weather industry’s most accurate forecast information used by Fortune 500 companies, governments, insurers, energy providers, investors and commercial airlines to make intelligent business decisions.

Icelandair, Iceland’s national carrier, will install the FlightLink system, including TAMDAR across its fleet of 21 Boeing 757s, allowing key weather data gathering from the North Atlantic and Arctic regions, as well as throughout significant parts of Europe and North America. Weather data gathered by the system will enable improved operational efficiencies for Icelandair and more accurate weather forecasts for the aviation community throughout Iceland.

As part of the relationship, Panasonic will also be providing FlightLink’s TAMDAR data from Icelandair aircraft to the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO). The installation of FlightLink and the associated streaming of weather data will greatly increase the quantity and quality of weather information available in the region. TAMDAR data received by the IMO will be ingested into local weather models to improve regional aviation forecasts in Iceland.

“Icelandair’s unique network over the Arctic and North Atlantic makes it a key partner for Panasonic,” said Paul Margis, President and Chief Executive Officer for Panasonic Avionics Corporation. “The ability to connect an aircraft to an airline’s ground operations and the incredibly accurate weather data obtained will be a key driver for greater operational efficiency, and we welcome them to our global partnership – this offers huge opportunities for the industry.”

The data from the TAMDAR system provides significant potential cost saving advantages through superior four-dimensional data analysis and numerical weather prediction. Improvements in forecast accuracy allow numerous industries to enhance their operational efficiency, save on fuel costs, and better prepare for significant severe weather events.

TAMDAR is installed across a network of hundreds of commercial aircraft that are operated by more than a dozen partner airlines throughout the northern hemisphere. It collects tens of thousands of highly detailed and accurate readings from the atmosphere each day.

Hamburg, Germany | April 9, 2014– Panasonic Avionics Corporation (Panasonic) today announced the introduction of Panasonic HD-AUDIO™, a revolutionary audio solution for in-flight entertainment developed in collaboration with Soundchip SA, a leading supplier of wearable sound solutions.

For the first time ever passengers will be immersed into a fully digital sonic experience with seven unique features never seen before on an aircraft.

Passengers will benefit from unprecedented sound quality that is free of clicks, pops and interference, digital surround sound; a passenger-controlled equalizer; noise cancellation; Bluetooth integration with mobile phones and other devices; seat to seat, seat to ground and multi-passenger voice calls; and the ability to converse naturally with a flight attendant or other passengers without having to remove their headphones.

Paul Margis, President and Chief Executive Officer for Panasonic Avionics, said: “We joined forces with Soundchip to rethink all aspects of our sound experience and deliver yet another leap forward for our airline customers and their passengers. Our X Series systems are renowned for their unmatched picture quality and today we are bringing that same level of innovation to sound by reinventing the audio experience.”

Mark Donaldson, CEO of Soundchip said, “In 2011, Soundchip and Panasonic recognized the need to modernize in-flight audio, and in launching Panasonic HD-AUDIO™. Today we are pleased to have brought together a remarkable solution that delivers the same sonic thrills in the air as passengers are used to on the ground.”

Panasonic HD-AUDIO™ significantly improves listening comfort by employing state-of-the-art, digital Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling (H-ANC), which is able to suppress more background noise than ever before. By combining this capability with an exciting new feature called “open-ear”, a passenger can converse naturally with a headset still in place.

By embracing an entirely digital approach, Panasonic HD-AUDIO™ offers unprecedented sound quality that is free of clicks, pops and interference. Its digital design supports the implementation of digital surround sound processing and parametric audio equalizer, which renders an immersive sound stage to provide a theatre-like listening experience.

Panasonic HD-AUDIO™ comprises a compatible headset that connects to the IFEC system via a standard USB port. Custom software installed at the seat manages the audio streaming between the headset and the in-flight entertainment and communications (IFEC) system’s media and telecommunications services. Passengers may adjust the way in which sound is presented through intuitive controls that are unobtrusively embedded within the touch panel’s graphical-user-interface.

Panasonic HD-AUDIO™ supports Wide Band (WB) voice telephony for seat-to-seat, seat-to-ground and multi-passenger VoIP conference calling. Call quality and speaking comfort are matched only by modern, terrestrial-based communication systems and audio levels can be intelligently configured to encourage callers to speak softly.

To assist the airline operator directly, Panasonic HD-AUDIO employs advanced algorithms to actively monitor the connected headset’s status, reporting fault conditions to the IFEC system via BITE. Updates to the system may also be implemented in software rather than requiring expensive changes to IFEC hardware.

To support the rollout of this exclusive software-headset solution, Panasonic and Soundchip will provide airline headphone manufacturers with the technology and tools needed to develop and produce their own HD-AUDIO compatible headsets.

Hamburg, Germany | April 8, 2014– Panasonic Avionics Corporation (Panasonic) has opened a new world of airline ancillary revenue opportunities with the launch of AdConnect, a pioneering addition to Panasonic’s portfolio of OneMedia Advertising Solutions.

