31st annual event offers focused education, first-ever Passenger Choice Awards™ ceremony and largest display of IFE products and services under one roof

New York, NY., October 7, 2010 – The Airline Passenger Experience Association, APEX, formerly the World Airline Entertainment Association, drew a record attendance at the 31st Annual Conference & Exhibition, which offered an intensive day of education, a newly created recognition program honoring industry leaders for enhancing the passenger experience and a 3-day expo providing a window into the future of air travel.

More than 2,300 representatives of the world’s top airlines and companies delivering inflight entertainment, communications, connectivity, seats, cabin interiors and publishing attended the industry’s premier event at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center in Long Beach, CA, USA, last month.

This year’s expo recorded the largest number of registered airline attendees with 396, representing 73 airline member companies from six of the seven continents. Vendor delegates accounted for 1,886, represented from 161 companies. In all, 2,343 people attended this year’s event.

The expo was collocated with the International Flight Services Association (IFSA) and Aircraft Interiors Expo Americas to form the largest, most comprehensive exhibit of IFEC technology, inflight products and services in the world.

“I’m pleased with the tremendous turnout at this year’s annual conference and exhibition,” said Patrick Brannelly, APEX President. “It’s a testament to the hard work, and quality education and innovative programs that we were able to produce a conference of this caliber. By the amount of people circling the expo hall, it’s clear that the airline industry is committed to enhancing the passenger experience and expanding into unchartered territories of technology and service.”

The organization officially retired WAEA and transitioned to APEX. The membership voted to change its name earlier in the year to better reflect the role it plays in delivering the passenger experience for the world’s commercial airlines. The association new APEX logo, designed by a member and voted on by the membership, was unveiled at the conference and will be used on all marketing collateral moving forward.

Approximately 550 people attended the educational sessions, which were led by APEX members and global industry leaders, and featured the latest trends in media programming, inflight broadband strategies, social networking opportunities and much more.

Keynote speaker Sarah DaVanzo of the Kaplan Thaler Group opened the conference with her session, “The Egg + Snowflake Zeitgeist: Two Global Consumer Trends Shaping Lifestyle, Travel and Technology.” A comprehensive day of education followed.

More than a dozen awards in a range of categories were given to recipients of the newly created Passenger Choice Awards™. Also handed out were the Avion Awards, Outstanding Contribution and Lifetime Achievement awards.

The APEX exhibition offers the opportunity for airline representatives and vendors to meet face-to-face in pre-scheduled appointments to discuss and demonstrate various inflight offerings. Nearly 100 vendors attend the event each year to showcase the latest state-of-the-art audio and video hardware; the latest films, music and special programming; inflight phone, fax, and satellite telecommunications; passenger services and technology.

The 2011 APEX Conference & Exhibition will be held in Seattle, WA, USA, 11-15 September. For more information visit APEX.

After looking through our show photos, we noticed that there were some other products, features, and companies we had not mentioned and we thought our readers might enjoy. We also found a few features we hadn’t noticed that last go-around. Here is the final roundup of the show coverage. Next week we will start ‘drilling down’ on the big ticket items and their features, and will do so for the foreseeable editorial future – so stay tuned.

AVID’s Tom Mockler had us try their Premium Line Noise Canceling Headset – A6420 and boy did they work. While we did not get the price he noted that “they are half the price of the high end product”. And no, that is not Dave wearing them! You can follow AVID on Facebook!

Larry Girard demo’ed the latest RAVE hardware – seatback screen/electronics assemble. Note the key used to access the display and it was the only HOT SWAPPABLE unit we saw at the show. The thickness of the unit has shrunk and we think airlines have already ordered. Visit the IMS website and check out the RAVE specs.

There were a lot of Hollywood stars at the show….

Here are two seats from Aviointeriors and note that they are positioned end of the spectrum. First, here is their elegant economy seat, and secondly the now-famous, “saddle seat”. Please observe that the latter demo unit is constructed of tubing (model-like), however, it is the cleverest seat marketing gimmick ever. It garnered most press visits of the show! We doubt that we will ever see the latter on a plane because of the limited egress, and frankly, the Aviointeriors folks did not think it would gain acceptance because of cert issues. They did, however, perform some preference testing with no public results reported.

Good guy, Ray Felk, is now a consultant after spending many years at ECS. If you need equipment rack and/or cabling expertise, this is the fellow you want to get. You can reach him at 414 6178901 or via email: rfelk@aol.com. Tell him IFExpress sent you!

This economy seatback/tray table from Astronics has our vote as probably the best way to fly IFE-less in the “back of the bus” and bring those smartphones and iPods we all seem to carry – please note the USB charging capability. It will not support iPad power requirements (2 A or so), however, some bright person said to use the 110 AC power outlet and your 110 AC charging module – DUH!

