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Re-Imagining the Passenger Experience in a Post Coronavirus World

Airlines the world over have grounded large parts of their fleets and announced plans to lay off thousands of staff as they attempt to survive a near shutdown of international travel amid the widening coronavirus pandemic. The severity of the crisis has prompted carriers to turn to governments for a lifeline and according to IATA, the global industry needs bailout measures of between $150 billion and $200 billion if it is to survive. And even then, the pandemic is likely to reshape the industry with many airlines sadly failing and entirely new groupings emerging. It will also have huge ramifications for the way people fly once this is all over and whilst it might not seem like a high priority right now, airlines need to think about how they’ll adapt to the needs of entirely different passengers post coronavirus.

It goes without saying that there will be a huge amount of trepidation about travelling for many years once a semblance of normality resumes – especially amongst those from countries that have been hardest hit by the outbreak. Face masks and maybe even gloves will become standard garb for passengers keen to minimise their risk of infection, cleaning routines between turns will be stepped up a level or two and extra screening measures to detect signs of fever could emerge as the new norm in an already stressful airport experience. Even so, these steps will not be enough to reassure many passengers of their safety on-board and their behaviour will change forever. And by extension, so too will the way in which they interact with on-board technology.

While airlines will no doubt shout from the rooftops about how thoroughly they clean and disinfect tray tables, in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens and head rests pre- and post-flight in this brave new world, it is not hard to imagine passengers adopting a cocoon-like state during their journey, fearful of what, and who, they might come into contact with.

This could very well entail reduced interaction with seatback screens and passenger control units (PCUs), with a possible knock-on effect for ancillary revenue generation through these systems. Expect IFE vendors to ratchet up the wellness angle another notch and mimic seat manufacturers in announcing new, self-cleaning screens that involve the use of antimicrobial coatings. Panasonic Avionics has already moved in this direction with its nanoe air filtration system, a feature of the forthcoming NEXT platform that can extract pungent smells from the cabin and remove airborne pathogens.

New user interface technologies like eye-tracking and gesture control could also have an important role to play. Thales has previously demonstrated a prototype for next generation business-class seats, which include iris-tracking to detect when passengers are looking away or when their eyes are closed. However, both technologies are clearly immature in terms of their use on-board aircraft and far from perfect replacements for the touchscreen we’ve all become accustomed to using with expert dexterity. Indeed, it could even be that hand or arm gestures from those in adjacent seats actually decreases the feeling of distance – a concept all of us are rapidly becoming familiar with.

Despite growing familiarity with smart speakers in our everyday lives, it seems a stretch to imagine that voice control will soon become the de-facto IFE control mechanism. Offline voice recognition of multiple languages/accents would presumably take a fair bit of computing power, while in-flight connectivity (IFC) – if it is even installed alongside IFE – is not quite at the point where it could handle the sending and receiving of a huge amount of data packets to and from the cloud for analysis. Nor could cash-strapped airlines afford the associated bandwidth costs. And then there’s the not-so-trifling issue of how to filter out the array of always-present background cabin noise.

More likely then is the use of the passenger PED as a remote control for the screen in front. Interaction with one’s own device is fraught with less “danger” and many of us already use our smartphones to control other smart devices at home. Rather than a YouTube-style PIN approach to pairing PED with seatback, a more hygienic method would surely involve the use of Bluetooth or NFC. Coronavirus or not, Bluetooth will become a standard feature of IFE to enable passengers to use their own headphones and both Safran (Zii) and Panasonic Avionics have recently introduced Bluetooth capabilities on the RAVE Ultra and eX3 and NEXT systems, respectively. NFC, meanwhile, can also be used to process payments from contactless cards and mobile wallets – a key consideration now that the spotlight is firmly on the unhygienic nature of handling cash.

The use of NFC will, of course, have an important role to play as the self-service model rises to prominence. Passengers may limit their interaction with flight attendants and browse digital magazines and food and drink menus on their PEDs or on seatback screens controlled by PEDs instead of flicking through oft-touched paper versions stored in germ-harbouring seat pockets. LEVEL’s award-winning payment system, developed by Black Swan, does just this and can even save card details for simplified repeat purchases on board.

