As the Telefonix and PDT teams walked the halls of Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg Germany, we took note of some of the most intriguing new technologies and products shaping the aerospace industry.
After the show, we spent time pondering how the rapidly evolving advancements seen at the show compare to advancements in parallel industries and contemplating how those other industries might inform What’s Next for entertainment and connectivity, passenger comfort, materials and more.
This resulting report offers a cross pollination of inspiration and thought provocation that we hope inspires you as it did us.
What we saw at AIX
Increasing revenue through highly visible advertisements
Clean design with minimal footprint
Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs) find a secure home in products from SmartTray, who was named a 2015 Crystal Cabin Award finalist. The simple, elegant stands are built into the tray and enable incremental advertising revenue sharing programs. The team at SmartTray also told us that a version of the product with power is currently in progress and will be launched in partnership with Astronics.
Levitating Bluetooth speakers
A low profile laptop stand with marketing opportunities
Using radio frequencies to charge wirelessly
Honored with a 2015 CES Best of Innovation Award for portable power, Qualcomm's WiPower enables wireless charging through radio frequencies. It was shown integrated into vehicles, furniture, and communal spaces.
AIR2, also seen at CES 2015, features a floating Bluetooth speaker that levitates over its base.
The Flio laptop stand, a Kickstarter success created by Vlad Butucariu, is a super light, low profile solution made of wood which clearly offers lots of advertising opportunities.
Telefonix and PDT have been involved with product docking for many years, designing and testing custom solutions for handsets of all sizes and shapes. Says David Fay, Mechanical Engineer for Telefonix, “with so many different PED devices out on the market, it seems the future is leaning towards more flexible docking solutions to accommodate the passenger and enhance the flight experience.”
“When developing docking solutions for use on aircraft,” states Dave Mellinger, Mechanical Engineer at PDT, “there are so many things to consider, including constant abuse by children, seat pitch, and installed in seat entertainment, just to name a few.” As more and more people bring personal electronic devices on board, and these devices become integral to the airlines’ IFEC system solution, powering and securing these devices in a way that maximizes passengers’ ability to use their technology while enjoying the other services on board is going to be critical. As Mellinger says, “gone are the days where trying to eat while working on a clunky laptop was a common, comical sight; all aspects of delivering a cohesive and convenient on-board experience is the way of the future.”
What we saw at AIX
Solutions leveraging NFC, requiring only a quick tap to pay
IFPL's system features an e-ink screen and can be loaded with products to be viewed and purchased by passengers through NFC without requiring an IFE or connectivity system.
Phitek's Vendport™ Jacks enable passengers to make purchases in-flight via secure wireless interaction with passenger NFC payment devices, like the Samsung Galaxy S line.
Bitcoin is a digital currency, also known as a 'cryptocurrency'
GuestLogix, a payment technology developer for the aerospace industry, adds the digital currency, Bitcoin, to its Transaction Processing Engine (TPE). Their TPE is software running on in-flight entertainment systems and handheld terminals.
Looppay is Simplifying payment with MST
Disney uses simple bands to personalize experiences
Disney's MagicBands contain a 2.4-GHc radio and RFID chip and can transmit information about the wearer more than 40 feet in every direction. Reservations, credit card info and more can be loaded to help Disney employees deliver a custom, personalized experience to the 25 million annual visitors.
LoopPay, acquired by Samsung just months ago, uses a patented Magnetic Secure Transmission™ (MST) to make payments without the stores or restaurants needing special equipment. Users can store thousands of cards' information and use the CardCase as a wallet.
When trying to get people to make a purchase, whether in-flight or elsewhere, the less they think about it being ‘real money’, the more willing they are to buy,” says Joel Delman, Los Angeles Creative Director for PDT. NFC and Bitcoin (as well as Google Wallet and Apple Pay) alter the experience of spending, putting some perceived distance between the buyer and their cash. What could airlines do to capitalize on this? Perhaps prepayments for in-flight purchases can be made before a flight and tied to the passenger’s boarding pass or digital barcode. Accounts could also be ‘loaded’ by exchanging frequent flier miles. This way, the barcode or boarding pass can just be scanned and the account charged, also making a passenger more likely to be loyal to the airline with which they have an account.
