Australia-based in-flight entertainment specialist Burrana has unveiled Rise, which it describes as its most powerful IFE platform to date. Elsewhere, Panasonic has its sights set on creating bespoke passenger marketing solutions, Inmarsat uses innovative technology to provide fast and secure inflight connectivity on board Boeing, and Astronics picks up an award for its portable IFE solution. Group editor Colette Doyle has all the details
Rise to the challenge
Formed following digEcor’s acquisition of the Collins Aerospace commercial IFE business and named after an indigenous Australian word meaning “to fly”, Burrana is dedicated to producing integrated, end-to-end cabin technology. Its latest innovation is Rise, a platform consisting of hardware, software, apps and services that can be scaled up or down depending on aircraft type and business need.
Enabled by shared hardware and a common 48VDC power backbone, the Rise platform can be configured to include seatback, wireless, or overhead entertainment, as well as in-seat power – or any desired combination of the above.
“Rise was created to solve airlines’ most challenging issues regarding inflight entertainment, while providing passengers with an experience unlike any other,” comments Burrana’s VP of marketing and sales support David Pook.
The displays within the Rise platform are 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) resolution and feature High Dynamic Range (HDR), large amounts of local storage and robust processing power, packaged in a thin and modern design. Each seatback display also supports integrated single-pin audio, Bluetooth, Near Field Communication (NFC), and the airline’s choice between USB-C or the industry’s highest power USB-A offering.
Rise leverages crowd-sourced data and intelligent algorithms to deliver a dynamic entertainment experience that adapts to the passenger as they use it. Targeted advertisements, a powerful recommendation engine, plus comprehensive accessibility settings will provide passengers with “an intuitive IFE experience that is uniquely theirs,” claims the company.
Airlines’ IFE management teams will also benefit, according to Pook. “We’ve been really clever about how we’ve architected our software, apps and services. Rise has completely eliminated the need for time-consuming and expensive change requests. Airlines will be able to add or remove apps from aircraft via a simple, web-based tool and make changes to their GUI (Graphical User Interface) by themselves, without the need for formal acceptance testing.”
In addition, Rise offers numerous ultra-high-speed content loading options and easier maintenance; it is also said to be 30 per cent lighter than competitive solutions. Rise will be available for retrofit on single and twin-aisle aircraft starting in early 2021 and ready for line-fit installations shortly thereafter.
The next big thing
Panasonic Avionics is renowned for offering a range of digital solutions that can be tailored to an individual airline’s business objectives, as well as for using digital innovation to enhance the passenger experience.
The company’s latest innovations include Next, its next-generation inflight entertainment and connectivity system. Aligned with new trends in aircraft architecture, Next delivers a superior cinematic experience and technological advancements focused on weight reduction and simplified seat integration for every cabin class. This includes Theatre, an impressive and powerful inflight entertainment experience that combines diverse media with the highest audio fidelity and video quality.
Another recent innovation is Panasonic’s revolutionary 3D inflight map application, Arc, which brings a wide range of new features to the traditional moving map. Inspired by the latest design thinking in contemporary UX and high-definition gaming experiences, Arc enables airlines to leverage the significant number of passengers who view moving maps inflight. Arc has answered the market’s call for innovation in the map space with numerous pre-launch commitments and is set to take to the skies later this year.
Exploration of emerging technologies has led Panasonic to develop visionary concepts for the aircraft cabin. These include personalised discovery, where the goal is enabling tailored and contextual destination information while being supported with e-commerce possibilities.
A flight often affords plenty of time for passengers to discover and learn more about their destination using intelligent IFE content; selected content can then be easily downloaded on to the passenger’s personal device for use when they arrive at their destination.
Another interesting development is the use of sensors and predictive data to support the safety and well-being of both crew and passengers inflight. This technology is already used in homes and public places; such an application would extend its use into the aircraft cabin to enhance the inflight experience.
This could include extending the seamless connectivity of personal devices to seatback IFE systems; allowing a passenger to game or interact and execute social activities with neighbours or interest groups in the cabin. Most of these social activities are already a reality in everyday life on the ground – this kind of technology could make it possible while in the air.