One could even make the argument that coronavirus may finally succeed where IFC and later, wireless IFE (W-IFE), failed in killing off the humble seatback screen. Airlines will be under immense pressure to shed operational spend and the high up-front and on-going costs associated with embedded IFE could be too much for some to bear. How early window content (EWC) – which has helped prolong the life of this form of IFE – is eventually dealt with by Hollywood studios will have a huge bearing on how things eventually pan out. As a result of the pandemic, many of the films that recently hit the big screen or were slated to still be in theatres are instead heading straight to home entertainment release. Trolls World Tour, for example, was due to be in cinemas on April 10th but will now be available on streaming and digital services without making a theatrical debut. This begs the question, for how long will the streaming of EWC to passenger PEDs be prohibited?

The myriad of W-IFE vendors currently active in the market will doubtless be following these events with a keen eye. If more airlines ultimately opt to eschew embedded IFE post coronavirus, what is the optimal way to consume W-IFE? Right now, many systems are installed on aircraft where there is no in-seat power, which is mind-boggling given that the two technologies are inextricably linked. No power? No IFE! And even where in-seat power is present, consuming content on a PED whilst charging the device can be uncomfortable for passengers and becomes more difficult during mealtimes when the tray table is in use. Astronics and SmartTray have sought to provide an answer to this “hold and power” question by developing a dock style wireless charging hinge mechanism integrated into the back of the tray table. Could the next step involve the use of an inductive surface above the meal tray and some sort of PED-sized “pocket” to prevent devices falling to the floor?

While there are several other benefits of inductive charging, there are numerous problems still to be ironed out. For one, the power efficiency of inductive charging pads is currently 60-70%, compared to >90% for traditional outlets. This requires bigger, more expensive power supply units with more heat dissipation, which could nullify, to some extent, any cost savings realised from not installing seatback IFE in the first place. Additionally, wireless charging takes longer, which may be of more concern on shorter journeys where W-IFE is more likely to be installed.

Heightened hygiene and sanitation concerns could, conceivably, impact on newer forms of IFE too. Portable solutions have witnessed phenomenal growth in recent years but their very nature means they are frequently touched by cabin crew, ground handlers, catering and cleaning partners. New “zero touch” portable units that can be plugged into the on-board power supply are not taken on and off the aircraft with anywhere near the same degree of regularity and could be in increased demand going forwards.

There are many unknowns at this still early stage of the outbreak and we really ought to re-iterate that medical experts believe the risk of catching a virus on a flight to be incredibly small. However, it is important for airlines and their suppliers to start looking forward and planning ahead in these unprecedented times. To this end, Valour Consultancy will continue to share unbiased insight and analysis on key trends relating to IFEC and cabin technology and our reports will be as comprehensive as they’ve always been. If you have any questions or queries about our research or want to reach out for a quick chat to brainstorm ideas, our door is always open.

Stay safe and healthy!

