Combining the formidable legacy of Rockwell Collins’ IFE with the digEcor IFE and cabin product line, Burrana is planning a bold new future. We speak with the company’s vice-president of marketing & sales support, David Pook, to find out more.
On 18 January last year, digEcor completed its acquisition of Collins Aerospace’s IFE business. In effect, a company with decades of pioneering experience had purchased the commercial inflight entertainment line painstakingly created by Rockwell Collins and its predecessors. Such deals are not uncommon in the aerospace industry, but digEcor set out to make this one stand out.
First, it rebranded the new company, launching the best of both product lines under the name Burrana. It’s an indigenous Australian word meaning “to fly”, which CEO David Withers described at the time as being akin “to our purpose of helping airlines create extraordinary passenger experiences”.
Since then, the company has added a number of key industry players to its staff, including vice-president of marketing & sales support David Pook.
Formerly director of operational marketing at Thales InFlyt, Pook sat down with Aircraft Cabin Management to discuss Burrana’s existing product lines and its ambitious plans for the future.
Taken as a whole, Burrana appears to offer a product range that might normally be expected from multiple suppliers. The company has combined elements of the previous Collins Aerospace and digEcor lines, but rather than the mismatch of elements that might have resulted, the offering seems surprisingly aligned.
A modular and integrated solution
“Over David Withers’s six years as CEO at digEcor, he and his team delivered to market a uniquely modular and integrated solution. In fact, it was the industry’s only fully integrated flight experience under one roof for IFE, power, lighting and services.
Burrana’s goal is to take the concept forward, enabling all airlines to create extraordinary passenger experiences, especially those previously unable to afford such enhancements,” explains Pook.
“We’ve done this by developing a modular plug-and-play solution. It allows airlines to enter the market with new products at an affordable level, while delivering high customer value, and paving the way for periodic investment of product to enhance the customer experience over time.”
He continues: “We’ve accomplished this through several methods, among the most important of which are implementing supply chain efficiencies; reducing the quantity and size of components; simplifying vendor management and certification profile; faster installations and turn-arounds, meaning less aircraft downtime; and simple reconfiguration of LRUs to meet specific customer requirements.”
Next-level passenger experience
In November 2019, Burrana’s IFE offering revolved around three systems: the Paves seatback and overhead system it acquired from Collins, along with Paves On-Demand, which includes a multipurpose media player at the seat, and the ex-digEcor Glide. Combining these systems into a coherent offering seems counterintuitive, but Pook is adamant that these are steps towards a new, integrated offering.
“When we pair the legacy Paves solutions – ie on-demand and broadcast overhead – with our integrated flight experience product portfolio, and leverage Glide technologies, the obvious next step is to shape what makes sense to achieve our vision of taking the passenger experience to the next level.
“We aim to achieve this by collectively bringing the right new technology to market and looking to our engineering expertise and proven ability to rapidly develop and certify new products. We pride ourselves on listening to our customers, understanding their vision and requirements, and developing new solutions to deliver on these needs.”
All of this means that new technology is definitely coming but, in the meantime, Burrana hasn’t forgotten its successful legacy systems. “We continue to support the Paves and Glide products in the market and ensure new technologies are integrated into them for the future, including the 13.3-inch 4K Retract screens, for example,” Pook confirms.
Understandably tight-lipped over exact details of Burrana’s future range, Pook nonetheless confirms key elements of its specification. He expects to offer a fully integrated IFE solution, both standalone and with connectivity, for line-fit and retrofit customers. Capabilities will include integration into an airline’s existing wifi system, display of external aircraft camera feeds and mapping. “Our connectivity strategy,” he says, “will be launched in due course.’ He then confirms: “Our future solution will continue to derive benefit from a modular approach across systems, products and services.”
Burrana’s modular approach is apparent in the Glide system, which may be specified to include in-seat power. Airlines could opt to include power depending upon cabin, with ports in premium economy but not economy, or paid-for power in the latter and inclusive in the former.
Pook says while all this is possible, Burrana’s “in-seat power solution makes it easy for airlines to offer passenger power at every seat rather than class specific. Ordinarily, airlines will offer USB at every seat and multiple USB ports and 110V ports in premium.
“To date, no airline has monetised power at the seat so far as charging for power. But our system supports the ability for crew to enable or disable power at each seat as a purchased service.”
While Burrana is planning a new, modular IFE system building on the strong foundations laid by Paves and Glide, it would be a mistake to ignore the comprehensive portfolio of cabin experience products it inherited from digEcor. Featuring Passenger Service Solutions (PSS) interfaces, lighting and power, the range also extends to Engage, a mobile-based system helping cabin crew optimise customer service for an improved individual passenger experience.
