This week we have a new technology update on a product that we knew was coming – well because our personal devices use it – wireless charging technology. We were both quite excited and impressed when we heard it was heading for the plane. Naturally, we were interested in the issues of wireless interior interference and issues around the solution to wireless signal suppression. Why? Face it, the the US FAA and FCC want to know about and be involved in any additional wireless sources on aircraft – especially to power devices. However, with devices like iPhones using wireless charging technology as the latest prime source of power, somebody had to do it!

In case you don’t know what wireless charging is, we note that it is the power transfer from an external source to a device, with no wires attached. A power charging pad is the source and is usually supplied with alternating current – while your device has a receiver built in if it supports the technology. Sometimes the “receiver” is built into the device case and sometimes it is built into the electronic circuitry. Either way, the technology is based on the concept of inductive charging, much like a radio, but the difference is in the frequency, power used and transmitted, while the technology of the “receiver’ in the device.

The next issue is the distance the receiver (in your device) is placed from the transmitter (in the power sending coil). It is very close so that the power sent over the magnetic field is “wirelessly connected” to your device. Of course, your device uses direct current (battery – not alternating current) – but hey, that is what rectifier diodes are for in your phone, or whatever, and they convert AC to DC Power!

Lastly, there are a couple of present day technologies for charging personal devices but Qi (pronounced “Chee”) and Powermat are the big dogs – and since Qi is a standard that has been developed by the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) for inductive charging over distances of up to 40mm, it pretty much wins the standardization and vendor choice to build (and now to be) on planes. We should mention that Qi has three separate power specifications, starting with low power (up to 5 watts delivered) for watches and other devices but the WPC is approving the 15 Watt unit used for in-aircraft usage. Here are some of the device manufacturers that are Qi users: Apple (in their new phone), Samsung, HTC, Huawei, Sony, Motorola, Blackberry, and Nokia employ Qi-based designs. Off the record, we know of about 30 phones today that are Qi supported. So much for the technology, here is the company developing the technology, Astronics – and IFExpress talked with Dennis Markert, Business Developer about their inductive power product offering:

Astronics

Q. Mr. Markert could you give some basic operations information about RFI charging that Astronics is developing?

Dennis: We’ve designed our Wireless Charging Module (WCM) to provide up to 15 Watts of power. We’ve done this to “future proof” the product and be compliant with fast charger requirements.

Q. What charging system is used in the application – Qi or Powermat? 

Dennis: We’ve designed our WCM to be compliant with Qi standard. Qi has emerged as the standard for the latest consumer products including the recent announcements that the iPhone 8 is Qi compatible.

Q.What devices will it charge (generally)?

Dennis: Any Qi enabled device.

Q. Please tell our readers the impact (RF wise) of a full plane of transmitting devices?

Dennis: Arbitration occurs between the device to be charged and the WCM. Meaning that you have to place a valid device on the charger, an arbitration occurs determining if this is a valid device and what charging level to provide. One could use the analogy of our 110VAC outlet units. The units do not have usable 110VAC at the outlet until a valid device is plugged in, and at that time, 110VAC is enabled and available.

Q. Any RFI issues?

Dennis: We have designed a proprietary EMI shield which is embedded in the WCM.

Q. Has Astronics tested a Qi device on a plane?

Dennis: WCM Qualification testing is scheduled and expected for completion by the end of Q1 2018.

Q. How many seats can be installed on a plane? All?

Dennis: Sure, every seat could have a charger and the Qi network will behave just like our existing EmPower system. Using our head end (AMCU) we will power manage the available service on the aircraft.

Q. Are these devices installed in a tray table?

Dennis: Yes, we have integrated and demonstrated this at AIX Hamburg and APEX as concept pieces. We envision integration into first and business class furniture, seat pockets, tray tables etc.

Q: Any customers?

Dennis: We have two very large airlines customers  very interested and working with the OEM’s (airbus and Boeing) to have our product installed on their line fit aircraft

Q. Any comments from Boeing or Airbus?

Dennis: We’ve introduced a number of technologies for line fit installation so this is a very familiar process for us. Our TSA and NOE have been submitted to Boeing and Airbus. As expected, this is a new technology and system so we are working closely with them to develop the necessary specification and requirements in order to obtain line fit offerability.

Readers, Stay Tuned on this technology – why? Wireless charging is the future of many portable devices and the longer the flight, the more battery juice you need. Enough Said!


Gogo

Gogo provider of broadband connectivity products and services for aviation, announced today that it now has more than 500 aircraft flying with its 2Ku technology with more than 400 of those installations taking place in 2017. The company has also shortened install times to around 30 hours, which is less than half the time that it typically takes to install a broadband satellite connectivity solution.

“We are setting a new industry standard in terms of technology deployments in aviation.  We continue to set the bar higher in terms of speed of installation and will finish the year within the install range we set for 2017,” said John Wade, Gogo’s executive vice president and COO.  “We know that when passengers experience the 2Ku difference they travel happier which, in turn, makes our airline partners happy.  So, we are investing in finding ways to get 2Ku aircraft online as fast as we can.” Total awards for 2Ku inflight connectivity solution have now surpassed 2,000 aircraft. Gogo has added more than 550 aircraft awards in 2017 alone.


SITAONAIR

More than 90% of airlines are set to ramp up investment in advancing wireless services for cabin crew and pilots over the three years to 2020 – an 18% increase since SITA’s 2016 Airline IT Trends survey. This is according to award-winning connected aircraft services expert SITAONAIR, as it presents SITA’s 2017 Air Transport IT Trends Insights into the connected aircraft. Over a third (34%) of airlines expect to receive connected aircraft deliveries within the next three years, compared with more than a fifth (21%) in SITA’s 2016 Airline IT Trends Survey. SITA’s 2017 Insights also found 69% of carriers committing to a major program (40%) or R&D/trial (29%) to establish full satellite broadband connectivity to aircraft. Enhancing the passenger experience is far and away the connected aircraft’s biggest encountered and perceived benefit, according to 43% of airlines. A combined 31% meanwhile, cited operational benefits across maintenance and aircraft health monitoring, cockpit and cabin, as the chief advantages of a connected aircraft. In testament to this, 78% of surveyed carriers reported automatic aircraft data management as an investment priority – 33% through major programs, 45% in R&D programs – by 2020. Enhancing the passenger experience is far and away the connected aircraft’s biggest encountered and perceived benefit, according to 43% of airlines. A combined 31% meanwhile, cited operational benefits across maintenance and aircraft health monitoring, cockpit and cabin, as the chief advantages of a connected aircraft. In testament to this, 78% of surveyed carriers reported automatic aircraft data management as an investment priority – 33% through major programs, 45% in R&D programs – by 2020. When asked for their investment focuses up to 2020, 94% of airlines surveyed as part of SITA’s 2017 Air Transport IT Trends Insights study cited wireless services for cabin crew or pilots (64% in major programs; 30% in R&D or trials). This was closely followed by 91% of carriers targeting investment in wireless inflight services for passengers (54% in major programs; 37% in R&D or trials). SITA’s connected aircraft Insights data also reveals airline ambitions to boost Wi-Fi data bandwidth in the years to come, with 60% of airlines surveyed planning to, or having already implemented, high-speed Wi-Fi by 2020.

