• Indian Low-Cost Carrier will introduce in-flight entertainment and e-commerce based on Lufthansa Systems´ digital platform BoardConnect

Raunheim, DE | April 20, 2017– The Indian airline SpiceJet will offer in-flight entertainment (IFE) and e-commerce, soon. SpiceJet will equip the whole fleet with BoardConnect Portable from Lufthansa Systems. Both companies signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) to this effect after the Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg. Passengers of SpiceJet will be able to use the new offer within 2017.

“Enhancing customer experience and comfort on-board has always been our prime focus at SpiceJet. SpiceJet expects to be the first low-cost carrier in India to provide this unique entertainment and shopping experience to its customers. This is yet another step towards ensuring a Red, Hot and Spicy experience for our customers, every time they step into a SpiceJet flight,” says Ajay Singh, Chief Managing Director at SpiceJet.

BoardConnect Portable is an all-in-one solution combining all of the technical components needed for an IFE system – such as a server and access points – in a single device, the Mobile Streaming Unit (MSU). An MSU is about the size of a conventional tablet, powered by a battery module, thus avoiding any elaborate cabling. MSUs therefore qualify as non-permanently installed equipment and can be mounted or removed without affecting other components in the aircraft, for example in the galley. This eliminates high costs for hardware, fitting and certification. Additionally, an integrated modem allows rapid wireless updates of content while the aircraft is on the ground. Furthermore, the BoardConnect digital platform caters for easy hosting and seamless integration of third party elements such as e-commerce. This concept convinced SpiceJet. In the near future, passengers can access a variety of entertainment and e-commerce offers of SpiceJet during a flight via their own smartphones and tablets.

“We are proud that with SpiceJet, an extraordinary innovative low-cost airline from India has chosen our award-winning IFE solution BoardConnect Portable,” says Norbert Mueller, Senior Vice President BoardConnect at Lufthansa Systems. “We are looking forward to team up with SpiceJet for a fast and smooth roll-out project.”

SpiceJet is an Indian low-cost carrier based in New Delhi. With a fleet of 55 aircraft of the types Boeing 737 and Bombardier Q 400 SpiceJet offers mainly domestic flights within India and connections to destinations in Southeast Asia.

London, United Kingdom | April 4, 2016– Mezzoglobal is now offering a fully featured, low-cost wireless passenger entertainment app for travel operators such as airlines, coach and bus operators, train companies, cruise operators and ferry lines. It is available for both iOS and Android and can be configured to work on any hardware. The app also offers a video on demand (VOD) option that passengers can use at any time they are connected to the internet. The app allows passengers to use their own mobiles and smartphones to view content such as movies and TV, listen to music and other audio, and to read magazines and other literature.

As well supporting video, audio and digital publications, the Mezzoglobal app provides many features that are familiar on an installed system, such as passenger interrupt, system control from a mobile crew device, passenger crew call, integrations for social media and many more. In addition, the app also enables content to be used when not connected to the on-board servers by using the VOD option.

Perhaps the most important feature is that the app can be customised to work on any hardware. Dave Sampson, CEO of Mezzoglobal, says, “It is no longer necessary for airlines and travel operators to think that they have to buy both hardware and software from one vendor. Technology has reached a point where a “pick ‘n’ mix” model of hardware and software will offer the best commercial models and best meet airlines’ and other travel operators’ needs. The Mezzoglobal app can be easily customised to fit on any hardware, whether it is portable hardware or installed. For example, airlines that have already purchased hardware no longer need to rip that hardware out and throw it away. They can simply replace the software and support service with a more competitive, better featured and lower cost proposition.”

Sampson added, “Our Android and iOS app offers airlines and travel operators much greater flexibility; content can be streamed on board, streamed on the ground from local servers in the lounge or in the airport before the flight, or the passenger can be offered content to download. Digital solutions offer much greater flexibility and we have matched this with extremely low licence fees. Of the 20,000 aircraft flying today, only 30% have any form of in-flight entertainment (IFE) and you have to ask what has been the barrier to greater adoption. I believe it is mostly because of the super-premium prices that are charged for IFE systems. We are out to change this; we want IFE to be ubiquitous.”

The app can be downloaded from the relevant app store:
Android
iOS

The Mezzoglobal app is already linked to the new ContentMarket.place that has just launched, and which is the newest way to licence content for all passenger entertainment.

Brisbane, Australia | December 4, 2015– digEcor is delighted to announce another customer for the GLIDE embedded IFE system with charter airline EuroAtlantic Airways, based in Lisbon, Portugal. EuroAtlantic will be flying the system in both Economy and Business class on three of their B767 aircraft.

