From biometrics to virtual reality, inflight entertainment systems companies are stretching the limits of the media. Here’s our roundup of what was hot at the Airline Passenger Experience Association EXPO.
American Airlines adopted new Alexa skills developed by WPP inflight entertainment company, Spafax, which will allow the airline’s customers to query their Echos and similar Alexa-powered home helpers about what movies and programs will be shown on their flights, including details about actors and film ratings.
The service will also offer travel tips and information on airport activities based on a new IFE and online TV series, produced by Spafax and Business Traveller magazine.
Panasonic Avionics revealed an IFE upgrade, benefiting from multimodal biometric technology, which might help personalize the in-flight passenger experience and simplify the journey.
The proposal for enhanced IFE technology as developed in collaboration with Tascent, which specializes in identity devices, software and services.
The companies believe biometric identification of the passenger by the seat-back screen could enable services like personalized programming catalogues, secure payment authorization for ancillary sales onboard, and even seat-back immigration clearance.
Alastair Partington, founder and co-CEO of Tascent, says:
“Tomorrow’s air travelers will be best served by an aviation industry that adopts biometrics technologies in an intelligent, personal and thoughtful way.”
New specs for the Joons
Skylights revealed a new set of visionary goggles which will give all the millennials flocking to fly on Air France’s Joon brand the opportunity to enjoy fully immersive entertainment and block out cabin neighbors.
The new AlloSky headset, co-created with immersive headset producer Allomind, is less bulky than many existing immersive entertainment devices, 60% lighter, while offering 1080p resolution to each eye.
The creator plans to offer films and programming in 2D, 3D and 180º produced by new content partners 20th Century Fox and Dreamworks as well as content from Warner Brothers, National Geographic, Lionsgate and BBC.
David Dicko, SkyLights CEO says of the development:
“For the first time, airlines will introduce an entertainment experience which is better than anything yet available on the ground.”
AccorHotels, Corsair and JetFly will also be deploying Skylights, with further launch partner announcements expected.
Gogo dives into hardware
Connectivity and entertainment company Gogo surprised APEX attendees with the reveal of a new seat-back wireless streaming entertainment solution which will debut on Delta Air Lines’ new Bombardier CS100 aircraft.
This fixed screen streaming solution, consisting of a consumer electronics tablet permanently fixed to the seat, is a departure from Gogo’s existing BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) wireless entertainment offering currently flying on airlines, including Delta.
The announcement confirms what many in the industry have long said: that seat-back screens are still in demand as a passenger experience enhancement.
In other words, not every passenger wants to bring their own device onboard, and those who don’t still expect to be entertained.
The main advantage of the Gogo Vision Touch product is that it is a lighter weight alternative, easily upgraded, and controlled through wireless-streaming, which eliminates the wiring requirements and technical complications of other embedded IFE.
This new Gogo Vision Touch product was developed through a collaboration with Delta Flight Products, the airline’s aircraft interiors subsidiary.
Jon Cobin, Gogo’s chief commercial officer credited Delta and Bombardier for their role in the development.
“Delta and Bombardier brought a lot of ingenuity to this program and have enabled it to come to life. We’re pleased to work so closely with our largest partner to help them realize their goal of redefining the business of inflight entertainment with a cost-effective solution.”
Immfly on easyJet
One of the big surprises at APEX was the announcement that Barcelona-based Immfly would introduce wireless IFE streaming services on easyJet.
The European budget carrier has long said it had no interest in adding IFE or connectivity to flights unless it could find a good business case for these services.
The Immfly BYOD solution will be customized as easyJet “Air Time” and offer digital content including e-books and programming through a partnership with Rakuten Europe.
Immfly was responsible for coordinating Rakuten’s official sponsorship and supply of entertainment to the easyJet “Air Time” platform.
Immfly already offers inflight sales and communications services on airlines like Iberia Express, Volotea, and XL Airways.
Jimmy Martínez von Korff, co-founder of Immfly, says of the new deal:
“We are enabling easyJet to deliver a compelling inflight entertainment service, with exciting content and online shopping capabilities delivering a platform fully integrated with leading brands and their services.”
“Air Time” will offer a number of digital storefronts, but is for now connected only within the aircraft. easyJet will not offer internet connectivity onboard, for now, though the Immfly platform can be integrated with inflight wifi if an airline adds that service.
Andrew Middleton, easyJet’s ancillary revenue director adds:
“‘Air Time’ will allow us for the first time to offer customers inflight entertainment in a way that replicates how they consume their media at home.”
The first five easyJet planes equipped with Immfly’s BOYD entertainment service will take off later this autumn.
Netflix lightens up
Netflix tried to woo airlines to bring its streaming services onboard by promising more efficient use of the expensive in-flight bandwidth required to deliver Netflix programming.
The company’s vice president, finance and investor relations, Spencer Wang, says that the new encoding would save airlines up to 75% in bandwidth on a typical flight, and offer a 60% reduction video play delay as measured in seconds.
Wang made the case that Netflix service inflight can benefit airline brand positioning.
“For airlines, [Netflix inflight streaming] can generate greater awareness and excitement for your investment in next generation wifi, because most consumers don’t really know what it means to have 150 Mb on a plane, but if you tell them they can stream Netflix inflight they understand that and they understand that it’s better than their prior experience.
“In addition, it can help you ensure a high-quality streaming experience and help customer satisfaction, repeat business, improved net promoter score as well.”
The allure of streaming from the full Netflix catalogue inflight may indeed appeal to passengers.
Virgin America, which was first to debut the service, has been joined by Aeromexico, Virgin Australia and Qantas, and Wang says others will be announced as the entertainment company pushes the business case forward.
But it’s not a persuasive argument for others who believe the proposal mostly favors Netflix by extending a free advertising platform in the air.
Wang circumvented direct questions on whether Netflix was willing to pay airlines for what might be construed as advertising space.
He says he cannot speak to specific airline contracts currently in place, though Netflix does not charge airlines for content. Wang adds:
“I would say, broadly speaking, in our business development partnerships today we have not found that the airline channel is a meaningful or large source of [customer] acquisition.”
On whether Netflix would share customer data with airlines, for marketing purposes, Wang says:
“Member data is incredibly sensitive. We use that to improve our recommendation algorithm. We don’t share that information for various privacy issues.”
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