Valour Consultancy

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" parallax_speed="0.3" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" overlay_color="" video_preview_image="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" padding_top="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" padding_right=""][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" center_content="no" last="no" min_height="" hover_type="none" link=""][fusion_imageframe image_id="5303|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="center" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]https://valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/12c51ea9ed7611a127aa27f26be64ef1e9390fd9-scaled-e1585144762134.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="none" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text columns="" column_min_width="" column_spacing="" rule_style="default" rule_size="" rule_color="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""] Airlines the world over have grounded large parts of their fleets and announced plans to lay off thousands of staff as they attempt to survive a near shutdown of international travel amid the widening coronavirus pandemic. The severity of the crisis has prompted carriers to turn to governments for a lifeline and according to IATA, the global industry needs bailout measures of between $150 billion and $200 billion if it is to survive. And even then, the pandemic is likely to reshape the industry with many airlines sadly failing and entirely new groupings emerging. It will also have huge ramifications for the way people fly once this is all over and whilst it might not seem like a high priority right now, airlines need to think about how they’ll adapt to the needs of entirely different passengers post coronavirus. It goes without saying that there will be a huge amount of trepidation about travelling for many years once a semblance of normality resumes – especially amongst those from countries that have been hardest hit by the outbreak. Face masks and maybe even gloves will become standard garb for passengers keen to minimise their risk of infection, cleaning routines between turns will be stepped up a level or two and extra screening measures to detect signs of fever could emerge as the new norm in an already stressful airport experience. Even so, these steps will not be enough to reassure many passengers of their safety on-board and their behaviour will change forever. And by extension, so too will the way in which they interact with on-board technology. While airlines will no doubt shout from the rooftops about how thoroughly they clean and disinfect tray tables, in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens and head rests pre- and post-flight in this brave new world, it is not hard to imagine passengers adopting a cocoon-like state during their journey, fearful of what, and who, they might come into contact with. This could very well entail reduced interaction with seatback screens and passenger control units (PCUs), with a possible knock-on effect for ancillary revenue generation through these systems. Expect IFE vendors to ratchet up the wellness angle another notch and mimic seat manufacturers in announcing new, self-cleaning screens that involve the use of antimicrobial coatings. Panasonic Avionics has already moved in this direction with its nanoe air filtration system, a feature of the forthcoming NEXT platform that can extract pungent smells from the cabin and remove airborne pathogens. New user interface technologies like eye-tracking and gesture control could also have an important role to play. Thales has previously demonstrated a prototype for next generation business-class seats, which include iris-tracking to detect when passengers are looking away or when their eyes are closed. However, both technologies are clearly immature in terms of their use on-board aircraft and far from perfect replacements for the touchscreen we’ve all become accustomed to using with expert dexterity. Indeed, it could even be that hand or arm gestures from those in adjacent seats actually decreases the feeling of distance – a concept all of us are rapidly becoming familiar with. Despite growing familiarity with smart speakers in our everyday lives, it seems a stretch to imagine that voice control will soon become the de-facto IFE control mechanism. Offline voice recognition of multiple languages/accents would presumably take a fair bit of computing power, while in-flight connectivity (IFC) – if it is even installed alongside IFE – is not quite at the point where it could handle the sending and receiving of a huge amount of data packets to and from the cloud for analysis. Nor could cash-strapped airlines afford the associated bandwidth costs. And then there’s the not-so-trifling issue of how to filter out the array of always-present background cabin noise. More likely then is the use of the passenger PED as a remote control for the screen in front. Interaction with one’s own device is fraught with less “danger” and many of us already use our smartphones to control other smart devices at home. Rather than a YouTube-style PIN approach to pairing PED with seatback, a more hygienic method would surely involve the use of Bluetooth or NFC. Coronavirus or not, Bluetooth will become a standard feature of IFE to enable passengers to use their own headphones and both Safran (Zii) and Panasonic Avionics have recently introduced Bluetooth capabilities on the RAVE Ultra and eX3 and NEXT systems, respectively. NFC, meanwhile, can also be used to process payments from contactless cards and mobile wallets – a key consideration now that the spotlight is firmly on the unhygienic nature of handling cash. The use of NFC will, of course, have an important role to play as the self-service model rises to prominence. Passengers may limit their interaction with flight attendants and browse digital magazines and food and drink menus on their PEDs or on seatback screens controlled by PEDs instead of flicking through oft-touched paper versions stored in germ-harbouring seat pockets. LEVEL’s award-winning payment system, developed by Black Swan, does just this and can even save card details for simplified repeat purchases on board. One could even make the argument that coronavirus may finally succeed where IFC and later, wireless IFE (W-IFE), failed in killing off the humble seatback screen. Airlines will be under immense pressure to shed operational spend and the high up-front and on-going costs associated with embedded IFE could be too much for some to bear. How early window content (EWC) – which has helped prolong the life of this form of IFE – is eventually dealt with by Hollywood studios will have a huge bearing on how things eventually pan out. As a result of the pandemic, many of the films that recently hit the big screen or were slated to still be in theatres are instead heading straight to home entertainment release. Trolls World Tour, for example, was due to be in cinemas on April 10th but will now be available on streaming and digital services without making a theatrical debut. This begs the question, for how long will the streaming of EWC to passenger PEDs be prohibited? The myriad of W-IFE vendors currently active in the market will doubtless be following these events with a keen eye. If more airlines ultimately opt to eschew embedded IFE post coronavirus, what is the optimal way to consume W-IFE? Right now, many systems are installed on aircraft where there is no in-seat power, which is mind-boggling given that the two technologies are inextricably linked. No power? No IFE! And even where in-seat power is present, consuming content on a PED whilst charging the device can be uncomfortable for passengers and becomes more difficult during mealtimes when the tray table is in use. Astronics and SmartTray have sought to provide an answer to this “hold and power” question by developing a dock style wireless charging hinge mechanism integrated into the back of the tray table. Could the next step involve the use of an inductive surface above the meal tray and some sort of PED-sized “pocket” to prevent devices falling to the floor? While there are several other benefits of inductive charging, there are numerous problems still to be ironed out. For one, the power efficiency of inductive charging pads is currently 60-70%, compared to >90% for traditional outlets. This requires bigger, more expensive power supply units with more heat dissipation, which could nullify, to some extent, any cost savings realised from not installing seatback IFE in the first place. Additionally, wireless charging takes longer, which may be of more concern on shorter journeys where W-IFE is more likely to be installed. Heightened hygiene and sanitation concerns could, conceivably, impact on newer forms of IFE too. Portable solutions have witnessed phenomenal growth in recent years but their very nature means they are frequently touched by cabin crew, ground handlers, catering and cleaning partners. New “zero touch” portable units that can be plugged into the on-board power supply are not taken on and off the aircraft with anywhere near the same degree of regularity and could be in increased demand going forwards. There are many unknowns at this still early stage of the outbreak and we really ought to re-iterate that medical experts believe the risk of catching a virus on a flight to be incredibly small. However, it is important for airlines and their suppliers to start looking forward and planning ahead in these unprecedented times. To this end, Valour Consultancy will continue to share unbiased insight and analysis on key trends relating to IFEC and cabin technology and our reports will be as comprehensive as they’ve always been. If you have any questions or queries about our research or want to reach out for a quick chat to brainstorm ideas, our door is always open. Stay safe and healthy! Valour Consultancy [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