As with anything online, security and trust is paramount when asking a customer to use any system to buy an item. Knowing that their personal and payment information is not going to reside in an additional place that can be hacked will be key to gaining this trust. “How providers architect their solutions to provide their customers the best experience while keeping their data safe may end up being a big differentiator in driving in-flight sales,” adds Dave Carlson, Director of Software for PDT.
What we saw at AIX
Smart, elegant and green solution
A simple solution for accommodating various device sizes and forms
B/E Aerospace displayed "Solar Eclipse," a solar charging system for mobile devices built into an aircraft window shade. It was honored with a Crystal Cabin Award.
The Qi wireless universal charging standard combines induction and resonance technologies to power devices. There are now FAA approved Qi chargers. Cobalt Aerospace developed a wireless, Qi compliant seatback charger that holds the device to the charger with elastic mesh.
Converting body heat into electricity
DCRS can beam power up to five meters away, essentially creating wifi for power
A team at the Nuclear & Quantum Engineering at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) is developing an inductive charging system like Qi and PMA, but with a new mechanism called the Dipole Coin Resonant System (DCRS) which can beam power up to five meters away, essentially creating a power zone where mobile devices are charged with no contact required.
Fujifilm created a thermoelectric converter that converts body heat into electricity using lightweight film sticks.
Charging electronic devices has become perhaps the most integral “behind the scenes” part of many people’s lives, driving the development of non-traditional charging methods into a significant market. “Many scientific disciplines play critical roles in passing one form of energy to another, including: chemists, physicists, RF engineers, and material scientists,” says Stephen Lingle, Director of Electrical Engineering for PDT. “In the near future, as envisioned in the images above, efficiency and physical distance will be the driving factors in the development of methods to deliver more energy, to more devices, in more places, safely: including in the air.”
As device proliferation continues onboard, the necessity of power is a given. The interesting question becomes the source of energy. Allison Burke, Executive Vice President of Telefonix commented, “Telefonix’s involvement in electric vehicle charging has made us more keenly aware of the different energy sources currently available today as well as those being considered as future solutions. Seeing the B/E Solar Eclipse solution at this year’s AIX reinforces the fact that in order to provide the level of power needed on board in the future, we cannot simply rely on traditional methods of power delivery.” We are excited to see how these new technologies are quickly translated into opportunities in the aviation industry.
Visuals in Air
What we saw at AIX
A lighter, brighter space makes for a more spacious feeling
Moving maps help passengers feel informed
New technologies are enabling new ambiance opportunities
Moving maps presented in 3D from Flight Path 3D give you different perspectives looking forward, sideways, God's view, etc. This allows passengers to feel like they are a part of the flying experience.
This projection system is scheduled to be on the new B777-X. It is a series of projectors throughout the aircraft that stitch an image together on the aircraft ceiling or monument. The airline can show a moving cloud scape, stars or more.
SABIC's clear, lightweight LEXAN sheet for aircraft, a Crystal Cabin award winner, offers the highest level of light transmission available in an OSU-compliant sheet material today with 80% light transmission.
Flexible OLED screen technology
OLED screens integrated into both car interiors and exteriors
From Toyota’s application in the Fun-Vii concept car to LG’s flexible and transparent OLED display, integration of OLED technologies are just now being integrated in to automobiles.
Reducing passenger tension and creating an environment where time seems to pass quickly is paramount when designing an enjoyable passenger experience. “The use of lighting to affect customer mood was introduced on the Boeing Sky Interior aircraft and continues to evolve,” says Jim Costello, Chief Technology Officer for Telefonix. “Pairing aesthetic treatments like this with delivering information is effective in giving the passenger some feeling of control and in relieving the tension of flight.”
The development of flight information, previously presented as one dimensional lines on an overhead screen, are now available on a passenger’s own device over a wireless connection or on seat back displays. Costello poses the question, “with the introduction of flexible OLED films, will there be a time where the food tray becomes an active display?”
“Display technology is most certainly advancing,” says Tom O’Connor, PDT Industrial Designer. “And it’s important to develop applications that will engage passengers during flight.” Integration of passengers’ own smart devices with interior displays are proving important as SITA sites some 97% of passengers carry a phone, tablet or laptop when they travel. Costello suggests a future where personalization via a user profile stored on the passenger’s phone and delivered through the use of NFC, could deliver a tailored, unique experience to different seats throughout the plane.