Assessing airlines’ most-coveted inflight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) services, the insights found that providing a destination services app was the technological advancement that carriers are most enthusiastic to establish by 2020 (72% – up from 46% in 2016). This was closely followed by a Duty Free shopping app (61%, a rise from 48% last year). Passengers’ preference for enjoying inflight entertainment (IFE) via BYOD – e.g. with a ‘second screen’ of their own – was reinforced for a second consecutive year, with 24% having invested in Wireless IFE to passengers’-own devices and 46% planning to do so by the end of 2020. Providing infotainment to personal devices or apps – namely, news, magazines and books – and inflight communication services, proved similarly high in the airline IFEC shopping list, at an additional 47% and 43% each against the airlines that have already implemented. On the hot topic of pricing for delivering onboard Wi-Fi passenger services, roughly the same proportion of ‘tails’ expressed ambitions to provide free (an additional 43%) and paid-for Wi-Fi sessions (an additional 42%) by 2020 – with many airlines already exploring business models.

A significant proportion of operators revealed a desire to invest further in mobile technologies for passengers and crew, reflecting the “always available” trend on the ground, and with potentially transformational benefits for crew and passenger engagement and service on-board.  A stark 87% of surveyed carriers in 2017 (compared to 75% in 2016) have implemented or plan to implement mobile services to enhance customer relationship management in the next three years. 75% of surveyed carriers expressed ambitions to invest in major programs around apps for passenger mobile services. Around half (47%) of carriers are focusing investment on major programs for social media-hosted passenger services; and a total 44% plan on major programs or R&D/pilot programs for wearable technologies for staff.

Reflecting on the findings, SITAONAIR’s Vice President of Strategy, Dominique El Bez, said: “Our industry’s connected aircraft vision, with its complete, connected inflight experience, is irrefutably here to stay. Airlines are increasingly aware of the value-added benefits presented by in-flight connectivity options that we at SITAONAIR are experts in delivering, to advance their RoI. On the cabin connectivity side, these benefits span everything from enhancing airlines’ brand perception in the eyes of passengers, by enabling them to stay connected to their digital lives when they fly via Wi-Fi or cellular, to digitizing cabin crews to personalize the passenger experience with intelligent, CRM-integrated applications. From supporting airlines to monetize inflight connectivity services with clever onboard sponsorship partnerships; or supporting passengers’ choice to enjoy wireless inflight entertainment; to empowering passenger autonomy through delivering connected mobile applications and services to keep them informed and entertained on the move.

“For the cockpit, airline flight operations, management, and safety, connected solutions bring a significant lift to efficiencies and safety procedures. How? From deploying digital solutions that deliver the latest flight context information into the hands of pilots; ever-evolving our flight tracking and flight planning solutions to ensure airlines meet ICAO recommendations to frequently report fleet positions; to providing secure multilink communications to support every stage of flight. We also see accelerating industry interest in managing and harnessing the power of aircraft data. Such innovation advances flight and MRO operations with predictive and enriched aircraft operations. Amongst the emerging technologies reported by airlines, 67% plan to invest into initiatives around the Internet-of-Things, 52% around Artificial Intelligence and 44% on wearable technology for staff. All present amazing potential for enhancing airlines’ operations inflight and on the ground.”

Mr El Bez continued: “We at SITAONAIR want to see more airlines able to achieve their connected aircraft aims, however. We truly believe the air transport industry needs to work harder to empower the world’s airlines to get connected, by embracing our open platforms approach to inflight connectivity innovation. Our pioneering ‘open cabin’ attitude is already creating harmony across airline fleets and avionics, and data-rich customer relationship management systems, helping deliver airlines’ unique passenger experiences without expensively overhauling their fleets.”

(Editor’s Note: To checkout the great SITAONAIR 2020 vision infographic click here)


Inmarsat

Inmarsat  was recently crowned the ‘World’s Leading Inflight Internet Service Provider’, marking the end of another breakthrough year with its next generation GX Aviation and European Aviation Network (EAN) wifi solutions for airline passengers. The prestigious accolade was announced at the World Travel Awards 2017 in Phu Quoc, Vietnam. It follows a comprehensive online voting process, with participation from thousands of travel and tourism executives across the world, in addition to specialist consumer travel buyers.

Inmarsat’s game-changing new inflight internet solutions have the fastest uptake in the market, with more than 1,300 commercial aircraft expected under signed contracts for GX Aviation and EAN. Both of these solutions are introducing a new gold standard in global and regional inflight wifi, allowing airline passengers to seamlessly browse the internet, stream videos, check social media and more during flights, with an onboard connectivity experience that is comparable to the mobile broadband services they may receive on the ground.

Early adopters of GX Aviation and EAN include world-leading airlines such as Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Air New Zealand, IAG, AirAsia, Singapore Airlines, Norwegian, Austrian Airlines, Eurowings and Avianca.

 


More Stuff

Lets’ get started and this week we feature a new product from the Bluebox folks with a link to the spec sheet at the end.

Bluebox

Solaseed Air Inc., a leading Japanese regional carrier, has deployed Bluebox Aviation Systems’ portable wireless IFE system – Bluebox Wow – across its fleet of Boeing 737-800s. “We’re honored that Solaseed Air has selected Bluebox Aviation Systems as a partner in the development of their new IFE service,” said Kevin Clark, Chief Executive Officer, Bluebox Aviation Systems Ltd. “IFE is evolving rapidly – no longer is it just a service to entertain passengers, but a channel for revenue generation, an important factor for any regional or low-cost carriers, which has not traditionally offered IFE.” Bluebox Wow provides wireless content streamed to passenger devices in any aircraft cabin, offering up to 1.6TB of content including film, TV, audio, games and other digital media. The system is designed to support advertising, inflight shopping, and payment processing options, which make it an ideal platform for generating ancillary revenue, whether the IFE service itself is offered as a free or charged service. With a remarkably low cost of ownership, Bluebox Wow is a discrete, portable, lunchbox-sized unit. Stowed in overhead lockers, each box’s single swappable and rechargeable battery offers 15 hours of streamed content to 50 passengers. Operating from Tokyo’s Haneda airport and across Japan, Solaseed Air operates a fleet of 12 Boeing 737-800s, all of which are flying with Bluebox Wow. Here is the link to the Bluebox Wow specs


Astronics

Astronics Corporation (NASDAQ: ATRO), a leading provider of advanced technologies for the global aerospace, defense, and semiconductor industries, announced that it completed the acquisition of substantially all of the assets of Telefonix Inc. and a related company, Product Development Technologies, LLC, (together as “Telefonix PDT”) for approximately $104 million in cash on December 1, 2017. The acquisition was financed with Astronics’ line of credit. Astronics previously announced that it had entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Telefonix PDT on October 27, 2017.


Gogo

Gogo (NASDAQ: GOGO), the leading global provider of broadband connectivity products and services for aviation, announced today that airline industry veteran Mark Schwab has joined Gogo as senior advisor of international sales for the company’s commercial aviation division.

Schwab will provide guidance on strategic business development initiatives and assist Gogo’s international sales team in its efforts to win new airline customers around the world.  He previously served as Chief Executive Officer of Star Alliance Services GmbH, the global airline alliance.  Prior to leading Star Alliance, Schwab held numerous senior positions at United Airlines, US Airways and American Airlines, spanning over 42 years in commercial aviation all around the globe. He has spent most of his career outside his home country, the United States.

“Mark’s knowledge and experience in the commercial aviation is second to none, particularly in the international space where as the head of Star Alliance, he was overseeing a global aviation network that connected the entire world,” said Niels Steenstrup, Gogo’s senior vice president of international sales.  “We are delighted to have Mark join the Gogo team and support our international sales efforts.”