In Business Class, the full-flat Thompson Vantage seat will house 15” touch-screens, as well as digEcor’s own 110 volt & 2.1A USB in-seat power with an outlet for every seat via a single seat box. In Economy class the offering includes 10” touch-screens and USB power at every seat manufactured by Acro Aircraft Seating.

The GLIDE seat-centric system comprises only 3 components and is very light weight. Smart screens host hundreds of movies approved for early window content by all major studios and independent distributors, rich TV content, audio and games.

Cabin crew control the system via a cabin management terminal which also interfaces with the major aircraft systems and enables offload of maintenance data and upload of content via a cellular network. Content can also be loaded by changing the master content drive in the cabin management terminal or via USB.

digEcor will also retrofit the Passenger Service System (PSS) in the seats and overhead passenger service unit using its innovative Universal Seat Box.

“This is an exciting program for us as it expands on our Integrated Flight Experience product range which now spans a wide range of screen sizes, power options and passenger amenities. We welcome Euro Atlantic to the digEcor community”, says CEO David Withers.

The GLIDE system was FAA certified earlier in 2015 and is currently flying with Air Transport International (ATI) who have installed digEcor’s 7” embedded touch screens with USB and PC power in their B757’s.

João Semedo, Head of Engineering at EuroAtlantic Airways said, “the GLIDE System’s simplicity, price and digEcor’s staff’s proactivity and flexibility to meet our needs during this project were compelling and we are delighted to be working with them to deliver something special for our customers.”

The GLIDE seat-centric system is a leading component of digEcor’s Integrated Flight Experience, a low-cost, flexible solution for airlines to improve customer experiences across all areas of its inflight service including entertainment, power, lighting and crew and passenger connectivity.

  • APEX 2015: New version of the IFE solution especially for short- and medium-haul flights

Raunheim | September 28, 2015– Lufthansa Systems today announced that it will showcase a new version of BoardConnect Portable, its multiple award-winning in-flight entertainment (IFE) solution, at this year’s APEX in Portland, Oregon. Visitors to the trade fair can also get the latest on new features for the BoardConnect wireless infotainment platform and the mCabin crew app.

BoardConnect Portable is even easier to use and more flexible than the conventional BoardConnect solution. The portable version is designed for carriers wishing to avoid high capital outlay in permanently installed hardware and install IFE mainly in smaller aircraft that are used for short- and medium-haul flights. The advantage of the new all-in-one solution is that all of the technical components needed for an IFE system – such as a server and access points – are combined in a single device, the Mobile Streaming Unit (MSU). An MSU can supply up to 50 passengers with top-quality streamed content. This means that in narrow-body aircraft two to three MSUs are sufficient to provide all passengers with a special IFE experience.

Another positive aspect is the ease of installation. An MSU is about the size of a conventional tablet and weighs less than 1,5 kg, so there is no need for elaborate cabling. MSUs therefore qualify as non-permanently installed equipment and can be mounted or removed without affecting other components in the aircraft, for example in the galley. This eliminates high costs for hardware, fitting and certification – plus in leased aircraft the system can be transferred immediately for further use. What is more, an integrated modem allows rapid wireless updates of content while the aircraft is on the ground.

Italy’s Air Dolomiti will be the first carrier to use the new flexible IFE solution BoardConnect Portable. The provider and the airline recently signed a corresponding letter of intent for further cooperation.

The conventional BoardConnect system is a wireless IFE solution that passengers can use to stream content to their own tablets or smartphones during a flight with an app. The solution’s established features include video and audio on demand, games, a shop and a moving map with points of interest (POI) relating to various topics. But BoardConnect is more than a conventional IFE system: it enables airlines to provide their passengers with additional services along the entire travel chain. With the new On-Ground Portal, passengers can now see what entertainment will be available on board even before their flight and find their favorite movies or put together playlists of their favorite music. Furthermore, other services to generate additional revenue for the airlines and their partners, such as hotel bookings, tickets for events or places of interest at the destination plus additional advertising, can be straightforwardly integrated thanks to the open platform architecture.

