BY RICHARD WILLIAMS
Suppliers of lightweight and even portable wifi streaming devices have seized the opportunity to provide onboard entertainment services to the passenger at little or no cost to the airlines. Here are a few options making their mark.
Bluebox expects to announce its first customers for WOW in the next few weeks after onboard trials. Its box weighs 1.8kg, with battery, and each device supports up to 50 passengers concurrently streaming video. The number of boxes required depends on the passenger capacity of the aircraft, the length of the fuselage and the number of devices being used, but typically two or three for B737/A320 size aircraft. The box is mounted in overhead lockers and has a 15-hour battery life with no STC required. A fixed power feed is also available but requires certification.
The box includes video (movies and TV), audio, magazines, city guides, games and a moving map as an additional option. An app is only required to watch DRM content (which includes nearly all Hollywood content and the newer releases).
Bluebox engineers provide a full maintenance and support service and most software updates can be conducted remotely. Indicator lights on the box show any faults, so a replacement can be supplied.
The Cube weighs 10kg and on a typical narrow-body aircraft can serve 40 users streaming concurrently with browsing available to all.
Just one box is required per aircraft (A320 and A321 size) and it can be installed in the forward or rear galley. The product has been fitted onboard B737-800 for a programme of test flights completed in the summer and now a wider roll-out (on an undisclosed airline) is scheduled. No STC or aircraft power supply is required and the battery life is a minimum of 16 hours.
Typical content includes movies, TV shows, newspapers and magazines, order-to-seat functions, travel guides, games, a home delivery product range, advertising and airline-only content. An app is only required to view movies and TV shows.
Maintenance is done by MIM while content updates are done as part of the standard catering loading. The battery recharges overnight.
Winner of the Newcomer of the Year award at APEX Expo, Immfly’s portable solution weighs 2-10kg per box (depending on the box) and is adapted for each aircraft depending on passenger volume.
The server is installed in the avionics bay, and the wireless access points in the roof the cabin. The solution is currently in use onboard the full Iberia Express fleet, and ready to launch onboard XL Airways A330 and Volotea’s A319 fleet. The portable solution requires no STC certification and the battery lasts 8-10 hours.
The platform can be accessed either via the web or an app and content includes news, magazines, movies, TV shows and series, kids’ channels and games. There are also city guides with activities and transfers to buy in over 50 destinations. Flight tracker information is also available.
AirFi works with 19 airlines worldwide with boxes now on over 170 aircraft. Each box weighs 1.8kg and serves up to 100 passengers from overhead lockers. The portable version needs no STC to install, and has a battery life of 15 hours. The box is brought onboard by crew or caterers and activated at the start of each day.
The system can be used from gate-to-gate and is maintained centrally by AirFi. Venus comes with a shopping module, a 3D map, 100 games, onboard chat, movie, music and AR-content players, virtual tours of over 9000 museums, virtual city walks, trip advice, Instagram, newspapers and advertising engines. It also has a PCI-certified payment solution which can link to crew tablets, third-party mPOS solutions, and a crew portal on a separate and secure network.
The content can be managed by AirFi, a content management partner or the airline and passengers require no download app, unless Early Window Content is required – in which case AirFi supplies a Digital Rights Management (DRM) app.
Deployed on the entire Eurowings A320fam fleet overnight (over 70 aircraft), BC Portable uses an individual device – called an MSU (Mobile Streaming Unit) – placed in an overhead locker. It weighs less than 2kg and provides streamed content for up to 50 clients. It can reach the entire cabin of a typical A320 via two or three devices.
Content typically includes Hollywood movies and TV shows, magazines, moving map, kids’ content, games, destination information, affiliate integration for destination-based offers such as bus tours, museum tickets, taxi services, targeted advertising, and onboard retail. Content can be updated either via SSD or dynamically over an LTE modem.
The system is operated either using batteries or with an external power supply and no STC is required. For the external power supply Lufthansa Technik has developed a fast and easy solution to provide power within the aircraft.