In addition to his advisor role at Gogo, Schwab is currently a member of the board of the Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA) in Toronto, Canada.


Airbus

The A330-800 complements the A330-900, the largest member of the A330neo Family. With its 242-tonne Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) as base variant, the A330-800 can operate routes of up to 7,500nm and with the recently launched 251-tonne MTOW variant the aircraft can operate ultra-long-range routes of up to 8,150nm. Together, the A330neo variants are part of the world’s most comprehensive twin-aisle, twin-engine aircraft family from 260 to over 360 seats which includes the A350 XWB Family. Building on the success of the A330-200 with over 600 aircraft in operation, the A330-800 brings new generation economics and comfort in addition to unprecedented range to the 250-seater aircraft market. Together with the larger 300-seater A330-900 they share 99%  commonality, having the same airframe, engines and cross crew commonality. This gives operators great flexibility to use either aircraft in their fleet according to network needs in size and range.  Both of these widebody aircraft incorporate new Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines, zero-splice nacelle, titanium pylon, new wings and new Airspace by Airbus Cabin. The most visible new features of the A330neo wings are the specially developed curved wingtip Sharklets – which draw on A350 XWB technology, extending the wingspan to 64m, providing state of the art aerodynamic characteristics.

Airlines will benefit from 25% less fuel burn per seat compared to previous generation competitors, reduced maintenance costs and the A330’s market-leading 99.5% operational reliability. Passengers will enjoy the award-winning all new Airspace cabin inspired by the A350 XWB. On top of latest generation In-flight entertainment and connectivity, passengers can look forward to a new welcoming entrance area, spacious overhead bins, mood lighting and exceptionally quiet flights.

With close to 1,700 orders, the A330 is the most popular wide-body aircraft ever, having flown nearly 1,000,000 annual flights. Today, over 1,300 aircraft have been delivered to 117 customers worldwide on a wide range of routes, from domestic and regional flights to long range intercontinental services. Offering the lowest operating costs in its category, and thanks to continuous investments in latest innovations, the new generation A330neo will be the most profitable and best performing aircraft in its size category.

In another Airbus story, China Airlines of Taiwan has become the second airline to join a programme to use a blend of traditional and sustainable biofuels to power aircraft for delivery flights from Airbus. The aircraft involved is the tenth A350-900 for China Airlines, which left the manufacturer’s delivery centre in Toulouse today for its new home in Taipei with a 10 percent blend of sustainable jet fuel in its tanks. The sustainable fuel option for delivery flights has been developed by Airbus in association with Air Total, the aviation subsidiary of the global energy operator. In order to stock the eco-friendly product, Air Total has installed the first ever biofuel station adjacent to the Airbus delivery centre in Toulouse. A total of 21 aircraft have so far been delivered by Airbus since the facility was inaugurated in May 2016.

In addition to Toulouse, Airbus is now working towards introducing the option for the use of biofuels for delivery flights from its facilities in Hamburg, Germany and Mobile, US. First deliveries from these sites are set to begin in 2018. The option will also subsequently become available from the company’s facility in Tianjin, China.

Reflecting its strong commitment towards eco-efficiency, Airbus was the first manufacturer to offer its customers the option of delivering new aircraft with a blend of sustainable fuel. As part of its wider environmental strategy, the company Airbus intends to continue its efforts by collaborating with all stakeholders in the biofuels sector.


Boeing

Boeing (NYSE: BA) and Aerolíneas Argentinas today celebrated the delivery and commercial debut of the first 737 MAX airplane for the airline and for Latin America.

Aerolíneas took delivery of the airplane, a MAX 8, in late November and flew the first commercial flight about a week later from Buenos Aires to Mendoza, becoming the first in the region to operate the new and improved 737 airplane. “Adding the 737 MAX to our fleet is yet one more example of the growth we are envisioning for our company,” said Mario Dell´ Acqua, President of Aerolíneas Argentinas. “We feel both proud and responsible to continue working to deliver enhanced connectivity and an elevated experience to our passengers.”

Aerolíneas Argentinas is experiencing strong growth, with a 15 percent increase in passenger traffic in the past year, and a 22 percent increase since 2015. To support that growth, the airline plans to take delivery of 12 MAX airplanes and use them on flights regionally and, later in 2018, to the Caribbean. “The 737 MAX 8 is a significant addition to Aerolíneas’ fleet. The MAX will enable the airline to continue to grow and win market-share in the competitive single-aisle marketplace,” said Ricardo Cavero, vice president, Latin America sales, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “It is a tremendous honor that Aerolíneas Argentinas will be the first Latin American carrier to fly the 737 MAX, and we’re confident the airplane’s efficiency and reliability will help meet their goals.”

The 737 MAX is the fastest selling airplane in Boeing history, surpassing 4,000 total orders to date. The MAX family incorporates the latest technology CFM International LEAP-1B engines, Advanced Technology winglets and other improvements to deliver the highest efficiency, reliability and passenger comfort in the single-aisle market. The Aerolíneas Argentinas MAX 8 is configured for 170 passengers and fly 3,515 nautical miles (6,510 kilometers).

(Editor’s Note: Boeing stock shares have skyrocketed this year and at last check was almost $280 per share.)


More News

In case you have not heard, the US Senate dropped a tax provision designed for foreign airlines that could have generated some $200million over the next decade  – obviously designed to supposedly protect US airline workers. We note that the description of airlines described fit some 14 countries and the Mideast carriers stood out. As it stands, airlines do pay taxes in their home countries but the so-called Isakson provision would have removed the “tax” if the airline in question’s home country receive fewer than two arrivals and departures from the US per week. The airlines argued the tax was a focus on Middle Eastern carries that receive some $50 billion over 10 decades subsidies from foreign from governments. An advance group representing other airlines and support “Open Skies” said the “tax” would also hurt a lot of smaller airlines.


Other News

A new on-board entertainment platform becomes available to passengers flying with their mobile phones on the UK’s largest airline.

The platform developed by a Barcelona company offers users the opportunity to access content, offers and digital services in five languages for free via high speed streaming.

Barcelona | November 30, 2017–The innovative onboard entertainment and services platform “Air Time” takes off today on board the first five easyJet aircraft to be equipped with the service developed by Immfly, in line with the agreement announced in September between the two companies. In the initial phase, the platform will be available on select services covering over 90 destinations, including international capitals such as London, Manchester, Amsterdam, Tel Aviv, Lisbon, Rome and Madrid and many others, with Geneva and Basel as the main hubs.

The digital platform created by the Barcelona company, Immfly, one of the most pioneering in the industry, provides passengers of Europe’s leading airline with the opportunity to access a unique entertainment and services experience during their flight. Passengers will be able to enjoy personalised options on their own smart devices (smartphones, tablets and laptops), in a way which does away with the need for the older model of seat back screens.

The high-performance digital platform “Air Time”, available in five languages (English, Spanish, French, Italian and German), offers great flexibility thanks to its dynamic and wide-ranging digital functionalities and content designed to engage customers inflight.

Rakuten, a global leader in Internet services with more than one billion members worldwide and an ecosystem of more than 70 services, will be the official sponsor of the easyJet onboard entertainment platform integrated by Immfly.

Films, series, books, kids programmes, games, newspapers, magazines, practical information, language courses, destination guides and more

In its collaboration with easyJet, Immfly is helping deliver another step in the path to total connectivity as part of its pioneering strategy focused on enabling a 360º relationship with customers connected for interaction during their entire journey.

