OK, let’s kick off this IFExpress with some “trends” we saw at the show in Boston. These aren’t predictions but just observations and we will of course talk about them in the weeks to come.

  • Big IFE seems very interested in satcom. This sort of makes sense, especially if there is a future payback.
  • Show booths are seemingly getting a little smaller?!
  • Connectivity is becoming more of industry focal point.
  • People’s personal devices are affecting the industry in at least 2 ways: They may impact the future IFE embedded installations and the inseat power folks are all smiles.
  • There is a next generation system and it looks amazing, especially since it can help you enjoy the flight experience better.
  • Software Analytics in a big supplier’s booth blew us away because they have a working user system hardware/software application. If you have their hardware, they can provide an incredible total aircraft system monitor that knows if and where failures are. Further, the application allows the airline to monitor content usage, per tail, per seat, per route! (More on this later).
  • As satcom frequency bands go up, aircraft satcom dishes are getting a little smaller and lower in height.
  • Speaking of satcoms, LEO systems are garnering more interest every day.
  • There is a new player knocking on the door of the Big 3 IFEC camp.
  • One vendor has found a way for you to pay for your PED power usage – on the plane!

Some Highlights from APEX EXPO:

PANASONIC

During Panasonic’s media briefing, Panasonic’s Chief Technology Officer, David Bartlett discussed the three overall areas of focus for the company: 1) Improving customer satisfaction by providing the passenger a seamless experience, 2) Improving operational efficiency, and 3) How to use digital transformation to drive revenue and new business opportunities. As a result, Panasonic has been focusing heavily on artificial intelligence and machine learning and their new NEXT cloud-based platform allows them to leverage these new technologies. Panasonic has also strengthened their existing relationship with Black Swan for Artificial Intelligence.

Andrew Mohr, Head of Innovation at Panasonic Avionics, unveiled their new Wellness Suite of products, which is one of the four pillars of the NEXT product line. The Wellness suite features five products: premium lighting, active noise control, nanoe air quality, the Detalytics Health app, and Mimi personalized audio. The premium LED lighting product is targeted to hit the market in 2020 and will have various scenarios that the traveler can select from, including circadian rhythm, sleep, mealtime, and/or entertainment. The noise control product that was discussed, and demoed in the booth, was in a premium seat whereby the external noise was reduced by 15 decibels without the use of headphones. The technology is adaptable to each seat configuration and will calibrate inflight to each passenger’s seat. It has a frequency range of 80-400Hz and in-seat controls, integrating with the passenger IFE. It too will be launched in the 2019/2020 time frame.

Nanoe was another wellness feature. This is an air cleansing technology, that is currently used on the ground in Japan and in automobiles including Range Rover and Jaguar, that creates nano droplets of water to remove airborne odors and pathogens. But get this, the ionized water droplets are 15,000 times smaller than a human hair follicle!! The nano-sized electrostatic atomized particles are distributed at 480 billion nm particles per second, resulting in the removal of viruses, bacteria, fungi and odors from the cabin.

Artificial intelligence comes into play with the Detalytics health app. AI is used to assess various aspects of a passengers’ health/wellness and deliver accurate recommendations to them via the app. Perhaps the most amazing offering in the Wellness product suite came from Mimi audio technology. Mimi is an app that uses a specialized algorithm that tests and tunes the audio headphones to the passengers’ specific hearing requirements.  The passenger can either answer a series of specific hearing related questions or simply select their gender and age – the results are truly phenomenal! The health and wellness market has been a huge success on the ground with all the wearable technologies available today, whether it be a FitBit, Apple Watch4, Garmin, etc. It was only a matter of time before this booming industry reached into the airline market.  As expected, Panasonic indicated they have an undisclosed launch customer. All this is attainable because of the NEXT open platform.

Panasonic also announced an IFEC deal with Uzbekistan Airways for 3 B787-8 and 2 A320neo aircraft. The X-Series IFEC system, in conjunction with a suite of connectivity services, will be line-fit installed on the new jets. A personalized, home theater experience, with HD screens and high-power USB charging at every seat, AVOD, and capacitive multi-touch screens. The aircraft will also be outfitted with inflight Wi-Fi service. The B787-8 will also have live television and the ability for passengers to use their mobile phone in flight. All the aircraft in this contract are slated to enter into service in January 2019.

Egyptair also selected Panasonic for 15 A320neo aircraft. The X-Series IFEC platform will be line-fit installed on the new narrow-body aircraft, starting in 2020. Business Class will boast 13-inch HD personal screens, a video handset and high-power charging facilities at every seat. Economy Class will have 10-inch HD screens incorporating a USB power point, with charging facilities at each seat group. Inflight Wi-Fi service will also be available; as well as, inflight shopping options and a 3D flight path moving map. Egyptair has also opted to use OneMedia, Panasonic’s advertising platform, to target onboard advertising campaigns by categories including seat class, flight destination, origin city, content categories, and languages.