This is an ashamedly obvious plug for an energy drink, BodaB, concocted by Paul Burke, of Telefonix fame. The new formulation works even better than the old one (called EXE) which we equated with Lake Erie water (it wasn’t). The IFExpress crew sipped BodaB throughout the show. Also, be sure to check out their cord reel products on the telefonix website.

When you get rich (not in the newsletter business), this is what you will sit in when you fly!

Thales brought their latest version of integrated seat/IFE and you should note the card reader and interface option panes on the lower left (USB port, phone jack, game controller, etc. Thin and gorgeous, we loved it. Watch the Next Generation video for the details. Very Cool!

Not to be outdone, Panasonic showed their integrated IFE on 3 seat supplier products. Now designated EcoSeries Smart Monitors offer seatback IFE with monitors as large as 11.1 inches. They have managed to reduce the thickness and cut the weight and power in half from their previous generation devices. Interestingly, there are no mechanical switches and they have a new optional, screen filter (lens) that offers viewing privacy. – also, now the tilt mechanism is eliminated too. Check out the specs in the link. By the way, if you have not met the new Panasonic PR guy, Brian Bardwell, prepare to be impressed!

Lastly, we have a new feature planned that will probably get your attention, if for no other reason than it will be somewhat controversial. We will tell you a bit more next time as the development work is underway!

This year we are going to do something different. The Hot Topic will summarize all we saw at Long Beach and then as the weeks roll on, we will dig deeper into the ones you need to hear about. Firstly, the thousand pound gorilla in the room was the Android operating system, the background chatter was Ka Band inflight connectivity, and the word on almost everybody’s lips was ‘iPad’ – not to mention that silly stand-up seat with the 23 inch pitch. Having said that, we will probably look into each topic separately, but for now, let’s press on. On the last day of the show, and after he left, John White announced his retirement from the Avion magazine. He exited without fanfare, we hear, to avoid all the “good bye’s”, so, here is a public one – Thanx John, for it was you who got us int this mess!

Next, our overall impression was, from a technical perspective, great. Some vendors were mumbling about the lack of visitors, but you can decide for yourself by looking at the show photo’s on Flickr. At almost every booth we visited, and we visited over 20, there was something we had not seen or heard about. We do this because there is a lot of innovation that gets overlooked or doesn’t warrant the benefit of a press release. Not to mention the newbies, characters, friends, and the just plain weirdos. After all, isn’t that why you read IFExpress? Lastly, we are sorry for those vendors we missed. Mostly, you were busy with customers and we understand that. If you feel that your product or service was slighted, send a note to ifenews@airfax.com and we will follow up with a telephone or email interview!

Astronics: Big with the power folks is a new set of USB seat power outlet concepts. They are also introducing a 225 VA ISPS with a USB power outlet at each of 3 seats as well as 110 AC.

ACS: Aircraft Cabin Systems rolled out their new thin line of LCD aircraft displays. Looks to be 33% slimmer than the standard size and ACS offers 4 sizes up to 42″.

AirCell: We got a good AirCell update from John Wade. Over 1,015 aircraft jets installed with paid sessions going up each month and no peak in sight. The bizjet market is smoking and the order from NetJets (approx 800 in fleet) is certainly a big deal!

Carlisle: Cable maker, Carlisle, displayed their usual offering of aircraft cable assemblies and we were interestingly challenged to pick out the ones made in their offshore factories. Their latest Ethernet product looked no different than their other products and we were a bit surprised to find out they were made in their Dong Guan (Shenzen) factory. The company controls the process, quality and sourced materials – their AS9100 certification is proof.

digEcor: Brent Wood and Adam Williams laid out their new inflight shopping portal “Mill Creek Shoppe” and demo-ed the L-7 player (Lafeel) with a great built-in mouse. Watch for new advertising co-op features that support independent advertising suppliers. Oh, and we thought their flying monkey was great fun!

Goodrich: Recent acquirer of TEAC, their show entry featured their V01HDD player that has a Blu-ray drive for more storage via DVD disk. We noted a terrific Electronic Flight Bag device on the table but it was a bit early to tag an IFE application with it. Alas, sad news for IFE as Al McGowen is now Mr. Military.

IMS: The RAVE system is now ready for prime time and the final product (powered hot-swap and all) has quite a few features that looked VERY airline friendly. Rumor has it that a few customers have stepped-up to the plate already. Joe Renton pulled us aside for a sneak peek that their new COTS re-purposed player, and yes, it is built by IMS. Check out Flickr.