Visitors to the APEX can also find out more about the mCabin crew app. mCabin is a state-of-the-art, professional tool that supports cabin attendants in all stages and processes before, during and after a flight. The app contains information for the in-flight service such as a list of all passengers together with details of passenger seat numbers, status, meal preferences and special assistance. For crew management mCabin’s features include interactive duty rosters, briefing documents and the assignment of working positions based on the flight attendants’ qualifications. Thanks to its powerful reporting capabilities, incidents on board can be immediately processed digitally. Via an existing Internet connection the crew can also promptly communicate important information directly to flight operations. Another new feature is that it is now also possible to display a number of services on the new Microsoft Band and Windows phones. The mCabin crew app is compatible with BoardConnect and its operations can be synchronized.

Visit Lufthansa Systems at this year’s APEX in Portland from September 28 through October 1, stand # 1029, Hall A.

AIX Hamburg, Germany | April 14, 2015– The highly anticipated next-generation digEplayer NV by digEcor has arrived and it delivers on style, usability, functionality and affordability.

The new series NV is the only portable AVOD solution encompassing both the practical features of a custom device and the contemporary look and feel of a consumer tablet at a lower total cost of ownership. It is available in 8, 10, and 12″ versions.

The NV is approved for early window content from all major studios and independent distributors and features enhanced high definition screens, faster processing power, seamless capacitive touch and fully accelerated graphics. I has either a Linux or Android operating system, which support motion/gesture games and allow for easy integration of applications and new media including fully customisable GUIs to generate ancillary revenues and branding opportunities.

“digEcor continues to lead the portable AVOD handheld market with the introduction of the NV series,” said digEcor CEO David Withers.

“We are committed to ongoing innovation in this space and are pleased to offer such wide-ranging enhancements for the digEplayer NV,” he said. “The players are guaranteed to delight passengers with ease-of-use and entertaining content and delight airlines with practical and affordable factors.”

Other features of the new digEplayer NV include an integrated stand mounted directly to a metal chassis, reinforced dual headphone jacks, up to 1TB of SSD storage, USB power and gigabyte Ethernet content loading. The device also supports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. As with previous digEplayers the battery is changeable so you don’t have to take a player out of service just to charge a battery.

“We have over 10 years designing, manufacturing and operating tens of thousands of portable media players in an airline environment and we’ve studied the failure modes and airline hurt points and designed them out of the NV series,” said Withers. ” We are very proud of our fifth generation digEplayer.”

Content is updated via a content update rack using gigabit Ethernet or by swapping optional SD cards. Smart status battery charging and batteries offering either 12hr or 18 hr life are available.

The digEplayer NV is a leading component of digEcor’s Integrated Flight Experience, a low-cost, flexible solution for airlines to improve customer experiences across all areas of its inflight service including entertainment, power, lighting and crew and passenger connectivity.

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.

Seattle, WA | April 7, 2014– Skycast Solutions today announced plans to develop a Windows-based portable inflight entertainment (IFE) solution to meet the increasing demand for sophisticated tablet-based IFE solutions. Skycast and Microsoft are currently engaged in development work.

The solution will feature the powerful Dell Venue 8 Pro tablet with a quad-core Intel® Atom™ processor and a lightweight security shell/stand and together weigh less than one pound while delivering high resolution video on an 8″ screen. In addition to a wide array of entertainment offerings such as early-window movies, new releases, TV, music, digital magazines and an “XBOX Game Center,” the device will include robust capabilities including:

  • Seamless Wi-Fi access (where applicable)
  • ‘One touch’ integration with onboard server streaming content
  • Simultaneous multiple screen operation
  • Intra-cabin gaming/networking
  • Usage analytics reporting
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) capabilities

“We are thrilled to team with Microsoft on our next portable IFE offering,” said Bill Boyer, CEO of Skycast Solutions. “The Windows tablet with the Skycast IFE solution will meet the increasing demand from airlines to get more capability out of their supplied portables.”
The portable IFE offering will provide passengers an engaging and cutting-edge tablet-based experience with a wide array of entertainment options, travel resources, and productivity tools. For airlines, the offering will provide a highly branded platform and new avenue to enhance the customer experience and drive ancillary revenue.
“This new IFE solution continues Microsoft’s passion for innovation in the airline space and we are pleased to team with Skycast on this program,” said Greg Jones, director of Hospitality and Travel solutions at Microsoft. “Airlines are seeing the many advantages of Windows devices, whether supporting flight crews with productivity tools or offering a cutting edge entertainment experience for their passengers.”

Seattle-based Ratio, a leading multi-screen agency with deep Windows 8 expertise, has been engaged to create an industry-leading and user-friendly tablet experience.

The objective of this article is to provide our readers a better perspective on portable IFE. To get the ball rolling, we gave a few questions to the affable Adam Williams of digEcor.