GOGO

On the opening day of the exhibition floor, Gogo announced that their IPTV product, dubbed Gogo TV, is up and flying on three global airlines, delivering live television to 550+ aircraft. Sports, news, and other content is either delivered to the passengers’ Wi-Fi enabled PEDs or enabled into the seatback IFE system. The airline can customize channel options, allowing their passengers to view popular networks in their country and/or region. Gogo TV is available via the Gogo 2Ku high-speed satcom service. Gogo TV uses High Efficiency Video Coding compression that facilitates bandwidth usage up to 40%. The system also combines multiple channels into a single multicast stream (statistical multiplexing), resulting in a highly efficient solution that offers the best possible perceived video quality while using the least total bandwidth.  Gogo also announced that Air France launched Gogo’s 2Ku high-speed connectivity system on an A330 and B777 with installations being underway on the balance of Air France’s long-haul fleet of 83 jetliners.

THALES

American Airlines and Thales announced during the EXPO that the airline has selected AVANT IFE System for their 22 new B787-8 Dreamliners that are scheduled to enter into service in 2020. Business Class travelers will have 17-inch HD Flex screens and the Thales handheld controller, Avii, that also has the capability to be used as a second screen. Premium Economy will have 12-inch Fit HD screens, while economy will have the 10-inch version.

In the Thales booth, the highlights were on their three-tiered IFEC offering: 1) CORE – their streamlined entertainment product that has a low time to market and uses the Thales developed standard GUI. This product is line-fit offerable at both Boeing and Airbus today, 2) AVANT– uses the current platform that Thales has developed but facilitates more design choices and a degree of customization for the airlines, and 3) PRESTIGE – which is a high-end product that is co-designed and co-innovated by the airline and Thales working closely together to tailor the passenger experience. Presently, both the CORE and AVANT products are available.

Thales also addressed their commitment to Big Data, which they said not only facilitates personalization for the passenger but also has implications for airline operations and its associated costs. Closely related is Artificial Intelligence (AI), with they see playing a significant role in preventative maintenance by utilizing just-in-time parts shipping. Thales stated they are fully dedicated to connectivity and their Ka-band technology investment. They added that they are presently looking into 5G as well. And lastly, but certainly not least, they indicated that Thales has a commitment to Cyber Security.  The indicated that the Thales IFEC group was fortunate to have the Thales Group investing in the aforementioned categories.

Thales also announced that Vietnam Airlines strengthened their partnership with the airline’s selection of AVANT IFE for their new B787-10 fleet of aircraft. This agreement expands their existing relationship for the airline’s A350 and B787-9 fleets with AVANT IFE and turn-key maintenance services.

HOT TEAM = ENCORE

For the past few years, we have been impressed by the inflight entertainment content folks out of Hong Kong and we wanted to introduce you to Jovita Toh’s Encore team …“is made of a group of in-flight veterans who have individually evolved within the inflight and content industries, enhanced their expertise with polished skills, exchanged personal time and effort for added knowledge, enabled the organizations they work for with necessary insights and are now joining forces to extend their collective experience to the exciting world of inflight entertainment”… we couldn’t have said it better! You can find out more here. Watch these folks because they will be content suppliers of the future! PS, they turn out a great monthly newsletter – contact Tommy Ko.


Other News:

AIRBUS

The Board of Directors of Airbus SE (stock exchange symbol: AIR) has selected Guillaume Faury as future Airbus Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Faury, 50, who currently serves as President Airbus Commercial Aircraft, will succeed Tom Enders, 59, who remains CEO until the Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 10 April 2019, when the appointment of Faury as executive member of the Board will be submitted to shareholders. Guillaume Faury served in various senior management roles at Eurocopter from 1998 to 2008. Starting in Engineering, then Flight Test, he later became Executive Vice President for Commercial Programmes, then Executive Vice President for Research and Development. In 2009, Faury joined Peugeot S.A., where he served as Executive Vice President for Research and Development as a Member of the Managing Board. In May 2013, Faury returned to Airbus as CEO of Airbus Helicopters and in early 2018 he took the helm of Airbus Commercial Aircraft. Denis Ranque will continue as Chairman of the Board of Directors until the end of his mandate in April 2020, as foreseen in the staggered board succession process, introduced at AGM 2016. At that time and after seven years as Chairman, Denis Ranque has requested to leave the Board to pursue other interests. The Board will commence the process of selecting a new Chairman in due course having regard to, as expressed in its internal rules, the importance of maintaining international diversity at Board and Management level.

NOTES OF INTEREST