Inflight Peripherals: The Geoff and Claire show was a hit again this year, and yes, they had a contest to assemble one of their inset headphone jacks. The ‘wall of shame’ told the whole story with one entrant blowing away the competition with a speed around 10 seconds.

Interact: Seldom do we cover content providers, however, this year, we hope to do a Hot Topic devoted to these folks. We like their focus on customer support and regional content in providing audio and video programming, creative content/content management, and encoding services.

Airbus KID-Systeme: Perhaps the biggest effort we saw at KID was their integrated seat power program with Recaro. We saw the production prototype and here is a picture of the inseat-power-supply-that-mounts-in-the-seat-beam.

Live TV: After looking at the Iridium satcom hardware for 2 days, we finally got the story on the LiveTV Aero OpenPort system. Using the 66 satellite constellation, they have found a way to deliver 128K continuously to the aircraft. Don’t scoff, this a PERFECT blackberry data solution, served in the airplane via Wi-Fi. Here’s the clincher, they can demonstrate offering it as a freebie! BTW, Mike Moeller gets our nod as the best pitchman at the show!

Lumexis: The F.O. IFE company out did last show record by bringing a COMPLETE wide-body IFE system, up and running to the show. Some 243 seats worth of IFE (fiber-to-the-seat), and 2 small servers (4 MCU each). This is the low calorie IFE winner, and frankly, we do not expect the hardware to return to Irvine!

Mezzo : Dave Sampson, CEO, shared his new COTS Personal Media Player with IFExpress.

SmartJog: Wow, did Christiane Ducasse and Jodynne Wood knock our socks off! Smartjog is THE purveyor of digital content between IFE entities. By placing a Smartjog server/hub at each end of a communication line, security and daft integrity is guaranteed. These folks are suck a household name that they have become a verb – “Just Smartjog it to the customer”. Hot Topic territory for sure.

Panasonic: The Cool Room is back! What more can we say? A lot, in fact. Too much to cover it here. Suffice it to say, we saw all the bells and whistles in the CR, got the lowdown on Ku and Ka Bands, sat in the integrated seats, played with the Android IFE system, watched a 3-D interactive product, and visited the Panasonic App store. We promise a Hot Topic on each of these topics as there is NO WAY we can do it here. As an afterthought, there is no one that can throw a party like Panasonic – thanx!

Thales: Winner of the Best Innovation Technology with their TouchPMU, the folks we met with were justifiably proud of their tethered handset-entertainment player-controller. A perfect product for single aisle player and on twin aisle planes, it is a great controller that can be used to control entertainment or games on a bigger screen. Oh yes, there was an app on that – the OS is Android. Thales demonstrated a very flexible integrated seat that is in an very mature state (orders on the way) and a novel LCD/mirror display. What a bizjet product!

Rockwell: New kids on the block, Joel Otto and John Darvell talked up the Digital Paves (D Paves) but would not talk to much about the Android OS that others were exploring. We think the next IFE show will bring some Rockwell surprises and they may first show up on the Bizjet side.

VT Miltope: What’s not to like with the ‘OEM supplier to the aviation industry’? As a platform agnostic, peripherals and system supplier, Bob Guidetti told IFExpress that they have been spec-ing and supplying connectivity products for B787, A350 and B777 aircraft and now have a MIMO Wi-Fi WAP.

Honorable Mention: We cannot let this opportunity to go by without mentioning 2 of the “little guys”. Sitting off in one corner was Plane Bill and in the other G.U.E. Tech. We loved both these companies for different reasons. Plane Bill, the Italian software innovator showed us a fistful of Android apps, specifically designed for airlines. After getting infused with Android platforms by all the big players, here sits Plane Bill, with some of the most innovative software we have seen. They even developed an app that an Android Smartphone equipped Muslim can use to find Mecca directions for prayer. On the other hand we really do not have a clue what G.U.E. Tech does. Having said that, we know that it has something to do with 3D rendering engines, game software, and generally computer graphics. Hey, any company that authors a video game called “Lurking Horror” cannot be all bad! What was so doggone impressive was the enthusiasm of it’s CEO, Max Lingua, and his complete love for what he does. Please visit their websites and send some business their way – they are gems!

Two New Members Seated

Long Beach, CA., September 16, 2010 – The Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX), formerly the World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA), is proud to announce the election of two new members to its Board of Directors.

Jonathan Norris, the vice president of the cabin design office for Airbus, and Christine Zhu, product manager for Inflight Communications and Entertainment, for Cathay Pacific Airways, Ltd., have both been elected to serve on the board.