The right connection
Global mobile satellite communications expert Inmarsat is to use ‘smart pipe’ technology to provide fast and secure inflight connectivity from the cockpit to the cabin. This enables airlines to avail themselves of multiple third-party applications simultaneously on board the new Boeing 777X aircraft.
The brand-new infrastructure has been designed to independently allocate connectivity bandwidth to multiple applications. This enables airlines to unlock important operational benefits such as predictive maintenance, route optimisation, modernised air traffic management and real-time crew communications, while also offering enhanced passenger entertainment, including high-speed internet and live television.
The ‘smart pipe’ functionality means that applications delivered on two of Inmarsat’s award-winning satcom solutions, GX Aviation and SwiftBroadband-Safety (SB-S), are each able to have a unique service level agreement and guaranteed performance levels, independent of other applications that are also operating through the same terminal.
Inmarsat’s new ‘smart pipe’ technology will initially be available to airlines that have either ordered or plan to order the Boeing 777X. In addition, these capabilities will be available as upgrades on other aircraft models.
As outlined by the London School of Economics in its Sky High Economics report, the connected aircraft will save the aviation industry $15 billion annually by 2035; the joint venture project between Inmarsat and Boeing is a significant stepping-stone towards this goal. As the only operator of fully owned and managed networks providing global high-speed broadband to both cabin and cockpit, Inmarsat describes itself as being in a unique position to help both original equipment manufacturers and airlines achieve the best solution in terms of digital aircraft transformation.
Expanding into new markets
In other news from Inmarsat, the company announced earlier this year that it would be bringing its connectivity solutions to Saudia Arabia via a partnership with Sada Al Ammah to deliver cockpit safety services and passenger cabin broadband wifi connectivity, using GX Aviation. This will enable airline passengers to browse the internet, stream video and music, check and update social media and more during their flights.
The Inmarsat network enables a wide range of services, such as fleet management, remote analytics, data transfer and other IoT/M2M applications in areas with non-existent or unreliable connectivity. Further capacity is set to benefit customers in Saudi Arabia soon, with the recently launched GX-5 satellite coming into commercial service later this year to meet the surging demand for high-capacity broadband across the skies of Europe and the Middle East.
Meanwhile, the company’s GX Aviation solution has reached the one million mark in terms of free inflight broadband sessions for Air New Zealand passengers. The impressive milestone was achieved approximately one year after Air New Zealand switched to a free-of-charge model for its inflight broadband service.
GX Aviation is currently available on almost 25 aircraft within the Air New Zealand fleet, operating on Trans-Tasman, Pacific Island, US and London routes. This includes a combination of Boeing 777-200, 777‑300 and 787-9 aircraft, in addition to Airbus A320 and A321 neos.
Astronics takes top honours
Astronics Corporation’s portable inflight entertainment product, Sierra, has been on the receiving end of lots of attention this year. First up, it received the Good Design Award in the transportation category, presented by the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design together with the Metropolitan Arts Press.
Founded in Chicago in 1950, the programme remains the oldest and world’s most recognised authority for design excellence worldwide. Astronics’ Sierra was selected for this award from a record number of submissions from
the world’s leading manufacturers and design firms, representing the most important influential corporations in the design industry.
The Sierra is an affordable, scalable IFE solution that delivers inflight entertainment as a standalone unit from a single battery; when installed and powered, it can employ multiple units merged into a single network to cover a larger aircraft cabin. Sierra enables passengers to enjoy hundreds of hours of streaming audio, video, digital magazine content and more. The product stands up to the rigours of flight in the overhead bin while delivering streaming content that matches the experience of installed IFE without the need for a supplemental type certificate (STC).
Sierra garnered further plaudits when it was shortlisted for the 2020 Crystal Cabin Awards alongside Astronics’ Edge cabin network platform. The Edge works on a cabin network IFEC platform, said to offer “unprecedented modularity, security and cost effectiveness”. Distributed computing architecture enables the Edge platform to service any number of streaming devices while offering redundancy and self-healing capabilities to eliminate the possibility of service outage. The Edge does not require rack space and eliminates the Arinc 600 architecture to enable a fast, economical, overnight installation.