“Air Time” opens new and exciting opportunities in the European flight market. Customers can enjoy premium content provided by the official entertainment sponsor, Rakuten, who are also the global innovation and entertainment partner of FC Barcelona.

The high-quality content is curated from top-tier brands, including FOX Non Theatrical, Euronews and other media companies that are favourites among the British and European public.

Some of the titles available on “Air Time” in the Entertainment section include critically acclaimed television content, such as the series Legion and the comedy show Modern Family, as well as hit films like The Revenant, popular children’s programmes and a wide range of press publications including; Financial Times, Bloomberg, Le Figaro, Euronews, The Times, and other daily international newspapers, plus lifestyle publications such as; Elle, Rolling Stone, National Geographic Traveller and many more.

“Air Time” also offers a pioneering inflight service with on-board language lessons available on the platform and developed in partnership with uTalk. This makes it possible for customers to learn and practice more than 80 languages during their flight.

Passengers can also choose from a wide selection of best-selling e-books and audio books, destination guides, games and much more. The platform also includes a digital catalogue “Bistro & Boutique” that features meals, snacks and refreshments customers can enjoy during the flight while it also showcases the selection of on-board shopping products available inflight from fragrances and cosmetics to gadgets and toys.

“Air Time” also provides practical information about the flight and an interactive 3D map of the route in the “Flight Info” section, as well as information on local weather conditions and forecasts provided by the “The Weather Network”, and information about easyjet’s UNICEF campaign.

Personalised entertainment and services at 10,000 feet

The vast majority of passengers travel with at least a smartphone, a tablet or a laptop which is why Immfly’s paltform is relevant to anyone wishing to enjoy all this entertainment content from their personal, portable electronic devices inflight.

Access is possible through Wi-Fi points installed on the airplanes which allow all passengers to access the content at very high speed. No reliance on external connections enables a faster connection speed than what is currently available in most people’s homes.

Immfly, easyJet’s inflight entertainment and digital services launch partner

Immfly is leading the development of on-board digital platforms in Europe as a tool to boost the revenues of airlines by proposing to increase their “Net Promoter Score”, generating greater customer loyalty and creating additional sources of ancillary income with on board digital services, commerce and sponsorship. Immfly also provides services enabling passengers to purchase leisure products and services available at their destination before landing and to purchase entertainment packs whilst booking their flights online.

We specialize in maximizing revenue and engagement opportunities through wireless on-board connectivity, increasingly supported by success stories that are relevant to the airlines we collaborate with,” explained Jimmy Martínez von Korff, co-founder of the company. “Today we allow easyJet to provide a complete on-board digital services platform based on exciting content and online shopping possibilities, offering a fully integrated platform with leading brands and their services.”

Andrew Middleton, easyJet’s Ancillary Revenue Director commented: “‘Air Time’ will allow us for the first time to offer customers in-flight entertainment in a way that replicates how they consume their media at home. We are delighted to be collaborating with other innovative partners, such as Rakuten who will help us curate engaging content, and Immfly who are providing the unique easyJet portal with a dedicated customer support team, ensuring that easyJet crew are able to continue conducting an excellent standard of safety-focused service and on-board hospitality.”.

Arjen Van de Vall, President Rakuten Europe commented: “We are confident Rakuten can bring strong value and create a high quality showcase of its services through the on-board Immfly platform offering a best in class user experience” .

Immfly, a leading provider of online sales and communications services in Europe, expects to reach 100 million connected passengers in 2018 after its agreements with airlines including Iberia Express, Volotea, XL Airways and now easyJet.

Installations expected on 700 to 1,400 narrow-body and regional jet aircraft

East Aurora, New York | October 16, 2017–
Astronics Corporation (NASDAQ: ATRO), a leading provider of advanced technologies for the global aerospace, defense, and semiconductor industries, announced today that its wholly owned subsidiary, Astronics Advanced Electronic Systems (AES), was recently selected by six major North American airlines to install industry-leading EMPOWER® in-seat power systems on up to 1,400 narrow- body and regional jet aircraft.
Astronics AES will equip the airplanes with 110VAC and high output USB power for every passenger from “nose to tail,” including the cabin crew stations. Line-fit and retrofit installations will occur from early 2018 through 2023.
Peter J. Gundermann, President of Astronics Corporation, noted, “Being selected for these significant fleet upgrades further solidifies our leading global market position for passenger power on commercial aircraft and is a strong indication of the increasing trend for airlines to provide power for their passengers on narrow-body and regional aircraft. Carriers worldwide are responding to passenger requests for power at the seat so they can use their personal electronic devices to fully enjoy the streamed in-flight entertainment and upgraded connectivity systems provided by the airlines, while remaining fully charged when they land.”
Statistics show that 97% of passengers travel with personal electronic devices, and a large percentage carry more than one. For over 20 years, Astronics AES has supplied intelligent power management systems for airline passengers’ benefits. The EMPOWER system is currently in service with over 230 airline and OEM customers with over one million power outlets installed.

This week IFExpress features a few more AIX booths we visited, as well as, a bit more news. Keep your eyes on TelefonixPDT for greater market penetration and on digEcor for the same – there is a lot happening and we will have more in the coming weeks.

1. TelefonixPDT

TelefonixPDT is like a Swiss army knife – they have a solution for virtually every IFE hardware challenge! IFExpress had the opportunity to catch up with them during AIX earlier this month. As always, the company exhibited some great hardware components including some new iterations, specifically from their Summit Product Line. Now, Let’s look at some of the individual products that we saw in their booth.

CabinACe-2 WAP:
From an airplane perspective, TelefonixPDT has finalized an STC on the 737. In fact, CabinACe-2 Wireless Access Point (WAP) is the first commercially available ARINC 628 compliant 802.11ac, Wave 2 product for commercial aircraft wireless environments. The CabinACe-2 WAP enables the highest capacity performance and efficiency in extremely high-density environments for enhanced connectivity and passenger experience. The new WAP features a small footprint and low power consumption making it suitable for both linefit and retrofit installations. With a concurrent data rate of 1.73 Gbps in 5 GHz and 800 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz range (aggregated date rate of 2.5 Gbps), the CabinACe-2 product delivers next generation performance for passengers. Oh and by the way, TelefonixPDT told us that customers can use the STC for free!

CabinPinnacle:
CabinPinnacle general-purpose airborne server/router is a complete, highly integrated, application-ready platform for Ethernet-based network installations. The server integrates a quad core 2.7 GHz Intel Core i7 processor with 16GB of DDR3 memory and supports connectivity and bandwidth demands utilizing features such as an L2/L3 managed Gigabit Ethernet Switch with eleven externally available Gigabit Ethernet ports. Designed specifically for aircraft environments, this ARINC 600 4MCU form factor includes six ARINC 429 channels, 20 aircraft discrete I/Os, and integrated self-healing health monitoring. The server also supports both Linux and Windows operating systems as well as the availability of integrated software APIs for maximum flexibility. The company told us that they are in the process of finishing linefit offerability at Boeing and in the near term the product will be offerable both linefit and retrofit for both Airbus and Boeing aircraft. The system architect, Eric Tartar said, “The CabinPinnacle is the Swiss Army Knife of routers! And as customers need it, we will add features.”

