March 24, 2017 —APEX (Airline Passenger Experience Association), a four-decade old international airline trade association, called for immediate government-approved security solutions for the airline electronics ban announced this week by the United States and United Kingdom. IATA calculations indicate 393 flights per week impacted by the electronics ban.  By APEX load-factor calculations, this translates into more than three million affected airline passengers per year. With airline and government coordination, APEX believes that solutions may be rapidly implemented by airlines to further increase security and allow personal electronics on-board.

“The U.S. and U.K. this week pointed to a problem in airline security by banning electronics on certain flights.  When we take away personal electronic devices from passengers, we are bowing to a potential threat rather than providing an acceptable security solution.” APEX CEO Joe Leader stated. “Chemical detection machines utilized worldwide can detect illicit items in electronics. Turning on electronics checks functionality and non-functioning electronics could be banned from flights. The expense of hand-searching every carry-on for the personal electronics ban could instead be directed to a long-term solution that serves airline passengers and safety.”

APEX believes that without viable solutions provided to airlines, the electronics ban may spread well beyond the intended scope. Since the existing security scope includes individuals with travel privileges to the U.S. and U.K., these same individuals could connect via other airports where on-board personal electronics are not banned.

“Every threat placed against global air carriers has been met with viable solutions,” said Leader. “We now globally screen every checked bag, carefully scan all carry-ons, restrict liquids, conduct body-scans, and regularly conduct chemical analysis checks on items. When passengers connect internationally, they are frequently scanned again. Placing items into the cargo hold does not fully address the issue with a passenger-centric solution.”

In APEX’s global survey released last year, airline passengers frequently bring their personal electronics devices on-board aircraft for use in-flight:
 43% of worldwide airline passengers bring a tablet device on-board with 70% of these passengers using their tablet device in-flight;
 38% of worldwide airline passengers bring a laptop computer on-board with 42% of these passengers using their laptop in-flight; and
 22% of worldwide airline passengers bring e-Readers on-board with 77% of these passengers using their e-Reader in-flight.

APEX has directly engaged key U.S. and U.K. government officials on a solutions-oriented approach to make aircraft more secure and prevent the spread of the electronics ban. Until an aligned security solution has been developed by the U.S. and U.K. governments, APEX encourages full compliance of the ban by airlines, airports, and passengers.

KID-Systeme:
KID-Systeme’s SKYfi Club – a wireless streaming onboard platform for passenger and corporate aircraft – has been selected by Saudia as linefit on it’s fleet of 20 A330 and 30 A320. Saudia will present this premium content streaming ‎service as unique passenger experience under their brand SAUDIA SKYfi . SKYfi Club streams content to passengers’ personal electronic devices, allowing them to access the available entertainment options, such as movies, e-books and magazines. The technology is based on the trusted ALNA (Airline Network Architecture) connectivity platform, which flies on over 650 aircraft already. Note: We had a few questions about the system and asked Product Manager Johannes Ferstl and Peter SchetschineKID-Systeme General Manager, but more on that in a minute.

The mature system provides a scalable and modular architecture adaptable to customer needs. It enables a wide range of additional services such as GSM telephony, internet access and data services. Further, SKYfi can be complemented by SKYpower, KID-Systeme’s in-seat power and cabin power management system. Of course, IFExpress got curious and asked the following:

1. Can you tell our readers a bit more about your featured ALNA (airline network architecture).

ANSWER: The ALNA system is able to provide GSM/GPRS and WLAN (IEEE 802.11) connectivity services within the aircraft cabin during cruise flight phase. The onboard telephony and WLAN services are enabled above an altitude of 3000m (10.000ft.) and disabled below an altitude of 3000m. During taxi, take-off and landing and below 3000m altitude all radio transmissions are switched off. During cruise flight the service can be de-activated manually at any time. Service activation and de-activation is indicated by a chime, the PAX signs (No-Mobile-Signs) and by the cabin crew (via passenger announcement). The ALNA system consists of several hardware devices e.g. the Head End Server Unit (HESU) and software applications e.g. the system monitoring software.

2. Can you tell us which airlines fly the SKYfi Club today?

ANSWER: As of today one airline flies SKYfi Club: Saudi Arabian Airlines. More than six hundred shipsets of SKYfi phone and web were deployed previously.

3. Your view, we assume, is that connectivity and flying are very important?

ANSWER: “Connectivity is more than staying in contact. It’s part of our lifestyle. SKYfi Club extends this lifestyle by being entertained.” Noted Johannes Ferstl, Product Manager Connectivity. Peter Schetschine, General Manager KID-System also said: “The industry demands more and more for flexibility and adaptable technical solutions. Based on a scalable and modular architecture SKYfi paves this way into a well entertained and connected world on board. Furthermore our streaming solution supports the BYOD trend which will continue to be strong and present in future.”

