Owners and operators of business jets certainly do. So much so that the desire to provide the greatest audio-visual (AV) experience is arguably one of the most important elements of cabin management system (CMS) design today. Standout picture quality, truly immersive sound, and the ability to support next-generation experiences like the metaverse and 8K streaming are all top of mind when it comes to cultivating the finest on-board environment. With that in mind, this blog sees us delve into the cornucopia of innovations that will see passengers channel their inner Bowie, sit right down, and revel in the gift of sound and vision.
At the forefront of modern cabin management system design is OLED technology, which is rapidly maturing to the point that much thinner and lighter displays can be integrated seamlessly into the cabin while at the same time, offering considerable weight savings. And these benefits are not just available to those larger aircraft either. OLED displays are becoming more widely available in a range of sizes – from 10-inches all the way up to 100 inches and above. Supply chain issues notwithstanding, those in the in-flight entertainment (IFE) and CMS markets are responding to insatiable demand for OLED by launching an array of new products and forging key partnerships.
DPI Labs, for example, became the first company to bring OLED large-format display technology to the business aviation market with the installation of its SmartCanvas product on a VVIP Boeing 767 in January 2021. And, building on its existing partnership with LG, Rosen Aviation has teamed up with Japan-OLED to offer a new range of displays that all feature 4K UHD resolution, High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Wide Colour Gamut (WCG).
OLEDs can also be curved to meet the shape and contour of virtually any cabin and both companies are starting to field requests for digital windows and skylights. These can be fed by one, or multiple, outside cameras to provide an augmented reality overlay to highlight points of interest. For its Maverick Project, Rosen produced a pretty cool video showing how future business jets can use OLED (and various other tech) to create such virtual windows. You can check it out here.
Of course, 4K and 8K content needs to make its way to these screens in the first place, which is why we’re also seeing increased interest in the use of Li-Fi as a means of data transmission. As we covered in our February blog post, the technology is incredibly fast and can deliver multi-Gbps. Furthermore, it opens the door to helping realise the holy grail that is the wireless aircraft. Indeed, designers have long been hindered by big bezels, clunky switches and endlessly complex wired installations that can get in the way of a clean upgrade process. As we move towards an environment that is fully integrated, smart, and aesthetically pleasing, Li-Fi could have an important role to play.
So too will new forms of control interface. Take, for instance, the new Bombardier Challenger 3500, which comes with the industry’s first voice-controlled cabin. Other technologies are being closely examined too. Gesture control has been discussed for a while now, but it is the subtle integration of more traditional forms of control that could quickly gather momentum in the near term. FDS Avionics has designed a range of switches with haptic feedback that double as OLED screens and can be reprogrammed to provide unlimited menu customisation. Taking it one step further, Rosen has developed virtual buttons that can be embedded into any material to create a smart surface concept.
Longer term, holographic controllers might come into play as part of a growing desire to build technology that is there when you need it and largely invisible when you don’t. This kind of approach seems to have resonated with True Blue Power too. The company’s latest Qi compliant wireless chargers are unique in their ability to provide charging at a depth of 9 millimetres making it possible to install them more discretely and into thicker materials.
Back to sound though, which has, for a long time, been relegated to the sidelines with the industry almost guilty of taking a “it is good enough” attitude to the A in AV. However, the development of quieter and quieter aircraft cabins has caused operator bases to take notice of the fact that on-board systems have not kept pace with the evolution of consumer technology. In fact, many are so far removed from immersing the listener in sonic perfection that it is not uncommon for younger travellers to plonk a simple JBL Bluetooth speaker on the side ledge to listen to their favourite tunes.
With that in mind, the last few years have borne witness to a number of interesting developments around in-aircraft cabin audio. SkyCinema, for example, aims to shift the paradigm from “good enough” to “best in class” and offers a low-cost route to upgrading the sound experience with its theatrical-grade audio processor. The processor supports a seamless means of installing Dolby 5.1 and 7.1 surround and includes an expansion slot for upgradability to Dolby Atmos.
ALTO Aviation has been busy too, recently unveiling a new 3D immersive sound system that consists of loudspeakers and digital amplifiers, mapped strategically to create immersion for movies, music, sports and video games. And Rosen, while not an audio expert, has shown its intent to work with best of breed suppliers. By teaming up with France’s Devialet, they can provide high-resolution acoustics in uniquely compact and iconic designs that are fully integrated with video and cabin interface solutions.
Valour Consultancy’s forthcoming report “The Market for IFEC and Cabin Management Systems on VVIP and Business Aircraft” provides a much deeper dive into some of these topics, the companies involved and their likelihood of success. This analysis will be presented alongside detailed statistics on the current and future market for cabin management systems and in-flight connectivity. Download the report information brochure to learn more.