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Uncluttering the IFE

The aerospace industry is at a remarkable period in time. On the one hand, there is a vast backlog of aircraft that are waiting to be delivered from airframers, pointing towards an unprecedented boom in the industry.
On the other, increasing competitiveness is lowering margins and augmenting the need to reduce operational costs and build a loyal passenger base.
Continuous innovation in the cabin- and flight systems have brought along some savings, but there’s an entirely new field of personalized cabin services through which the industry can generate substantial ancillary revenue. Utilizing such new avenues of income requires disruptive changes in technologies. Connectivity in the cabin is one such change.
Passengers are keen on becoming more connected and want to use their own devices but at the same time do not want to give up seatback screens.
This is evident by data provided by IATA in it's 2018 Global Passenger Survey. It showed that 54% of passengers would choose to watch digital content on a seatback device, as opposed to 36% preferring their own devices. This presents a big dilemma for the industry. Shift to wireless IFE and save money on hardware while risk passenger discontent? Or keep relying on seatback IFE and the costs (upgrades, upkeep, maintenance) associated with that.
Being a passenger experience (PaxEx) driven industry, this decision doesn’t come easy. And then there is also the need to integrate connectivity for passengers and modern avionics. All this adds more layers of complexities to not just the hardware, but also the systems software architecture.

Going wireless – complexity or solution?

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A possible solution that resolves these pain points is the wireless seatback in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) system. However, there is a lot of skepticism around it, such as:
  • How can wireless seatback serve on a high capacity long-haul wide-body fleet?
  • How data and content can be delivered to the vessel and then to all the seats without network issues?
  • How can a seamless ecosystem be created along with the seatback screens and own devices?
  • How can early-window content be secured?
  • Does it require specialized seat back hardware?
While designing and creating digital architecture for a wireless seatback (WSB) IFEC, Axinom addressed all of these industry concerns, requirements. A major focus was to make the system standardized, easy to implement and adopt while still keeping PaxEx at the center.

Standardization – Costs and sustainability

Wireless seatback ecosystem utilizes hardware and operating system agnostic approach with containerized deployment and orchestration using Docker and Docker Swarm.
This enables the use of commercial off-the-shelf hardware solutions for seatback devices and flexibility in choosing the software components. As a result, the industry is witnessing a new level of autonomy in building IFEC solutions.
In addition to autonomy, there are also other immediate benefits. Benefits such as wire-harness weight and thus fuel savings, cost-effective upgrades and updates, reduced content cycle times, easier replacements and lower maintenance needs among others.

The Digital Framework – An Ecosystem

The wireless seatback IFEC is built on a highly capable technology stack that takes care of the entire digital media workflow, from ingestion to security. Also providing seamless delivery and synchronization capabilities across multiple communication pipes.
It integrates several unique and innovative features that enable the industry to personalize the passenger experience and leverage on integrations to capitalize on ancillary revenues.
The robust backend consists of data and content management through Axinom CMS and Axinom IFS. Content protection comes via multi-DRM supporting (Axinom DRM. Together, these solutions power the process of media protection, management, and publishing. Synchronization between ground and aircraft is being handled by Axinom CDS (Content Delivery System).
On-ground and Onboard
The highly automated on-ground infrastructure gives the industry full control over the distribution process and parameters, such as which flight path or fleet gets what content, who gets access to the system or the offloaded data and much more. The on-ground infrastructure is complemented by an equally capable one on-board the aircraft.
Among other functionality, it provides control over data transfer methods and prioritization. Based on data criticality, economy, and availability, data could be transferred via satellites, a cellular connection, wifi, physical storage or a combination of them.
The system acknowledges the sophisticated nature of the transfers and hence, provides important features of interruption management, incremental updates, and real-time sync capabilities.
The final piece - Axinom IFS
The IFS handles all data and services both on-ground and on the aircraft. It handles numerous integrations for provisioning seamless connectivity options for passengers using personalized captive portals, use of own devices through custom apps or QR code, online and offline advertising, e-commerce, destination-related services and much more.
To address the issue of network congestion, the system leverages Axinom’s hybrid storage technology that connects server-based and a seat-centric approach to reduce network usage by pre-populating the most common and early-window content right on the seatback devices.
Consequently reducing network congestion and providing fault tolerance in case of a network outage so that all seatback devices can operate independently using the pre-placed content while staying disconnected.

Third-party compatibility

One of the advantages of being built upon Axinom’s aero platform is the fact that the wireless seatback system is highly customizable and integrates well with other third-party systems and services.
It's built using containerized and standardized architecture. This makes the process of management, delivery, and deployment of the various systems and related data much more easier. Another advantage of using a containerized approach is the removal of the hassle of certification from individual services
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