CabinEdge:
Another product that we found interesting was the CabinEdge stand-alone content loader that supports network delivery of In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) content and is meant to be permanently installed on cabin monuments. The content loader utilizes small form factor, low-cost, commercially available USB “thumb drives” as the content transfer medium. The unit loads digitally stored, encrypted content in the background in an unattended fashion. A keyed tumbler lock provides security and ensures that loaded content remains secure until the next update. Simply installing the small form factor USB drives and closing the interface door automatically sends the signal to the onboard software to “mount” the drives and begin the process of loading content to the front end server. The onboard software automatically cross-checks with the locally stored content and updates files as required at better than USB 2.0 speeds.

Encompass:
One of the more surprising products that we saw from TelefonixPDT was Encompass – a portable, low-cost, full-featured, wireless IFE product. The TelefonixPDT Encompass server is a small form factor, wireless IFE system designed to meet the requirements of short term aircraft trials and long term IFE solution needs. The unit’s small size and weight make it perfect for deployment in overhead storage bins; and with 12 hours of continuous battery operation, this open source solution is not only easy to operate, but is also easy to customize to meet airline needs. Software SDK is available to quick-start DRM and content management application and high capacity SSD storage ensures that there is ample content for streaming to passenger devices. Without the certification requirements of traditional embedded solutions, the Encompass all-in-one server is a solution that minimizes cost while still delivering the quality experience.

Editor’s Note: The Encompass is basically a portable server/WAP that the folks at TelefonixPDT note was redesigned after a number of application trials. They told IFExpress that they integrated the charging bay(s) into the unit. With the application of external power, the unit can charge its internal batteries while on the airplane. We note that there will probably be more one-box systems flying on more and more single-aisle aircraft in the near future and we see this as an evolving technology trend. Historically, this trend started back with the portable single-box IFE solutions (think AirFi). IFExpress believes this product is an excellent solution for the business jet wIFE market.

CabinVista:
The last component of the Summit Line that we saw was the CabinVista Cabin Control Panel. The panel interfaces directly with the IFEC. This multipurpose product can be used as the primary control mechanism to the passenger IFEC system and to initiate PA announcements and cabin chimes. The CabinVista unit also provides 2 external interfaces to allow for uploading and downloading content to onboard servers via USB thumb drives.

Lastly, we should note that TelefonixPDT is continuing their expansion into Europe and Asia. They have arrangements in place for a manufacturing facility in China that should come online before APEX of this year. The company will still maintain their manufacturing facility in the USA to sell to other markets, while the China manufacturing facility will focus primarily on the growing Chinese aviation market.

2. digEcor
IFExpress had the opportunity to touch base with David Withers CEO of digEcor during the AIX extravaganza. David told us that it has been four years since he purchased the company and that their focus since then has been on developing modular and flexible product offerings to the aviation industry. They have achieved this by leveraging on the digEcor product, introducing LED lighting and power; as well as, enhancing the GLIDE product offering and the Wi-Fi feature to their roster. “We want to offer modular and flexible solutions that any airline can use,” said Mr. Withers. “Wi-Fi has a place in our industry, especially alongside power.” Power at the seat is the highest demand and the company has been focusing on how to integrate power easily into their offering.

digEcor had a key new customer announcement during the week – Air Tahiti Nui for the rollout of their ENGAGE cabin crew mobile solution. David Withers, digEcor Chief Executive Officer said, “ENGAGE has many benefits including access to passenger information and preferences, efficient service recovery, electronic forms and messaging.”

The company also had a few announcements regarding their GLIDE offering, including a milestone of delivery of the Integrated Flight Experience into the market, launching four new product lines including: Passenger Service Solutions (crew call, reading light and optional audio controls), LED Cabin Lighting, Cabin Management as well as digEcor’s own Moving Map product. Additionally, Corendon, a leisure based airline in Turkey, selected the GLIDE embedded system solution for their Boeing 737-800 aircraft. The new system will replace their legacy tape-based IFE offering. Mr. Withers told IFExpress, “The GLIDE embedded system is a leading component of digEcor’s Integrated Flight Experience comprising IFE, in-seat power, LED cabin lighting, passenger services, crew applications, cabin management, tape replacement, Wi-Fi streaming and content services.”


Other News:

Gogo
Gogo announced that veteran financial leader Barry Rowan was to join the company as an Executive Vice President and will assume the position of Chief Financial Officer (CFO) on May 4, 2017 following the Company’s first quarter earnings report. Rowan will lead Gogo’s financial operations, which includes financial planning and analysis, accounting, treasury, tax and investor relations. He will report to Michael Small, president and CEO.

Rowan has more than 30 years of financial management experience including a track record of success leading public companies.

Also, Gogo and global satellite operator SES announced a new capacity deal to enhance in-flight connectivity services for key air travel routes over North America and the Pacific Ocean. As part of the new agreement, Gogo has leased all available capacity on SES’s AMC-4 satellite, which SES will move to a new orbital location to serve flights to, from and within the states of Alaska and Hawaii, flights along the west coast of the U.S. and over the Pacific Ocean.”SES has a global fleet of over 50 GEO satellites in orbit, and will be launching five more satellites this year, three of which have massive throughput payloads. SES is one of the global operators who can quickly and effectively move existing assets and scale up across regions and routes where connectivity demand is on the rise. This robust global network of scalable, flexible satellite capacity enables SES to stay ahead of the ever-growing demands and requirements of the aero industry,” said Elias Zaccack, Senior Vice President of the Americas region and Mobility Solutions at SES. “With the recent launch of the SES-10 satellite, SES will place AMC-4 in an orbital slot to meet the growing demand for Gogo’s inflight connectivity services and allow us to further expand our alliance.”

SITA
Bologna is the first Italian airport to install SITA’s Scan&Fly units. The new bag drop units will initially be used by low-cost carrier Ryanair before being extended to other airlines. Bologna Airport is a fast-growing hub for Ryanair with more than 20 destinations and 170 flights a week. SITA is a global provider of award-winning bag drop solutions. Airlines and airports globally have welcomed the high-quality interface of Scan&Fly, the ease of its retro-fit and the ability to fully integrate with the SITA AirportConnect common-use platform.

East Aurora, NY | June 23, 2016– Astronics Corporation (NASDAQ: ATRO), a leading supplier of products to the global aerospace, defense, and semiconductor industries, today announced the newest EMPOWER® in-seat power system from wholly-owned subsidiary Astronics Advanced Electronic Systems (AES) has been selected by three major airlines in Asia for installations scheduled through the 2017 to 2021 timeframe. These recent awards will place in-seat power in more than 230 additional aircraft serving the Asia Pacific region. The installations, valued at more than $16 million, will be in Boeing 737, 737-800 & 737 MAX, Airbus A320 and Bombardier CS300 aircraft.

This system includes various EMPOWER® configurations, including 110V 60Hz as well as high-power (2.1A) USB for use with laptops and other Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs), such as iPad® and
Smartphones.

Mike Hettich, Vice President of Astronics AES Cabin Electronics, said, “Statistics show that 97% of global passengers travel with their own mobile devices. Airline carriers worldwide are responding to their passengers’ requests for power at the seat to keep their devices operational during the flight and fully charged for when they arrive at their destination.”

For nearly 20 years, Astronics has developed patented, intelligent power management systems. The patented EMPOWER® System is currently in service with over 190 Airline/OEM customers at more than 900,000 seat locations.

  • Immfly, the first profitable in-flight digital platform in Europe performing in Iberia Express full fleet, and currently installing in Volotea’s A-319, enters the long-haul market on board XL’s A330 fleet

Barcelona, Spain | June 15, 2016– From October on, XL Airways, the French airline operating flights mainly to long-haul destinations, will install Immfly’s on board solution in their Airbus A330 fleet, serving the carriers daily flights to North America, the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean. Being fully operational by December 2016, this is the first time that the digital platform will be accessible in long – haul aircraft, branded as XL Cloud.