O’Connor suggests looking at Bluescape’s visual collaboration platform as a well-designed solution that enables data accessibility and collaboration for those working cooperatively around the world, a feature that could be tremendously valuable to passengers traveling for business. “Enabling these passengers to work seamlessly with their team on the ground while being connected to their content and multiple devices via an airline-provided platform could be intriguing.”
What we saw at AIX
Widely used in military aircraft for years, now magnesium may be used in civil aircraft interiors
SABIC's ULTEM™ 9085 resin has high strength-to-weight ratio and elevated thermal resistance
Carbon-reinforced single body shell
SABIC Innovative Plastics featured a seat prototype with less than 15 components that was 3D printed by Stratasys with SABIC's ULTEM™ 9085 resin.
LSG Sky Chefs and Norduyn's new duty-free trolley is the lightest on the market and molded from a single body shell.
With a new revision to SAE standard AS8049 expected in later 2015, which will effectively remove the magnesium ban, Magnesium Elektron's Elektron®43 magnesium alloy will be an option for those developing interiors. On display at AIX with the Piuma EVO seat from Geven with the goal to create a low-cost manufacturing route for 16-g compatible structure parts made from Elektron®43 magnesium alloy.
3d printed car structure
A waterproof and flame resistant 3D woven textile around frame of car
EDAG's "light Cocoon" concept car's structure was created with a 3D printer, only using material where necessary and a weatherproof textile for the outer skin, which is around 4 times lighter than copier paper.
The Twin'Z electric car leverages a frame wrapped with waterproof and flame resistant 3D woven textile. The contrasting lines aim to create the feeling of a roomier cabin.
Historically, the parallel automotive industry, which is also highly regulated, has been more proactive in the usage of and risk taking with new materials and manufacturing methods,” notes Gil Cavada, Creative Director for PDT. “The auto industry continues to leverage the opportunity to consistently update their products, enhance safety, product efficiency and provide tailored solutions to consumer demands.” It is exciting to see that the aerospace industry has begun a hard push in the implementation of high end composites in everything from engine parts to fabrics in seats. Rapid manufacturing, stability of material in terms of availability, and consumer demand are all matters that will impact the aerospace industry. The implementation of smart materials is also a trend that is materializing into a more mainstream solution. States Cavada, “materials that can actively self-heal, self-disinfect and materials that can communicate information will be the next wave of breakthroughs that will shift the aerospace industry.”
“Setting aside the regulatory challenges that have limited introduction of some of the advanced materials in the aviation industry, one of the largest challenges in designing aviation products with cutting edge material technologies is scale,” adds Chris Hinojosa, Engineering Manager for Telefonix. Until recently, the automotive industry has benefited from economies of scale that have not been available to aerospace suppliers. With the advent of 3D printing and other advances in low volume material fabrication, the opportunity for the aviation industry to have access to small quantities of advanced materials at reasonable prices is evolving.
In-Flight Entertainment & Connectivity
What we saw at AIX
Lumexis offers ultra-low cost IFE System
digEcor delivers customized GUIs
AirFi Box is an independent wifi portable network
The AirFi Box is a compact, portable, battery-powered and self-scaling WiFi network that includes a server, API, and batteries in a small box. It is not integrated into the aircraft.
Passengers are given a large range of options when they connect their mobile devices to the network, including ordering food and drinks, playing (multiplayer) games with other passengers, on-board chatting and more.
digEcor was showing tiheir "Engage" crew connectivity app as well as their "Glide" in-flight entertainment system, which recognizes passengers' preferences based on historic usage of hosted content such as audio, games and movies and delivers a customized Graphical User Interface (GUI).
Lumexis launched its iPAX™ ultra-low cost in-seat IFE system, which, for just $1495, offers passengers a choice of entertainment, shopping, safety briefing and moving map on its 1080p HD screen.
Gogo allows passengers to load the app even before boarding
A two way communication channel allows passengers and flight crew to work together
Gogo's connectivity portal can be accessed via browser or passengers can load the app before or after boarding without having to sign up for Wi-Fi onboard. After accessing the portal, passengers have a choice of more than 400 movies and TV shows from which to choose, in a variety of free and pay-to-watch options.