What is the current state of the portable IFE market?

The IFE industry has changed quite a bit over the last several years. Traditional systems are becoming more sophisticated and lighter. Connectivity emerged, died and is making a strong come back. And new seat centric systems are creating a lot of buzz. Portable IFE is moving right along with the market. We are experiencing evolutions in technology (in part driven by consumer electronics) and continuing to fill a large need that seat back systems do not fill due to cost, age of aircraft, and the needs of specific routes. Of the approximately 13,500 commercial aircraft in service today, only about 6,000 are being serviced by traditional systems. In the last 12 months, we have literally sold 1,000’s of digEplayer L7’s. That didn’t happen because our market is softening.

What future developments might impact the portable IFE market?

There are two trends that will have an impact on portable IFE – consumer electronic devices and connectivity. The experience that passengers have on the ground with their own devices sets the expectations for the in-flight entertainment experience, and that’s not unique to handhelds. So companies like Apple and Google are setting a standard. The standard, though, is not having a huge impact on IFE rental and use rates. Many passengers still prefer to use the in-flight system rather than a personal device (for reasons such as battery life and content availability). I heard someone say today, “My phone is capable of playing music. But I still have a stereo in my home.”

With connectivity in the picture, you have to wonder if IFE, handheld or otherwise, still makes sense. To date, the data shows that connectivity uptake rates remain low. What connectivity does offer though, is the ability to increase the functionality and profitability of a handheld offering. For example, you can now transact in real time (15% of flyers get on a plane hoping to rent a car once they land) and serve targeted advertisements. So coupling connectivity with a handheld system strengthens the offering to passengers.

Are there any new software products for the portable IFE market?

Consumer operating systems, such as Android, are seeing some penetration in concept, but no one is flying it yet. Most new software products are in the form of applications that enhance the functionality of the device and ancillary revenue opportunities (such as shopping, destination guides, etc).

How important is connectivity to the portable IFE market?

Connectivity is a big opportunity to bring new applications and revenue streams to portable devices. The connection is an enabler, not the detractor some feared.

What software products are most used on portable IFE and do you see a change in the near future (ie games, movies, email)?

I think a lot of us in the industry love thinking outside of the box and creating new applications and services. Though our experience shows that the number one thing people want to do with IFE is just watch movies. It’s like buying a smartphone these days. When my wife and I got ours last Fall, we looked at all of the cool features and applications that we can download. Though we had to stop and evaluate each device on one core question – how easy is it to make a phone call? We walked away from some phones because making a phone call wasn’t easy. IFE should first and foremost make watching a high-quality movie easy.

Does portable IFE have a bright future and if so why, if not, why?

Admittedly, there is a lot of innovation and shifting going on in the market today. However, portables are designed to address specific market needs. Those needs, like IFE in business class on just a select few routes, are not going away in the foreseeable future. So portables will continue to have a place in the market.

What do airlines think about the programming, charging, and managing portable handout? Is this about to change?

There are obviously logistical needs that are unique to portables. Changing content, charging batteries, and cleaning players has an operational impact, just as would the introduction of any other system to an aircraft. Fortunately, we have years of experience in managing this process. So we are able to limit that impact by working with the airline and airline partners. Also, we are constantly working to make these processes faster and easier.

IPADS??????

I love them.

What is the impact to portable IFE fostered by the rise in handheld tablets?

Handheld tablets have three direct impacts on portable IFE. First, they are setting a standard and passenger expectation. Second, IFE providers have to consider the popularity and developer support communities that exist around consumer operating systems and applications. And third, tablets are replacing portable IFE in some situations (e.g. American Airlines). The buzz around tablet devices is a strong enticer. Our experience with airlines is that there is interest from a an airline marketing standpoint but the operational inefficiencies from tablet PCs usually dissuade airlines. However, there will always be the American Airlines and Jetstars of the world that want to take on those issues hoping for a return in other areas. And I understand and respect that decision. So we, as IFE providers, simply need to be ready to help address the issues that tablets inherently bring with them.

About the time we asked Adam to comment on the portable market, American Airlines announced that they were planning to use a Samsung, Android-based tablet for their upper class in-flight entertainment. Therefore, we contacted Michael Childers (IFE industry consultant) about Android OS-based portables and he told IFExpress: “I believe that the significance of American Airlines’ selection of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is in the choice of platform more so than the device. The Android open source platform stands in marked contrast to the Apple iOS proprietary platform. Basing a product line on an operating system rather than on a specific device seems to have much greater potential, as does using open source rather than proprietary technology.”