“We are impatient to propose this new service to our passengers”, says Laurent Magnin, CEO of XL Airways. “Entertainment is an essential part of the inflight experience. XL Cloud is a response to this expectation and is completely in line with our concept of travel personalization”. Jimmy M. von Korff, co-founder of Immfly, also welcomed the news “we are delighted to be partnering with XL Airways, which represents our first long-haul project and the opportunity to perform in a new environment, where passengers have an average of 8 hours to enjoy entertainment content and discover more insights about their destination.

Passengers that meet Immfly can use their personal mobile devices to access an onboard Wi-Fi network. Once connected, they are able to enjoy a wide variety of content from newsfeeds and magazines to documentaries, kids channels, music and sports videos. The frequently renewed catalog (on each flight for the press) will include free content and a premium offering, available for a fee. In-between programs, passengers will be able to follow the progress of the flight and learn more, not only about their destination but also the areas they fly over. French and English destination guides will be available for download.

“The XL Airways’ A-330 need to include up to 6 wireless access points in order to cover the higher density of connected users and to allow all travellers to connect simultaneously”, says Alfredo Ibáñez, CTO at Immfly. “Making our product ready for long- distance aircraft is a new challenge that will encourage a significant growth opportunity for our product.”

Moreover, this new step brings the Barcelona based company, Immfly, closer to their objective of becoming the travel industry’s favorite on-board monetization partner, reaching 100 million connected passengers by 2018.

Immfly is leading the development of on-board digital platforms within Europe, helping airlines to strengthen their customer loyalty by increasing their “Net Promoter Scores” amongst passengers and encouraging the creation of new ancillary revenues through the sponsorship and e-commerce available on the platform.

  • Tech gadget-friendly tray tables facilitate hands-free use of portable electronic devices while freeing up much needed space on conventional aircraft tray tables

East Aurora, NY | April 5, 2016– Astronics Corporation (NASDAQ: ATRO), a leading provider of advanced technologies for the global aerospace, defense, consumer electronics and semiconductor industries, today announced its collaboration with AirPac Enterprises (“AirPac”) and CIT Aerospace (“CIT”) in the deployment of SmartTray® tables onboard InterJet, the first commercial passenger Mexican airline to fly with SmartTray® onboard its Airbus 320 aircraft. AirPac is a leading provider of aircraft seating services and a FAA and EASA certified repair station. CIT Aerospace is a global leader in aircraft financing services.

SmartTray® tables feature an integrated, proprietary expandable groove mechanism that automatically expands and retracts to the thickness of Passenger Electronic Devices (PEDs) and smartphones. This configuration allows passengers to use their electronic devices inflight hands- free while freeing up much needed tray table space for other items and providing a significant improvement in comfort and convenience over conventional aircraft tray tables.

Dennis Markert, Director of New Business Development for Astronics, said: “We are delighted to have taken part in this deployment of SmartTray® with AirPac and CIT. Passengers instantly appreciate the simplicity and usefulness of SmartTray® which allows them to multi-task without juggling PEDs, drinks, food, and other personal items, making it a more productive and comfortable inflight experience.”

Mr. Markert added, “The study that we just completed in January of this year shows that more than 90% of travelers prefer SmartTray® over conventional aircraft tray tables. This high level of positive feedback tells us that this product has terrific potential.”

Lisa Rajic, President and Chief Executive Officer of AirPac said, “We’re very excited to collaborate with Astronics in deployment of the SmartTray®. As a leader in aircraft seating services, AirPac appreciates Astronics’ innovative power and entertainment solutions that dovetail nicely with our shared commitment to passenger comfort and an exceptional inflight experience. We both see SmartTray® as a sizable opportunity for us to work together. Airlines routinely replace tray tables, so why not provide a better traveler experience in the process?” added Lisa.

  • Survey shows that technology is helping put enjoyment back into flying

Geneva | May 28, 2015– Happy passengers are the ultimate goal of airlines and airports and new research from global IT provider SITA proves that technology can help. In a ground-breaking survey, SITA investigated the connection between a passenger’s use of technology and their emotions to discover how passengers around the world feel at every point of the journey. The results reveal that airline passengers are happiest and most excited when using technology for travel tasks. It is now clear that technology is helping make flying more enjoyable.

The 10th annual SITA/ATW Passenger IT Trends Survey was conducted in the first months of 2015 across 17 countries, representing 76% of the world’s passenger traffic and forms a guide on overall levels of passenger satisfaction. It indicates that for the vast majority of passengers most steps of the journey were a positive experience and passengers were happiest using self-service.

Nigel Pickford, Director Market Insight, SITA, said: “As passengers become more connected and airports more crowded the move to providing additional self-service continues. However, at SITA we wanted to get a better understanding of the connection between a passenger’s emotions at different stages of their journey and the technologies that have been used. Our survey shows that not only are passengers willing to use technology throughout their journey, but they have a clear preference to use their own technology when they have the choice.”

Participants were asked to review each stage of their journey and identify their range of emotions with an emotion scale tool adapted from Plutchik.The intensity of four emotions – happiness, excitement, anger and anxiety – at each of nine stages of the journey from booking to bag collection were recorded.

Booking the flight is one of the best parts of the travel experience in fact, 91% of respondents experienced positive emotions at this stage. During the journey when they are able to relax, such as dwell time before boarding and onboard the aircraft, were the other times that passengers felt the most happy and excited. An impressive 95% of passengers experienced positive emotions during dwell time and 91% while onboard.

SITA’s survey shows that technology is playing an increasing role in the passenger journey. This year the proportion of passengers carrying smartphones has nudged up to 83% from 81% last year, while 15% travel with three mobile devices (mobile phone, tablet and laptop). And these ‘connected travelers’ are happiest when using their own devices throughout their journey.

When booking their flight the technology that makes passengers the most happy and excited is an app on their smartphone – 94% experienced these positive emotions using the app compared to 90% booking at a travel agent or an airline office.

Looking at check-in it is clear that technology is also making the experience more enjoyable. Overall, check-in is rated positively by the vast majority of passenger (86%) but more passengers had a positive experience when they used self-service check-in. In fact, 97% of passengers who used web check-in experienced excitement and happiness compared to 83% using the airport desk.

Not surprisingly, the least popular stages of the journey were at security, and to a lesser extent bag collection. The majority however, still felt positive at these stages; 64% at security when the negative emotions were mainly driven by anxiety, and 69% at baggage collection.

Pickford added: “Armed with the knowledge that technology helps passengers to experience positive emotions while traveling, airlines and airports now have the opportunity to look at security and baggage collection to see how technology can further improve the passenger experience. For example, increasing the use of automated border control kiosks and gates may reduce the anxiety passengers feel at this stage of the journey.”