“I am looking forward to working with Jonathan and Christine,” said APEX Board President Patrick Brannelly, “The experience they and the companies they represent bring to the board will allow us to further enhance the airline passenger experience.”

Norris and Zhu will both serve one year terms, having been duly elected by the voting membership of APEX which has representation from throughout the inflight entertainment industry and passenger communications industry from the world’s leading airlines and vendors.

The President, Vice President, Treasurer, and four director positions were all up for election this year. Sitting members of the Board running unopposed were President Patrick Brannelly of Emirates, Vice President Manoela Amaro of TAM Airlines and Treasurer Linda Palmer of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Non-Theatrical. Directors, Chris Babb of Delta Air Lines, and Neil James of Panasonic Avionics Corporation, were re-elected, and will serve one and two-year terms, respectively.

The Secretary, Dominic Green, Immediate Past President, Christine Ringger, and two directors, Kevin Bremer and Leigh Mantle, are sustaining members on the APEX Board.

Results of the election were formerly announced today during the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX). The AGM is a platform for APEX members to discuss important association business, plan for the future, and share ideas and comments about the association to the board of directors.

APEX’s Annual Conference is the premier event for the inflight entertainment industry. The event was collocated with the International Flight Services Association (IFSA) and Aircraft Interiors Expos America, and took place at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center in Long Beach, California USA, 13-16 September.

The 2011 APEX Conference & Exhibition will be held in Seattle, Washington, USA, 12-15 September.

Click here for more information about APEX.

The opening salvos from the WAEA (Now APEX) were as expected with virtually every speaker mentioning or displaying iPad-isms. Marketing and futurist, Sarah Davanzo, as keynote speaker opened the conference with her separating the consumer into “eggs” and “snowflakes”. At odds, the two crowds are diametrically opposed, much like extraverts and introverts. At last I found out that I am an “egg flake” because energy drinks and coffee move me from the passive mood to an active one. Sarah may not agree. And speaking of mood, the next thing is a marketed mood stage. The best take-away was the so-called “cathedral effect” that causes newbies to a building or plane to “look up”. It seems that designers are setting a mood stage on an airplane when they add LED soothing lights or projected clouds and stars. Think of the value of this to teenagers in auto backseats!

The portable media player sessions were another source of ‘wonder and excitement’. We all wondered why a few declined to be there and were excited by the statements of the ones who were. The “iPad” word was bandied about by the Stellar representative but we must tell you that we did not really understand, or for that matter, believe what he said. Stellar is employed by Jetstar Airlines to get the iPad and conent on their aircraft. Phantom Media/Blue Box started this initiative six months or so ago. But there was a brouhaha and they got in a bit of hot water over their claim of “studio early window” approval. As far as we can tell, here is the view from those who know: 1. Apple doesn’t give a hoot about IFE…they sell millions and will continue to do so. IFE, today, is a niche market. 2. The only way to really insert early window, encryption and decryption software into an iPad with limited Apple dev kits, is to “legally” jailbreak it. Of course, one can “non legally” do the same, probably, but will studio content hackers bless it enough for early window content? One source says 5 out of 6 studios have not approved and they were even sure of the supposed one that did. In reality the real question is the early window release going to remain. Certainly no, one guru told us. Further, what’s the point of all this early stuff when studios are down to a few weeks on their early release exclusivity and airlines use up half of that time during the content encrypt and upload process. Keep an eye on this one iPad watchers and don’t forget that within a few months there will be a whole mess of Windows and Android handhelds out there. Installed IFE is on a crash course with the handheld market. Period!

Dave Sampson, Mezzo gave us a quick course on the Mezzo rewire. Check out their website. It seems that they have become platform agnostic, while still supporting their eDigital units. Sounds like the right move to us. And by the way, here is a quick pic of the little Android baby he was toting in his pocket. Looks like a Dell PMP to us, and it really has a GREAT screen. Boy, things rate getting interesting and more interesting by the minute.

Sniffing out a story is what the Hot Topic is all about and this looks to be a good one. It appears that not only will The IMS Company reveal a new I7 (that’s “i” 7) – Personal Media Player in Long Beach at the WAEA/APEX Annual Conference, but that the player will be IMS’ first purpose-built portable. IFEXpress has learned that WIN, the WAEA Newsletter, will carry an article tomorrow, September 1, that says that COTS-leader IMS has opted to include a purpose-built PMP alongside its COTS devices in response to certain market requirements. We understand that the new player will offer as an option “the longest life battery in IFE” as well as enormous storage capacity. IMS has moved into Secure Digital (SD) technology in its RAVE™ seat-centric embedded system, its 4th generation Terminal Data Loader (TDL), and now for the hat trick – in its new player. A reliable source tells IFEXpress that COTS (consumer-off-the-shelf) technology for portable media players does not make it easy to address the special requirements of some airlines for extended-life batteries and huge storage requirements at a price point that reflects where the market is today. While COTS may be very suitable for many airlines’ requirements, a growing list of requirements must be purposefully addressed, and IMS has done so. So check out WIN tomorrow, and the I7 at Booth 1638. And by the way, ask them about some unannounced customers for their new products!