4. We assume the line-fit is in progress?

ANSWER: The first Saudia A330 Regional was our first line-fit installation. Further line-fit installations are in progress and deliveries will happen soon.

5. Lastly, could you provide a block diagram of the hardware?

ANSWER: See above.

Saudi noted: “We are very happy to continue working with KID-Systeme who has always been a reliable partner and supplier for our integrated cabin power systems, says Eng. Saleh Al-Jasser, Director General of Saudia. “Offering wireless content streaming is the next step paving the way to an improved inflight experience and satisfy passenger’s needs. Therefore we are very excited to cooperate with KID-Systeme to enlarge our inflight entertainment selection. This opens up a whole new world of opportunities for the connected passenger on board.”

Actually, the first aircraft delivery to Saudi Arabian Airlines was in mid-August 2016. All aircraft will be line-fit equipped with SKYfi lounge solution, starting with the aircraft type A330.


Lufthansa Systems:
As you might know, Lufthansa Systems equipped nearly the whole Eurowings A 320 fleet with BoardConnect Portable at the beginning of August and their Corporate Communications Manager told IFExpress: “This award winning IFE solution really makes a difference, since the implementation on more than 70 aircraft only took one weekend and was a huge success. Since then Eurowings passengers can enjoy Entertainment with music and movies on short- and medium haul flights. At our booth at the Aviation Festival in London (8 – 9 September, New routes, new revenues, new business models | Aviation Festival 2016) we will show how BoardConnect Portable and our other BoardConnect products work. And we are happy to answer your questions regarding new IFE trends and the upcoming connectivity launches within and outside the Lufthansa Group. Our experts will be at the Aviation Festival both days and you can find us at booth #38.”


Gogo:
Gogo announced that it has promoted John Wade to the role of executive vice president and Chief Operating Officer of Gogo. Wade has more than 30 years of experience in the aviation industry including numerous leadership positions in the avionics and in-flight communications industry. For the past eight years, he has served as the general manager of Gogo’s business aviation division where he built the division into a market leader. Before joining Gogo, John served as the CTO at OnAir and also worked at Tenzing and GEC Marconi on their IFE and IFC products. Wade will now be responsible for Gogo’s operations, quality control, commercial airline account management and commercial sales. He will still maintain oversight over Gogo’s business aviation division, but Gogo veteran Sergio Aguirre is being promoted to serve as senior vice president and general manager of Gogo’s business aviation division. (Editor’s Note: IFExpress cannot go on without noting that John Wade is one of the ‘Best In IFE’, as we feel he is both a knowledgeable and gracious executive in his dealings with members of the press. John always takes the time to address our questions, no matter how technical or topical they may be. All the while presenting an air of ‘Nothing is impossible.’)


Rockwell Collins:
In a move that will provide Rockwell Collins’ customers and prospects with more aviation connectivity options, the company announced that it has been licensed to sell satellite services in Brazil. The global license, authorized by Anatel, gives Rockwell Collins the ability to sign distribution and service agreements with any satellite entities and customers operating in Brazil.


Meetings:
If your thing is next generation Avionics, you might want to visit AVIONICS for NextGen – 2016, in Washington DC, Sept 28 – 29, 2016: Check out the agenda.


Other:

  • From the Color Correction Department comes a story that is probably better called Color Confusion. The issue here is cabin lighting and reading on LED devices. We stumbled on it after we read this online story; “Airlines Add Mood Lighting to Chill Out Passengers”. First you need to read this article  on the color used in an a cabin lighting schemes designed to provide a restful inflight experience… possibly even sleep. Here is what stood out to us in the piece: “Like Virgin Atlantic, American uses amber during the dinner service, “sort of like candlelight in a restaurant,” said the managing director of onboard products. For sleep periods, it uses a deep blue, which designers chose after considering — and rejecting — a reddish glow. “Red is sometimes associated with fire,” continued the director of onboard products — “never a good thing on an airplane.” It makes sense, but we wondered if the nature of blue light effects might be more science based, because we had done a cabin lighting study a few years back and we remembered blue light differently? Next we did a bit of research and found an interesting light color/sleep study in of all places, Instructables. You can read it here. It’s a very analytical color-based evaluation made by an individual, all based on the test data he ran over one year. The conclusion? The color blue is the wrong color if you want to allow the generation of natural melatonin to help sleep come on. Further, Apple product makers and Android device products offer an app that limits the blue light. In devices like iPhones and iPads with iOS 9.3 (and on) offer a feature called “Night Shift” which is built in to the operating system. Just go to Settings>Display & Brightness> and turn on Night Shift. Perhaps, more study is needed to match passengers, rest, and time of day but we will be using it on our devices. You can read more about the issue here too – Amazon rolls out ‘blue shade’ tool for Fire tablets to allow people to read at night | Daily Mail Online
  • Not long ago we reported that Singapore had not reported any Zika virus but we discovered we were a couple weeks behind the actual data, as it has now been discovered there. Take precautions – Zika virus: Singapore confirms 41 locally transmitted cases – BBC News
  • And speaking of Singapore: Going to Singapore and have T-Mobile? You might find this interesting: “Visitors simply need to download a configuration file and perform a one-time setup for auto-connection to the participating cities’ hotspots,” IDA said in a release of the WBA’s City Wi-Fi Roaming Project. IFExpress will have more on Singapore later.
  • Traveling to the US? You might have to cough up your online presence!Traveling to US? Agencies want to Spy on your Social Media activities right from Airport
  • And finally, Flyers Rights (NonProfit Airline Consumer Org.) has an interesting Report Card for US Congress and it’s not good!

Aviation Time-Wasters:

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!

  • Piksel and Spafax together bring a flexible in-flight entertainment solution to the airline industry
  • Combination of market leading technology, unrivalled content relationships and operational expertise to transform air travel experience and beyond
  • Voyage product allows airlines to own the passenger journey, connecting the pre-flight, flight and post-flight experiences without a relying on in-flight WiFi

New York, NY | September 24, 2015– Piksel, a global leader in building successful online video businesses, today announced its partnership with Spafax, global content and media agency to the travel industry. The partnership will develop and launch innovative solutions to the market, the first of which being Voyage, a revolutionary new approach to in-flight entertainment which has already been adopted by Transavia, a major European low-cost carrier.

Voyage leverages the video delivery capabilities of Piksel Digital Showcase™, Piksel’s video-on-demand platform, giving airlines greater ownership over the passenger’s journey. In tune with the growing “Bring Your Own Device” trend, Voyage enables consumers to select and download video content to their personal devices, prior to boarding a flight. This opens up a raft of possibilities for airlines to engage with passengers, both pre- and post-flight, as they use the app to choose from a wide range of premium TV shows and films, access and update their booking, and make other travel arrangements.

Mark Christie, CTO of Piksel, commented: “There is a huge opportunity for airlines to delight their customers both on the ground and in the air. A flexible entertainment solution that can be integrated seamlessly into other airline systems is a smart way to extend the passenger experience throughout the travel journey. Using a ‘Download on the Ground’ approach, Voyage doesn’t rely on on-board WiFi to deliver high quality entertainment. For these reasons, we believe that Voyage is a major disruptor and will quickly become a highly attractive option for global airlines. Our experience in delivering video to consumers wherever they are, across all devices, coupled with Spafax’s unrivaled content curation and operational expertise will allow us to shift entertainment on the move to the next level.”

“We have always been at the forefront of innovation in onboard content and revenue generation, and the launch of Voyage is no exception. Voyage will enhance the current entertainment strategies of many carriers and open the door to low-cost content solutions for a whole host of others” said Niall McBain, CEO of Spafax. “Partnering with Piksel, and their expertise in the online video space, has allowed us to rapidly bring to market a new service. Our knowledge of content and the demanding needs of global airlines complements their technical know-how extremely well, and we look forward to working and developing innovative new products that enhance the passenger experience.”

The service opens up a raft of flexible commercial models, allowing partners to choose from free-of-charge, pay-to-access or pay-per-view systems. Its revenue-generating business model, combined with low set-up and running costs, and the opportunity to build in sophisticated brand-enhancing advertising strategies, positions Voyage as a step-change for the video and airline industries.

Voyage greatly enhances the user experience, leveraging the high quality screens found on user devices, and is compatible across iOS and Android tablets and smartphones. The content is locked until the passenger boards the flight, when it then becomes available to view. Once the flight has ended, the content is automatically deleted from the device, respecting all airline industry content licensing agreements with secure content delivery achieved by the DRM functionality of Piksel Digital Showcase™.

Utah | April 16, 2015– digEcor is pleased to provide its L7 digEplayer solution to Brazilian carrier, Azul and Minneapolis-based Sun Country Airlines.