Demonstrating the flexibility already built into its existing systems, Pook says Burrana’s PSS product is available for retrofit on any aircraft regardless of systems.
“The primary function of PSS is to provide individual passenger control of crew call and reading lights, with optional audio channel selection and volume control for overhead broadcast IFE systems.
“We also offer it as a standalone for widebody cabins, using an innovative and unique design that is modular and scalable. This modularity allows for a fully integrated solution, providing multiple options, including PSS plus tape replacement.
“There are still aircraft flying with legacy Hi8 tape systems offering broadcast IFE, and our tape-replacement system comprises the video control panel for Glide and Paves embedded systems. Once installed, these support legacy broadcast video with digital source material, as well as providing the baseline for a seat-centric IFE experience in every seat,” notes Pook.
“The video control panel replaces the entire video-control cabinet and connects to the aircraft’s existing audio/video systems to consolidate tape decks, PRAM [pre-recorded announcements and music] and video controllers into a single unit. It features configurable terabytes of internal storage and is updated via SSD content drives, USB or 4G modem transfers.”
It is thus a viable solution to replacing tape with a digital source, removing tape decks and connecting existing audio/video systems to offer PRAM, PA and moving map, as well as PSS control. Emphasising the scope of Burrana’s capability, Pook states: “A full cabin-management upgrade includes IFE, lighting, power and PSS.”
Catering for multiple devices
Power in, or close to, the seat is increasingly essential to today’s multiple-device wielding passenger. Burrana’s solution to in-seat power currently targets the retrofit market and Pook says in that respect the company is “all about making it simple and easy for airlines to deliver enhanced passenger experiences. Power has become an expected commodity, no more a value add/surprise-and-delight feature for travellers.
“To answer this need we’ve designed and developed cost-effective options to suit passenger power installation projects dependant on airlines’ needs and cabin configurations, including the installation of power in existing seats as part of a direct aircraft retrofit, a fully integrated solution as part of our Glide and next-generation embedded IFE systems, or pre-integrated into seats in a collaborative partnership with the seat vendors.
Lighting to the fore
LED lighting is another of the ex-DigEcor hardware lines moving across to Burrana. Once an exciting new item, LED is now more or less accepted as standard for its flexibility, reliability, low installed weight and safety benefits. It also unlocks the potential for digitally controlled lighting changes and cabin themes and, in combination with IFE, could evolve into something new again. Pook agrees.
“It hints at what we see is the future of the inflight experience – a cabin of integrated technology that communicates with all on-board systems to enable operations for numerous applications, control of individual seats, control of the cabin, including IFE, lighting, power, inflight service, passenger announcements, food and beverage ordering, and much more.”
Today, Burrana’s catalogue includes three levels of LED, from simple white through white plus one colour, up to full-effect mood lighting.
“These options offer a clear value proposition to meet individual airline requirements,’ Pook explains, “whether the intention is simply to remove old equipment and outdated technology for airlines with small budgets looking for long term maintenance wins, up to full-service airlines exploiting lighting to deliver unique brand experiences, including the replication of sunset/sunrise based on departure and arrival times, improving passenger wellbeing, or matching inflight services to time of day and so on.”
Software tracks preferences
By contrast with the majority of Burrana’s products, Engage is a software-only system, designed for use with mobile devices. It embodies features offered elsewhere by a variety of vendors, but in a single package that enables cabin crew to better understand passenger preferences and improve their travel experience, in part by allowing data entry detailing passenger preferences and behaviour, but also about observations of concern.
As Pook observes: “Engage works through five product modules that include two-way communications to capture data: Cabin integrates data from airline CRM, which is then synced with ground systems; Forms enables crew and staff to gather and share data on their mobile devices and report any resulting issues, including cabin defects and crew performance, to the airline; Ground provides airport ground staff with real-time information on passengers and enables them to input data which is passed through to cabin crew, helping to streamline the gate/boarding processes; Content provides access to electronic flight context aware documents, manuals and other files, eg flight delays, transfer information, lost luggage: and Notifications: enables flight context aware messaging between cabin crew, ground staff and head office.”
From its Brisbane, Australia headquarters, Burrana sees geographical expansion running in parallel with its new products. “We currently provide sales account management, technical and customer service support in each of our regions,” Pook says.
“Our primary manufacturing facility is in Mexico, with additional capability in the US and Australia. We also have engineering and programme management teams in the US, while our global footprint of services will continue to expand in size, location and capability as we grow.”
That growth is inextricably linked to what comes next and that’s primarily the new-generation modular, integrated IFE system, promises Pook. But what exactly the industry should expect, he won’t reveal: “We’re focusing on AIX 2020 to launch what comes next.”