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Axinom in-flight service platform is a newly introduced companion for the aviation industry’s digital needs. The digital platform aims to reduce the complexities in the management, delivery, and deployment of data, content, and services on an aircraft. Utilizing standardized architectures, it simplifies and unites the various digital passenger, cabin, and crew systems.
“With the services platform, we open up avenues to create unique experiences that benefit the passenger, the crew, and the service providers. Moreover, all that is done through a single system that reduces the hassle of certifications as every digital service is containerized and runs in a controlled environment,” says Ralph Wagner, CEO, Axinom. He adds, “With real-time connectivity on top of that, operators can easily create new business models and generate revenues.”
The in-flight services platform allows integration of multiple own or third-party systems and services, such as IFEC, maps, IoT systems, advertising engines. Using this platform, the operators can safely manage and deploy data and services. Moreover, as the services are encapsulated in docker containers, the need for testing and certification is considerably reduced.
The operators get granular control over the service orchestration, deployment, and resources. The various services can request resources such as disk space, sensor controls, and the operator can decide to allocate resources or remove the services as needed.
In-flight services platform is composed of several Axinom products; Most critical are the on-ground and on-board components of Axinom In-Flight Services (IFS) and the Axinom Content Delivery System (CDS)
The on-ground IFS component provides an interface to ingest and manage different services and content packages, with a provision to also provide access to third-party providers. The IFS then prepares and packages the services, and hands them over to the CDS for further transfer to the aircraft.
Wagner describes how the CDS and IFS control data packages and pipelines, “The CDS receives the packet of data from the on-ground IFS and sends it to their on-board counterparts, where the system can compare, and process what to do further with the data,” adding that, “The on-board IFS component can then decide whether the data or service belongs, for example, to magazine or maps application, or a crew system, and then install or assign them as defined.”
Using IFS capabilities, operators can explore multiple use-cases to build smart systems, for example, gathering and reporting of sensor data for temperature-controlled cargo, sending the status of intelligent seat controls to crew devices, acquiring passenger data from the booking systems. By leveraging on such data, unique passenger and crew experiences can be created, and it opens new avenues for innovative operations and business models.
Another novel use-case that has already seen the adoption of Axinom In-flight services platform is the Axinom Wireless Seatback (WSB) system. The WSB utilizes the aircraft’s wireless network to provide IFEC services, through an embedded wireless seatback system or the passenger portable electronic devices (PED).
Designed around a single wireless infrastructure, the system simplifies the IFEC software requirements by reducing the complexity of integrations of any kind of services such as seat controls, eCommerce, and by allowing easier system upgrades. Utilizing the Axinom Content Management System (CMS) for content management, workflow needed for different video content and metadata is also simplified.
Axinom CMS enables operators to create their media product library and make content sets. Typically, such sets consist of movies, TV shows, and music. “The CMS is where editors can see the properties of media and can change the descriptions, pricing, and create bundled passenger offers,” says Stefanie Schuster, the chief commercial officer at Axinom, adding that the CMS can also provide an interface for reporting and analytics.
Schuster says that a key feature of the WSB System is the “on-board wireless network infrastructure.” Using Wi-Fi simplifies the IFE system by eliminating the need for lots of complicated wiring. With the removal of unnecessary seatback wiring, an early adopter of the system has realized substantial weight savings, and lower maintenance costs.
Wireless Seatback uses a tablet device that pairs to the aircraft’s network and is installed into the passenger seat. The system also allows pairing PEDs to the same network infrastructure, giving the passengers the experience and convenience of dual-screen.
“Traditional IFE screens, wired with tons of cables, are prone to breakage, and maintenance can take a lot of resources and efforts” explains Schuster. “We provide the software that enables the usage of tablets embedded in seats. The only wiring needed is a power supply from the aircraft to the tablet. Once connected it is then possible to stream wirelessly from the on-board server via Wi-Fi access points.”
“Having both options of seatback screen and PED means the passenger has more choices in how they want to experience on-board entertainment content and services. This creates a very personalized viewing experience,” says Schuster.
Axinom answers the skepticism around the usage of wireless infrastructure for IFE by using a unique hybrid approach. The system uploads the most popular content onto the memory of the seatback tablet. This pre-positioning of content allows the independent running of the system in cases of connectivity issues or failure of the network.
“An aircraft full of passengers streaming movies at the same time will put a large load on the Wi-Fi network. The Sync App of the CDS component, pre-positions whole or parts of the content on to the tablet, reducing the load on the network,” says Schuster. “Smart pre-positioning of content means that only the most popular or liked content is stored on the limited tablet storage.”
Processing the media content beforehand is the fundamental step in delivering unrivaled IFE experience to passengers. It requires encoding or transcoding of media content with highly efficient video encoders for space savings, encrypting and packaging it with common encryption scheme into adaptive streaming format; this process ensures that the content can be played back on both seatback screens as well as PEDs, which can be a lot of different devices with different OSs.
“Including high-quality premium or early window content in the library means that operators also need to adhere to Digital Rights Management (DRM) requirements. This is crucial in order to source content from Hollywood studios. The on-board Axinom DRM service takes care of the content security, by checking device entitlement and serving licenses,” says Schuster.
The availability of on-board Axinom DRM, integrated with the IFS, allows operators and content providers to protect the early-window or premium content, which is of vital importance when mixing embedded devices and PEDs.