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APEX Review

expected, or at least, the airlines are providing the technology for us to watch a film, catch up on Facebook, make a phone call and send an email from our airline seat. All this and more was on very discreet ‘show’ in Panasonic’s ‘Cool Room’ where we were seated in a prototype super hi-tech airline seat where all and every command could be made by tapping the correct icon featured on the arm rest. Icons such as Twitter and Facebook took the user directly into the network and the choice seemed to be endless. Perfect for First passengers but we came away thinking that all this fabulous technology will probably only ever be accessible to those at the front of the plane and not those who would probably most appreciate it, down at the back. Virgin America and Lufthansa Systems

presented the next generation wireless RED™ inflight entertainment coming to their aircraft soon. Currently being trialled on an Airbus 320 ‘nerdplane’, the BoardConnect system will slowly roll out from 2012, giving passengers a touch-screen seatback monitor with wifi connectivity and the facility for passengers to truly multi-task using wireless connection from their seat into their own electronic devices. “Its’ all about offering travellers more options, more control, more connectivity and more content” said president and ceo of Virgin America, David Cush. Another innovative contribution to the

scene comes from LUMEXIS. Richard Salter of the Lumexis Corp talked us through the concepts they are adopting to lighten the load to an airline, literally. Their solution offers up a complete IFE experience at a weight cost of only 2KG per pax. The systems are able to be fitted to aircraft in just three days. One of the key factors of this lightweight solution is

the amazing server strength and bandwidth offered. A potential of up to 80MB is a lot more than the competition according to Lumexis. Furthermore, the servers can cover up to 132 seats each with isolation per seat or group of seats. The solution is all US manufactured with

the exception of the power supply which has been sub contracted to Pascall Electronics Ltd which is located on the Isle of Wight in the UK. The exhibition featured players from all

parts of the IFE supply from manufacturers of equipment to business solutions for users and of course the major film and TV programming suppliers like Disney, Paramount and the BBC. When it comes to buying films and viewing

choices on board, GOGO, based in Itasca Illinois has solutions. This is a service streamed via Internet into the aircraft. Passengers can buy credit on the website and use the service

“It’s all about offering travellers more options, more control, more connectivity and more content”

on board. Airlines include Air Canada, Alaska Airlines and Virgin America. As this service was explained to us by Steve Nolan, GOGO’s director of PR and Communications, we wondered what the reaction has been and how this might expand to other parts of the world. The pre-purchased package allows the passenger to access and choose the range of movies and programmes. If they are unable to complete viewing before landing, their access code allows them to complete viewing via the laptop or computer once on the ground. This concept raises a number of questions. While

Opposite page: APEX Seattle chairs a discussion on the future of onboard entertainment. This page: the kontron team exhibit; American Airlines’ Samsung Galaxy Tablet; Virgin America.

there may be a market for purchased movies in an Economy cabin will it be the same in Business? Surely they would balk at having to fork out for a movie after having paid possibly thousands for a premium seat? Secondly, if experience is anything to go by,

most of us get on a plane to get somewhere else rather than to watch a film. The IFE is there to help while away the hours. They are not the reason for boarding! This is a new concept in additional revenue streams for airlines so it will be interesting to see how successful it becomes. One of the repeated comments heard refers

to ‘the last metre’ Millions are spent on improving the quality of equipment, screens, programming style and content, but this is then often spoiled by poor equipment at the seat itself, specifically the headphones. American has for some years offered Bose

headsets in First and Business which are truly wonderful things. Many airlines offer noise reduction sets but in our experience, none come up to the superior standard of Bose. The new QC-15 set is a particularly comfortable round-the-ear set and at US$299 is a worthwhile investment for the frequent flyer on airlines where they are not already available. That last metre is the difference between something of an ordeal to a truly enjoyable entertainment experience onboard. The companies showing in Seattle promise so

much more to come in the field of IFE. And the airlines seem to be buying into it aggressively, proving that even on the plane, there’s no business like Show Business! 57

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