SITA OnAir is partnering with Zodiac Inflight Innovations (Zii) to improve how passengers interact with flight crew through a two-way communication channel that would operate via an aircraft's in-flight entertainment system on seatback screens or wireless tablets.
"Cabin crew will be able to provide information directly to passengers' screens, such as messages and short video announcement," François Rodriguez, chief strategy and marketing officer, SITA OnAir.
Free form displays
A brain computer interface and wireless scientific contextual EEG
A Wifi Enabled fridge
The Emotive EPOC/EPOC+ is a Brain Computer Interface and wireless Scientific Contextual EEG, which currently enables researchers to conduct research using the company's APIs and detection libraries: Facial Expressions, Performance & Emotional Metrics, and Mental Commands. Future applications of this technology are sure to come.
Samsung's wifi-enabled fridge allows the user to make phone calls and transfer TV programming to the incorporated screen.
"Free form" displays were all over at CES 2015, many without a bezel.
This is an incredibly exciting time for in-flight entertainment and connectivity,” says Mark Schwartz, CEO of PDT. In-flight WiFi in particular has kick started a revolution in this space, enabling passengers to stay connected and entertained via devices installed in aircraft or their own personal devices.
“The trend in the delivery of in-flight entertainment (IFE) services is currently segmented into two parts,” says Michael Kuehn, President of Telefonix. “Economy class and domestic flights are increasingly equipped to deliver wireless and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), while premium service class IFE offerings are progressing and getting even more sophisticated.”
The new, portable “IFE in a box” solutions are going to allow airlines to offer entertainment even on short flights that have typically been ignored. The portable nature of these boxes also offers another advantage in that they eliminate the high capital expense and regulations typical of embedded IFE systems. Airlines will continue to remove weight out of the cabin in economy class and offer BYOD systems.
“PDT has experienced the proliferation of consumer electronics enabling and becoming part of ecosystems for highly regulated industries, like life sciences and aerospace.” Couple that with high-density, on-board servers that can literally store the entire Netflix library, and passengers are seeing the beginning of a whole new level of entertainment. “Nothing makes a flight go by faster than binge watching some Netflix episodes,” adds Schwartz.
“Premium service class IFE offerings continue to expand and become more advanced,” adds Kuehn. “We now have airlines offering multiple screens and Personal Control Units (PCUs) to allow passengers various ways to connect and be entertained.” PCUs look ever more like the ubiquitous smartphone and screens continue to grow. This trend will continue as airlines pay more attention to the high revenue, high yield, premium customers and building loyalty through whatever service edge they can provide.
In terms of in-flight connectivity, it truly has become table stakes for most airlines; passengers expect it. “The battle of bandwidth with KA versus KU versus ATG will continue,” states Eric Tarter, Business Development and Program Management for Telefonix. Passengers’ expectation for connectivity is driving providers like gogo, GEE, Panasonic, and Thales to continue to battle for expansion. Adds Tarter, “The interesting new development is the creation of a new ATG system in Europe using the S-band; this will expand the long awaited European connectivity initiative for the domestic markets.”
Asia, and China in particular, appear to be markets ready to go with wireless IFE, especially ahead of government go-ahead for the IFC technology. “This market will be large and multi-tiered, and will segment from full up systems, which will be upgradeable, to IFC for various service classes to portable IFE products that have been trialed and are being prepared for the market,” says Kuehn. These types of systems will rely on passengers using their own devices and will require equipment manufacturers and service providers to stay on their toes as technologies quickly evolve to ensure all users have access to the on-board systems.
Kuehn adds, “The Iridium NEXT constellation, slated for service in 2019, will also offer interesting alternatives going forward as will the potential broadband ATG options that have been proposed to the FCC for consideration.”
IFE and IFC markets are hot and will continue to evolve quickly, so stay tuned.
Things worth noting
What we saw at AIX
QEST's tilting satellite antenna
Robots in digitized manufacturing
QEST is designing a new Ku satellite antenna for Global Eagle Entertainment. Rather than moving in azimuth and elevation, this antenna "tiltls" in the Z-axis as the aircraft rolls. Use of the antenna is targeted toward equatorial regional operation.
VLM showed a concept using robots to realize increased productivity in digitized manufacturing. The image above shows where material is being deposited rather than removed.