Its agreement with Azul to provide 1,100 L7 portable digEplayers also involves the provision of maintenance support and content integration services ensuring the airline can offer its passengers movie, television and audio programmes from all the leading Hollywood studios and independent distributors.

“digEcor is proud to work with Azul to deliver this portable IFE solution,” said digEcor Sales Director Americas Josh Rasmussen. “Azul is a leading airline in Latin America and we look forward to growing our relationship with them by providing first-class IFE service and support.”

digEcor rents L7 portable media players for a low all inclusive daily rate, provides all the required hardware, content and a perpetual warranty. Every 60 days the players are swapped out with a fresh set containing updated content.

In further news, digEcor is very happy to be working closely with our valued customer Sun Country Airlines, who are bringing 700 portable L7 digEplayers back into service on all of their schedules services.

“It’s a clear demonstration of the durability and reliability of the L7 system and a much appreciated acknowledgement of the quality and flexibility of digEcor’s content management program,” said Mr Rasmussen. “Sun Country Airlines always deliver excellent passenger service, we’re proud to help them do it.”

digEcor is an established and trusted industry partner that fully supports the design, implementation and operational requirements of its ‘IFE – Integrated Flight Experience’ solution by providing end-to-end expert advice and 24-hour-a-day technical support.

East Aurora, NY | April 7, 2015– Astronics Corporation (NASDAQ: ATRO), a leading provider of advanced technologies for the global aerospace and defense industries, announced today that it has entered into an agreement with SmartTray International, LLC to exclusively market, sell, and manufacture SmartTray’s new passenger device-friendly aircraft tray table solutions that facilitate hands-free use of portable electronic devices (PEDs) including smartphones. The tray tables offer air travelers superior ergonomics, better space management, and improved comfort and convenience over conventional tray tables.

“SmartTray’s solutions are best-in-class and represent a strong opportunity for Astronics as they are complementary to our leading EMPOWER® aircraft in-seat power systems,” said Pete Gundermann, CEO of Astronics. “With our existing industry relationships, proven track record of customer support, and portfolio of over 190 airline customers, Astronics is perfectly positioned to enhance the passenger experience by combining PED power and the convenience of an ergonomic tray table to manage passenger carry-on devices. Under this exclusive agreement, Astronics will deliver SmartTray’s patented solutions to airlines and seat manufacturers globally, and airline passengers will enjoy the power and convenience they desire,” added Mr. Gundermann.

“We could not be more proud to partner with Astronics,” said Nick Pajic, CEO and Founder of SmartTray International. “With millions of air travelers using their mobile phones and electronic tablet devices on airplanes for work and entertainment, airline operators are in need of simple, practical, and cost effective solutions that make using and stowing PEDs inflight more convenient and easier. SmartTray products do exactly that,” added Mr. Pajic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other closed captioning issues include:

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

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

High Definition Working Group

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

Consumer Electronics

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

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

DO-307 Tutorial

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

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

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

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

Southwest reports on entertainment portal, social media

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

  • Southwest is first and only carrier in the U.S. to offer the service to passengers

Los Angeles, CA | November 21, 2013– Global Eagle Entertainment Inc. (Nasdaq: ENT) announced today the availability of its Wi-Fi service to passengers gate to gate on Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV). Southwest is the first and only airline to offer its passengers a gate-to-gate Wi-Fi service because the airline uses Global Eagle’s satellite-based connectivity platform, which was optimized from the beginning to work in all phases of flight, including on the ground.

On October 31st, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ruled that airlines can safely expand passenger use of Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) during all phases of flight. The inflight Wi-Fi service provided to Southwest by Global Eagle harnesses the power of Ku-band satellite connectivity, which was designed for continuous operation at all phases of flight.

Now available on more than 435 Wi-Fi-equipped Southwest aircraft, the design of the system supported an immediate roll-out, making it available for use by more than 100 million passengers each year.

“Southwest has always been exceptional in terms of providing the services that both differentiate them within the market and truly provide a better experience for the millions of loyal Customers they serve,” said John LaValle, Chief Executive Officer of Global Eagle Entertainment. “As the only domestic carrier with active satellite-based Wi-Fi, they have yet again raised the bar. We are proud to provide the service that allows their passengers to stay connected to the web, and use their portable electronic devices to access the entertainment they love through all phases of flight.”

“Our ability to provide the best Customer Experience possible is now even more enhanced with our ability to offer onboard Wi-Fi from gate-to-gate,” said Kevin Krone, Southwest Airlines Chief Marketing Officer. “Global Eagle has been an outstanding partner, and their ability to offer the service in such an expedited and efficient manner has been a tremendous asset. Our inflight entertainment service is truly unmatched in the business.”