He also noted, “The Android operating system is based on Linux, and is the world’s best-selling Smartphone platform.  The Android operating system has ostensibly found its way into IFE product announcements by Thales and Panasonic last year at the APEX Conference. If for no other reason than for the difference between the proprietary iOS platform and the Android open source platform, I believe that the Android-based offering will enjoy greater success in the IFE space than iPads.”

“Another restricting factor of the iPad and iOS platform is in Apple’s business model. Even though they’ve made some recent modifications, Apple architected its iTunes content ingestion path to support a model in which Apple participates in the content revenue stream. Some content providers have deals in place with Apple for the sale of content to consumers through iTunes that restricts them from providing content to an iPad by a means that bypasses iTunes ingestion. With no such restrictions limiting the Android OS, and with an open source versus proprietary infrastructure, it seems to me that Android devices will assume the position in IFE that many thought the iPad would.”

Another industry observer, who wished to remain anonymous, offered this comment: “My strong feeling is that OS-based solutions make more sense than device-based solutions, and open source platforms are much easier to deal with than proprietary platforms. I’ve always had reservations about iPads in IFE for these kinds of reasons. As you know, one airline announced 15 months ago that it would board iPads and trialed them a year ago. By the time that the device was re-purposed, however, iPad 2 had been released. The airline changed its plans to release the iPad 2, but it still isn’t deployed. In another two or three months, according to reports, the iPad 3 will be coming out. If it takes three generations to re-purpose the device for IFE, what’s the point!” (Editor’s Note: As far as we know, there is not consensus from the movie studios on the issue of hosting early window content on a closed operating system.)

Symonty Gresham of SymonTek made the following comments when queried on this subject: “The continued trials of custom loaded “off the shelf” tablet devices (iPad and Android based) marks a significant departure from the traditional IFE model. It not only reduces the reliance of specialized avionics equipment it is a fundamental shift for airlines to take on direct responsibility of the entertainment quality in the cabin. It is also a call to action to the suppliers of both equipment and content to prove their worth in a changing environment, where the passenger gets what they want and the airline relinquishes some of the “duty of care” of the total experience, in favor of the cost saving in an of the shelf offering.The greatest drawbacks are in-compatibility of the aircraft environment/process and the rapidly changing consumer electronics product range/standards and the reduced control airlines will have over the entire experience but these maybe trumped by the sheer reduction in cost.”

Lastly, on a mostly unrelated topic: Our old friend Neil Morgan is looking for a new challenge. Anyone seeking an experienced IFE Sales and Marketing man should contact him on neilmorgan1@compuserve.com.

With An Order Book To Install RAVE(TM) On 57 To 137 Aircraft, IMS Is Just Plain Busy!

At Aircraft Interiors in April, the lion’s share of pre-AIX announcements were seat-centric in nature, and when the sales announcements were being made, The IMS Company’s RAVE™ seemed to corner the market. So we checked in with the folks in Brea, California. While this may be a down market for some, what we found was a flurry of activity as the company is dealing with RAVE™ orders for some 55 aircraft, with installations targeted to start the later part of this year. But if this isn’t challenging enough, the number of orders—including all of the options—could more than double the backlog! And the company is now entering a phase that founder and CEO Joe Renton calls “managing growth.”

“The responsible management of growth is the welcome, yet challenging, byproduct of the market response to RAVE,” says Renton. “Developing a new system from scratch was hard and selling a new system is difficult. If you are fortunate, you then get to deal with the management of orders and subsequently the support of product. It is the collective daily management of all these elements that makes growth uniquely challenging.”

The preparations include staffing, certifications, materials and facilities. The company moved into its Brea facilities just three years ago with an eye toward future growth. And a good thing too, because the company has increased its staff by some 75 percent and nearly doubled its office space in the past 12 months. The team in Brea has also recently completed its AS9100 certification in support of its perpetual performance improvement commitment.  

IMS’ vice president sales and marketing, Harry Gray—who announced RAVE™ orders for Lufthansa German Airlines, airberlin, SriLankan, and Brussels Airlines—is still believed to have another three airline orders in his pocket. So what if everyone exercises all of their options and the number of aircraft jumps to 100—or even more? “We will be ready,” says Renton. So we guess that Harry will keep on selling, however, we doubt that he will miss his annual Pig Roast, coming soon. What you weren’t invited?

If you cannot live another day without a RAVE data sheet, here it is. If you want to order your RAVE system, contact Harry at 714.854.8663 – hgray@imsco-us.com.