KID-Systeme has long experience in providing in-seat power and is now expanding into new areas. Ian Harbison finds out more
Airlines sometimes face challenges when social trends become passenger expectations. One of the most significant in recent years has been the proliferation of personal electronic devices (PEDs). Travellers expect to be connected at all times, at speeds similar to the home or office, and this has resulted in the introduction of various wifi IFE systems. However, an additional burden has been the expectation that those devices can be charged in flight.
One of the leaders in the field of in seat power (ISP) is KID-Systeme, which was established in 1999, although it had been in existence since as far back as 1985 as a profit centre by Airbus, having been established to develop the first aircraft Cabin Intercommunication Data System. It then grew to become a specialist in cabin electronic supplies. Its first product, SKYpower, a 110V AC cabin power management system, entered service in 2000. Today, SKYpower, or components from the SKYpower family, are fitted to more than 800,000 airline seats.
Of course, as developments have taken place with IFE systems and, more recently, with the introduction of connectivity and wifi, the company
has adapted and refined its products to meet market requirements. These days, the company’s director of marketing and sales Matthias Zachäus says there is greater demand for USB outlets, which were first introduced in 2012, both as a reflection of PEDs in use and for weight reasons.
The SKYpower system
The classic SKYpower package provides an interface suitable for every 110V power plug design in the world. While it is not particularly heavy, weight can become significant when multiplied by the number of seats on the aircraft and this is why economy class cabins often have shared, rather than individual, ISP outlets. However, premium cabins seem likely to retain this on an individual basis. Such a provision also increases demand on the aircraft’s electrical generation system and any conversion programme requires an electrical load analysis as part of the STC process.
SKYpower USB provides a more lightweight option and airlines prefer these smaller and lighter outlets to the heavier AC units, especially on short range flights, adds Zachäus. However, there is a division between USB-A and the newer USB-C format. The latter is still relatively new and he feels it will not achieve market dominance for another five years, so suggests that airlines look at a unit that combines both types.
There is also a SKYpower combined package that offers AC and USB power in a single unit. A challenge is integration of the ISP unit into the seat. This is often an afterthought, especially for retrofit, and so an opportunity can be missed to incorporate the unit in the least intrusive way, while seat manufacturers sometimes retain a shroud used for larger previous generation units.
A good example of where this can work is a deal signed with Mirus Aircraft Seating in April 2018, working alongside IFE peripheral experts IFPL. The first application was the Hawk seat, as part
of a major contract with AirAsia for A320 Family aircraft, with deliveries spanning at least a decade. By working together, the three companies developed a solution that combined ergonomics and aesthetics, the units being built into the structure of the composite seat, with
two circuit boards being placed in the tip of the arm rest.
The SKYfi solution
SKYfi is the company’s answer to demand for lightweight wifi IFE systems. It is based on the ALNA (Airline Network Architecture) connectivity platform, pioneered by Airbus and KID-Systeme in 2007 and flying on more than 650 aircraft around the world. It consists of a number of modules and is scalable.
SKYfi web provides a wireless LAN (local area network) in the aircraft cabin that passengers can use via wifi on their own personal electronic devices, such as smartphones, laptops or tablets. The system is able to connect to the ground using the aircraft’s existing satcom system.
SKYfi phone enables passengers and crew to use their own mobile phones to place and receive calls and send and receive SMS text messages and use GPRS data, via a multiband network in the cabin. A built-in ‘quiet mode’ allows the telephony service to be switched off by the cabin crew when needed.