And now our second story (er, mmm, comment ) is about delay #7 for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It is an interesting view of recent outside consultant roles in realigning Boeing’s engineering excellence to that of McDonnell Douglas. At issue, and more recently, that of the outside consultants role in helping the employees to foster more openness, etc., etc.,? After reading this piece, we had to ask ourselves and our readers if Douglas management took over, why did Boeing have to buy them out? Here is that article.

Here are comments from our readers, some of which were long-time employees, about the last B787 delay and the above article:

“Let me get this one straight — the plane is 2+ years late and now the engine is holding the plane up?  All of the suppliers played the game of chicken correctly on this plane. Now they want to “help” the employees do a better job of openness. Is this step #5 of that old blame process: 1. Enthusiasm, 2.Panic, 3. Disillusionment, 4. Search for the guilty, 5. Punishing the innocent, and 6. Rewarding the non-participants?”

” Wanna take bets there isn’t yet one more 3 month slip to be announced before end of year?!!!  Anyone for mid-2011?”

” Long distance management was a dumb idea! because they (upper management – Editor) live in Chicago.  The whole management structure is just out of touch with reality and then they bring the idiot squad in from the Defense side to run things because they don’t think BCA has anybody who can manage programs – if that’s the case I guess it’s a ‘horse on us’ for not getting good people ready to run the programs.”

“Just remember, many of the vendors (esp. IFE vendors and seat vendors) apparently signed-up for contracts with Boeing such that they don’t get paid until the transfer of title takes place — it was one of those ‘conditions’ for doing business on the B787.  I am quite sure that the big IFE players signed up to this condition. Ouch!”

This is your unofficial reminder about the upcoming WAEA (soon to be APEX) Conference & Exhibition, Sept. 13 – 16, Long Beach, CA. If you are only budgeting one conference for IFE this year, this is the one. We asked an expert for a one liner about the forthcoming show and here is what he sent – most excellent!

“There will be a full day of Educational Sessions on Monday, September 13. These include a panel discussion about repurposing COTS technologies in IFE. Moderated by Michael Childers (LightStream Communications), the panel includes Joseph Renton of The IMS Company, Brad Heckel of digEcor, Michael Reilly of Stellar Inflight and Mark Smith of American Airlines. The panel will consider the use of COTS portables versus purpose-built portables, and the issues associated with repurposing COTS devices in IFE, including the difficulties involved in securing Early Window content. An update on Jetstar’s rollout of their iPads is on the schedule, and Jetstar has been invited.

Social media in the airline industry will be discussed in a session headed by Bowen Payson of Virgin America, while inflight broadband will be discussed with Aircell, Row44, and Panasonic. The association’s new logo and winning designer will be announced, along with the Avion Awards.

APEX Technology Committee will advise on “What’s your Technology Committee done for you lately?” Moderated by TC chair Rich Salter (Lumexis), the topics will include updates on content security watermarking by Leigh Mantle (Inflight Productions), digital advertising by Ian Walberg (Airborne Interactive), and new MPEG-4 settings by Michael Childers (LightStream Communications)—all members of the TC leadership who will be joined by David Coiley of Inmarsat, Erik Miller of American Airlines, Jonathan Norris of Airbus, and Bryan Rusenko of Crest Digital in a broad discussion of the technology issues facing the industry today. In separate sessions, Robert Smith of IMDC will also discuss technology in a panel considering “Managing the Passenger Experience in the New Generation of Aircraft,” and a Case Study on the arrival of new airline flydubai – the launch customer for Lumexis – will be presented by representatives of that airline.” Here is your link to more WAEA Conference info.

Futurewatch: We hear from our high finance guru that airplane loan money is hard to come by this year. Apparently, ‘big capital’ is not interested in 100% financing on new lift. What to do? Simple, buy a bunch of retired or used birds for $10M to $20M each, add another $3M to $5M for interiors and IFE, and keep on flying. You know the rest – watch retrofit IFE sales take-off this year and next!

Can’t sort out who-has-what in terms of inflight Internet? Check out Jaunted

If you saw this coming, give yourself an A+ in Social Networking 101. Delta is now selling airplane tickets via Facebook