SITA’s survey also showed some interesting trends for the use of technology at different points of the journey with significant changes expected over the next year:

  • Booking flights – Though booking flights on a PC remains popular with 62% of passengers doing this, it is expected to fall to 53% over the next 12 months. At the same time there is a move to using tablets and smartphones with the proportion of passengers booking flights on these devices rising from 27% now to 37% by 2016.
  • Check in – Passengers are increasingly using a combination of self-service on phones and computers to check in rather than at a desk in the airport. The biggest change over the next year will be an increase in the use of mobile apps for check-in – currently 8% of passengers use them and this expected to double to 16% by 2016.
  • Baggage – Self-service has made traveling with carry-on bags the quick and easier way to fly and SITA’s survey indicates nearly one in five passengers now travel this way. In addition, passengers are moving away from staffed check-in counters and happy to use dedicated bag drops and self-service areas. Within a year, 31% of passengers will do this, up from today’s 20%.
  • On Board – Passengers are keen to make better use of their time during the flight with a preference to use their own devices. Two-thirds of passengers (67%) said they would “definitely” want access to their own devices for entertainment compared to 56% for airline-provided content. Passengers also want to stay connected so that they can send and receive text/emails (60%), as well as stream live content (56%).
  • Boarding Passes – Passengers are making the move to printing their own boarding passes or having them on their mobile phone – the trend is a rise from today’s 30% up to 42% by 2016.

More details on the results of the 2015 SITA/ATW Passenger IT Trends Survey are available here, including an outline of the methodology, regional and demographic coverage and information on the emotional scale tool.

  • Panel at International CES in Las Vegas Draws Air Travel Enthusiasts from Around the Country

New York | February 3, 2014– Rarely is the topic of portable devices on planes the focus of as much public attention as right now – making front-page national news and changing the way we look at our portable electronic and smartphone capabilities and the passenger experience overall. The Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX), in conjunction with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), is leading the national conversation by illuminating trends in passenger thinking while closely examining public policy. A joint APEX/CEA session at the International CES January in Las Vegas captivated an audience of air travel enthusiasts eager for more information  on how new regulations are shaping the industry.

The joint session follows a collaborative effort between APEX and CEA to gauge public sentiment on portable electronic devices (PEDs) inflight. The joint survey was presented to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) PED Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) leading up to the FAA’s announcement last fall that properly tested aircraft may allow PED use below the previous 10,000-feet threshold and during all phases of flight.

“Once the FAA made its determination, airlines moved quickly. Within six weeks of the FAA announcement of new guidance, more than 60 percent of U.S. airlines, representing 86 percent of the U.S. ‘large carrier’ fleet, and carrying 95 percent of U.S. passengers, had determined that their aircraft are ‘PED tolerant’ through testing approved by the FAA,” said Michael Childers, APEX board member and a representative on the FAA ARC. “International airlines like British Airways and Lufthansa are following suit. Now that a solid majority of U.S. airlines have implemented PED-friendly policies, we’re really able to explore what this means for the passenger experience.”

The panel comprised industry and government heavyweights, including Chuck Cook, manager, Fleet Programs and Technology, JetBlue Airways; Ian Dawkins, CEO of OnAir; Bill de Groh, chairman, Aircraft Design and Operations Group, Air Line Pilots Association, International; Julius Knapp, chief, Office of Engineering and Technology, Federal Communications Commission (FCC); Timothy Shaver, branch manager, Avionics Maintenance Branch, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA); and Kirk Thornburg, managing director, Engineering, Quality, Technology & Training, Delta Air Lines and the ARC Chairman. The panel was moderated by Gautham Nagesh, technology Policy Reporter for The Wall Street Journal.

The panel discussed ongoing issues that have resulted from the FAA decision. For example, the expanded use of PEDs has raised concerns about how they are secured during takeoff and landing, even if they do not have to be turned off. APEX representatives were among the PED ARC members who expressed concerns on this issue. During the panel discussion, the FAA acknowledged that it is still monitoring PED stowage policy, and airlines on the panel said that stowage policies are still being discussed in an effort to harmonize them.

In addition to looking at new regulations, the panel delved into the subject of potential policy changes related to inflight phone calls, a topic that has the close attention of the traveling public and airlines alike. For example, the panel revealed that inflight device usage is broken down to 60 percent email use, 30 percent texting and 10 percent voice calls – showing only weak interest in voice calls, OnAir’s Dawkins said.

“So that’s a very small part of it,” he said during the panel discussion. “The voice calls we have are less than 2 minutes, and they tend to be not long after takeoff when the systems are switched on (above 10,000 feet) or just before the system is switched off.”

Panelists also covered ways in which airlines have responded to the changing regulations and trends in securing WiFi on U.S. aircraft. The full session is available for viewing at http://www.cesweb.org/News/CES-TV/IPS-Videos.

 

London, UK | November 1, 2013– The number of commercial aircraft providing either Wi-Fi or cellular connectivity will reach 4,048 by the end of 2013, representing 21 percent of the global fleet, according to the latest research published by IHS Inc. (NYSE: IHS).

The penetration of wireless is up from 15 percent in 2012 and 12 percent in 2011, as presented in the attached figure. By 2022, wireless connectivity penetration in commercial aircraft is set to reach 50 percent.

Of the 4,000 aircraft estimated to offer at least one of the two forms of connectivity in 2013, approximately 75 percent offer Wi-Fi-only. Wi-Fi connectivity is particularly widespread among North American airlines.

“The rising availability of in-flight wireless connectivity comes at a time when the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) moves to loosen its rules for the usage of electronic devices on flights,” said Heath Lockett, senior analyst for aerospace at IHS. “The proportion of passengers actually connecting to wireless services on board is still very low, average in the single-digit percentages. The great challenge for airlines now is to inform passengers of the services they offer and to get them to pay for access. With the change in FAA rules garnering major attention in the media, the airlines now have a chance to get their message out to U.S. air travelers.”

The rise in connectivity is not confined to the United States, however. Airlines around the world have rolled out a variety of connectivity options, utilizing a range of technology types and service providers. Although banned over North American airspace, cellular connectivity has grown across the rest of the world, with almost 600 aircraft projected to feature the technology by the end of 2013. Most passengers are using their cellphones for data services and text messaging as opposed to phone calls.

Several airlines—including Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines—have opted to provide both Wi-Fi and cellular services, which combined represent the fastest-growing category of in-flight connectivity. Of the 14,000 aircraft forecast to provide some form of connectivity by 2022, approximately 5,000 are projected to offer both Wi-Fi and cellular options.

The two-tiered system, popular in an array of other industries, is one in which users can opt either for a free or low-cost bandwidth-limited connection, or pay a premium for a guaranteed high-speed experience. When ViaSat launches its Exede service on JetBlue’s fleet later this year, it may well provide such a facility, allowing free access at a controlled bandwidth to all passengers, while providing its promised 12 megabits-per-second service for every passenger to those willing to pay a certain price. In theory, this would satisfy both the bulk of fliers who want to connect for free, as well as the few that may desire a high-quality connection.

As more aircraft are equipped with connectivity, and with service providers jostling to provide even greater connection speeds to address passenger demand for bandwidth, the future for in-flight connectivity looks set to soar.

Whilst having a cup of tea with IMDC’s Robert Smith at Aircraft Interiors in Hamburg we chatted about the impending  iPad Inflight Revolution and Robert had some thoughts that we liked and asked him to share with our readers. Here is what he told IFExpress:

“On April 3, 2010 Apple released the iPad and effectively created a new type of consumer device. The touchscreen tablet sold 3 million units in its first 80 days on sale, passed 100 million units in 2012 and shipped an estimated 19.5 million devices in Q1 2013.

Apple is now not the only major company in this sector. Sales growth of Android based devices has meant that despite Apple’s growing sales figures, at the end of the first quarter 2013 Apple held 39.6 per cent of the global tablet market, down from 58.1 per cent in the same period 2012. Total tablet sales overall are up 142 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2013 (All figures according to preliminary data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker).