Up until now, advertising solutions have typically enabled airlines to serve content to their in-flight Wi-Fi portal. AdConnect takes this to a new dimension by allowing airlines to generate advertising revenue throughout the entire duration of an in-flight Wi-Fi session, even after a passenger leaves the airline portal and begins to surf the Web.

Panasonic, the industry’s only global, broadband private network operator, has partnered with MediaShift to bring this patented technology to the in-flight cabin environment. MediaShift’s Monetization Platform (MMP) enables Panasonic and its airline partners to generate advertising revenue by introducing a variety of advertising products within a user’s internet WI-Fi session. Selected advertising campaigns will appear within any web page that a passenger visits.

The service adheres to Internet Advertising Bureau standards and guidelines and creates incremental revenue opportunities without any degradation to the content on the website or to the user experience.

Paul Margis, President and Chief Executive Officer of Panasonic Avionics, said: “We are committed to helping our airlines partners extract maximum value from investments they’ve made in our in-flight entertainment and communications solutions.

“With the launch of our AdConnect service, we are able to provide a more personalized experience to passengers, and generate more revenue for our customers.”

David Grant, Chief Executive Officer of Mediashift, Inc, said: “Our decision to partner with Panasonic Avionics, the leader in delivering in-flight entertainment and connectivity solutions to the in-flight market, was easy. We are excited to have the opportunity to integrate our patented WI-FI ad technology solutions with world class Panasonic solutions.”

MediaShift’s MMP technology is currently being deployed at over 5,000 hotels in North America, and many of the largest US airport Wi-Fi networks. AdConnect will capitalize on this technology and deliver targeted advertising, assuring the right message reaches the right audience at the right time, creating value for all.

Whether on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, the AdConnect platform opens the way for premium brands to engage airlines’ captive passenger audiences. AdConnect will harnesses the power of data from on-the-go audiences to serve personalized ads, content and incentives based on specific behavioral data, location and device types to these highly targeted customer segments.

Initial technology integration activities are limited to the ground integration efforts within Panasonic Global Communications Services, ground network infrastructure. This reduces the complexities of deploying software within the aircraft environment, and avoids the need for Acceptance Test Procedures (ATP), and supports a faster time to market for the solution.

AdConnect will be available to airlines that have selected Panasonic’s Global Communications Services. The technology will be available immediately for North America with other regions of the world coming online shortly thereafter.

Hamburg, Germany | April 8, 2014– Panasonic Avionics Corporation (Panasonic), a world leader in in-flight entertainment and communications (IFEC) systems, will deliver its industry-leading eX3 in-flight entertainment and communications solution to Air Canada for 37 wide body aircraft.

Under terms of the agreement, Panasonic will linefit install eX3 on Air Canada’s 37 Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.  Deliveries commence with the airline’s first 787 aircraft in Spring 2014.  Air Canada currently has five Boeing 777-300 aircraft equipped with Panasonic’s eX2 system.

“Panasonic’s eX2 system has been very popular with our passengers.  With the introduction of our new Dreamliner fleet, we are very excited to launch an even more advanced system that will include a deep portfolio of applications and services that will immerse our customers in a truly next-generation in-flight experience,” said Craig Landry, Vice President, Marketing, for Air Canada.

With eX3, Air Canada’s passengers will be able to watch more than 600 hours of entertainment on larger, higher definition screens that are up to 18-inches in business class and enjoyhigher definition touch screens at every seat featuring an advanced intuitive interface that will be easy and pleasant to navigate.

According to Paul Margis, President and Chief Executive Officer of Panasonic Avionics Corporation: “Panasonic is very excited about the growing relationship with Air Canada, and we are thrilled to have been selected as their IFEC provider for their 787 program. We are very happy to partner with Air Canada on exciting applications and services that leverage the unmatched performance of our system in order to delight passengers and foster even higher levels of brand loyalty.”

Lake Forest, CA | April 7, 2014– An A380 line-fitted with broadband in-flight connectivity service from Panasonic Avionics Corporation (Panasonic) has been delivered to Lufthansa.

The A380, was fitted at Airbus with Panasonic’s award-winning Global Communications Services. Over the next twelve months, Panasonic will equip an additional 11 linefit A380s with its global connectivity service.

David Bruner, Vice President of Global Communications Service at Panasonic, says: “For the first time, A380 passengers will be able to experience truly global, full broadband connectivity that’s only available from our Ku-band Global Communications Service.

“Our unique service lets passengers browse the Internet, access their VPN, and send email at high speeds, giving them a service similar to what they would expect on the ground.

Panasonic’s inflight connectivity is supported by a satellite network that covers over 99.6% of commercial flights meaning that passengers on this increasingly popular aircraft will benefit from high speed connectivity virtually everywhere they fly.”

For the A380, Panasonic’s in-flight Wi-Fi provides two-way broadband communications to an aircraft and lets passenger surf the internet, email, access social networks. It also enables other crew and passenger applications.

The aircraft will also feature Panasonic’s global, live eXTV television service and a channel lineup that delivers Al Jazeera, BBC World News, CNBC, CNN International, EuroNews, NHK World Premium, Sky News Arabia and Sport 24, to passenger devices and high resolution displays in every seat.