Especially relevant for inflight is the growth of smaller, more portable tablet devices such as the Nexus 7 and iPad Mini which itself accounted for 63% of all iPads sold over Q1 2013. Such a significant, seemingly permanent, and highly relevant trend in consumer technology has not gone unnoticed by the inflight passenger technology sector.

Portable media players for inflight use are not a new idea, but these latest consumer tablets represent a step change in both functionality and desirability over anything that has gone before them. As a result we have had a second wave of interest in portables from airlines and a supplier response to make these devices available for passenger usage as a form of inflight entertainment.

There has been plenty of early enthusiasm from a number of airlines wanting to announce that their passengers will be offered tablet devices onboard. Early projects were subject to delays but recently there have been a number of deployments of iPads and Samsung Galaxy tablets for inflight. Is this the start of a trend for inflight which will eventually become as pervasive as it has been for consumer technology?

Answering that question requires analysis of three key areas: hardware, logistics, and content. We evaluate the issues within each area below. Importantly, the impact of each issue can vary greatly according to an airline’s individual circumstance. The result is, as for all inflight technologies, there is no single ‘best’ solution for all airlines.

Hardware Issues
Device Specifications
– It is without doubt that it is the hardware that has attracted attention to these devices. Tablets are thin, with high image quality and responsive touchscreen interfaces. There are differences in the different devices, and different generations of the same device, yet most are impressive when compared to typical alternatives for inflight. Despite continual increases in battery technology, battery life is an issue for inflight deployment in particular. Facilitating charging cycles may require for duplicate stock to be held. This issue is magnified when an aircraft is used on multiple sectors in which case airlines may have to introduce multiple hubs for device re-charging. The number and length of flight sectors may necessitate rotations of tablet stock for certain aircraft more than once per day.

Manufacturer
– Although the hardware itself has been the driver of interest in tablets, the hardware specifications of any particular tablet are far from the most important factor. A small number of products and even smaller number of suppliers make up the majority of consumer tablets. An essential point is that the size of the consumer market will make the inflight sector largely insignificant to manufacturers. As a result they have little or no motivation to cater for airline requirements and devices should be evaluated in terms of the work required to adapt them for an airline’s requirements.

Airline Supplier Support
– Airline suppliers have taken on the challenge of delivering consumer tablets to passengers. From an airline perspective, it is important to identify how a potential supplier will match an airline’s particular environment. Issues to consider include: how much capacity is there in the supplier’s deployment pipeline, ability to perform operational and software updates, content integration with or without a CSP already in place, ability to adjust the GUI to changing requirements, and flexibility in number of content updates.
– Responsiveness is crucial; the supplier must be able to support an airline in maximizing its investment within the short life of the tablet. Speed is essential when these devices are currently being updated with new hardware and software every 6-12 months.

Logistics Issues
Logistics Requirements
– IMDC advocate evaluating the total cost of ownership when evaluating any new inflight technology. An airline considering introducing tablets will almost certainly incur significant logistical costs that need to be included in the business model.
– Logistical costs will include: loading the devices onboard, distributing to passengers, reclaiming units from passengers, cleaning, maintaining, and returning units back to base for recharging the batteries and updating content.
– The impact of these logistical requirements will vary greatly according to airline circumstance but can make the largest contribution to total cost of ownership and justify special attention in the planning and evaluation process.

Costs from Increased Weight
– The weight of all required equipment should be taken into account when evaluating portables. Equipment can include the tablet and all required peripherals such as any cover that protects it, headphones, and charging leads if required. Additionally there might be storage equipment required.
– Fuel costs are not the only potential penalty from additional weight; a cargo offset cost may be relevant to an airline. If additional storage is required on the aircraft, there is likely to be existing equipment that has to be removed, which itself presumably has some value that would need to be factored in.

Limitations due to Short Flight Lengths
– Shorter flight lengths severely limits the potential value of tablets to passengers. Traditional high value movie content is naturally not possible unless the passenger has time to select and view it. There are large segments of ‘flight time’ where tablets might well not be available to passengers. Regulations will likely prevent tablets from being allowed to be switched on before take-off, then there might still be time required for distributing tablets, collecting payment, and time for passengers to choose their content for the flight.
– Delivering compelling non-movie content is certainly possible, but typically requires more frequent content loading (daily news), and/or identification and delivery of tailored content (connecting gates, destination information).

Content Issues
Content Security
– The value proposition of tablets for inflight is, as with many inflight technologies, largely based on delivering movie content to passengers. Software, DRM, and hardware configurations offered by tablet suppliers should protect from any risks of piracy and be approved by Hollywood studios. The challenge in gaining studio approval for consumer tablets inflight will depend in part on the airline supplier, and how they can work with the manufacturer of the tablet they provide.

Passenger Take-up According to Amount of Content
– If an airline is considering deploying tablets as a source of revenue then the content selection and content quantity is crucial to the business case. The total quantity of content available, particularly recent Hollywood content, will largely dictate how compelling a tablet offer is to passengers. However, each extra unit of content creates decreasing additional value to the passenger and a balance must be struck that accounts for the marginal cost of adding content.

Advertising Expectations
– Expectations of revenue from advertising should be kept realistic. There are many limitations to the potential of advertising as a source of revenue for any inflight technology. Inflight offers relatively low volumes compared to ground advertising. As a result it is necessary to place the same ads multiple times to ensure sufficient reach. Such repetition can then impact on passenger experience.
– The choice of advertisers is also limited for inflight, particularly on international sectors where global brands are most relevant. Any timing delays for inflight then limit potential advertising again, to general brand awareness campaigns rather than time sensitive promotions.
– Specifically, tablets are still a fairly new medium, and are therefore less proven and less comparable than other inflight media. The end result is that advertisers are (for now) more cautious compared to older and tested medium like inflight magazines.

Provision of Apps
– The consumer success of tablets owes a lot to the range of applications available on them. When considering inflight deployment it is likely that the tablets will not benefit from an internet connection. As a result app selection for tablets inflight is limited to apps that can operate offline. Secondly, an airline must be certain that all necessary rights for inflight deployment are obtained from app developers if they are to be made available to passengers.

The issues identified above provide somewhat of a reality check for the concept of providing consumer tablets for inflight. The extent of these challenges are not so great that they rule out such deployments as a rational choice for all airlines, nor are they so insignificant that we can declare an end to embedded IFE systems.

The significance of each issue is likely to change over time, as will consumer technology and competing inflight technologies. And, as already stated, the impact of each issue will depend heavily on an airline’s individual circumstances. As a result there is no easy answer (of course!).

Forming the right strategy for inflight product will be more likely with a clear understanding of an airline’s circumstances and ambitions, as well as an up to date and impartial understanding of both available inflight technologies, and passenger preferences and behaviors. Doing so is no easy task, but will help to maximize any investment in inflight technology.”

About the Author:

Robert Smith

IMDC is holding an inflight technologies training event for airlines and suppliers in Miami on June 5th and 6th 2013. For more information please contact robert.smith@imdc.net

IMDC assists airlines and their partners in optimizing their investment in cabin and communications technologies since 1999. IMDC’s consultants are experts in Media, Content, Technology, Connectivity and Airline Operations. The company is widely recognized as the leading organization in this sector for Market Research, Executive Training, Product Evaluation, Independent Strategy development and Project Management.

IMDC

Editor’s Note: This week’s IFEC BUZZ features a father-daughter team. Bill Kendrick is known through VT Miltope and Amanda Kendrick, who was visiting Hamburg at AIX, is a Delta cabin crew
member based in Boston… and a real IFE expert!