I’ve Got the Power!

I’ve got the power” sang German Eurodance group, SNAP!, in their 1990 smash hit single, “The Power”. Sadly, not every aircraft in every airline in the world can be similarly boastful much to the chagrin of today’s travellers, many of whom cannot bear to be parted from power-hungry personal electronic devices (PEDs) for even the briefest of moments. With the trend towards larger displays in the smartphone market now well and truly established, the demands on batteries are greater than ever. Indeed, it’s not uncommon to see people carrying precious chargers fearful of the likely scenario their device won’t last the day on a full charge. So much so, that a large proportion of us reportedly suffer from a condition known as “low-battery anxiety”.

Airlines have been installing in-seat power systems since the mid-1990s when laptops began to be proliferated. Astronics was one of the first to market when it introduced 12-15V “cigarette lighter” DC plugs on American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. AC power outlets came along in 2000 thanks to KID-Systeme but it wasn’t until 2005/2006 that we saw power supplies being integrated with power units for seatback IFE. Since then, the majority of AC and USB outlets and associated power supplies have been integrated within the IFE architecture. Thus, it is common to see USB outlets embedded either within the screen itself or elsewhere on the seat as a remote jack.

The rapid adoption of in-flight connectivity (IFC) and wireless in-flight entertainment (W-IFE) and a general acceleration in the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend over the last few years has resulted in much increased demand for in-seat power. Expectation that connectivity be ubiquitous and also, a significant increase in the penetration of consumer devices being carried on board has propelled the number of aircraft equipped with either standalone IFC, IFC+W-IFE, or standalone W-IFE past the 10,000 mark according to our most recent data.

An Untapped Single-Aisle Segment

A large chunk of these are single-aisle aircraft, which is a market where penetration of in-seat power is currently low (about 20% of single-aisle seats have an in-seat power outlet, compared to about 75% of available seats on twin-aisle aircraft). Strangely, many carriers have not always considered IFC/W-IFE and in-seat power to be complementary technologies that really ought to go hand-in-hand – especially if advertising and e-commerce via PEDs is part of their strategy. This thinking is starting to change, however, as airlines begin breaking down departmental siloes to look at connectivity and associated technologies more holistically. GOL and AirAsia are two examples of airlines that have recently added in-seat power after beginning their respective connectivity rollouts several years ago.

We, therefore, expect the number of single-aisle seats with access to in-seat power to increase to 2.5 million in 2028 (57% of the available total). Cumulative outlet deliveries over this timeframe will be just shy of 3 million, while annual revenues are set to increase from $82 million in 2018 to $129 million in 2028. Much of this growth will be driven by the emergence of USB Type-C with Power Delivery, which can provide up to 60W of power to all types of PED, including laptops, and offers significant cost and weight advantages over 110V AC power systems.

Significant erosion in the ASP of USB systems due to increased competition will serve to dampen this revenue growth somewhat. We already know of vendors that have bid successfully in airline RFPs with solutions priced at less than $275 per seat and even more aggressive pricing can be expected in future. By comparison, an AC power system is estimated to cost in the region of $750 per seat. Today, Astronics and KID-Systeme dominate the market for in-seat power but recent high-profile wins for several newcomers point to a less duopolistic environment in future. IMAGIK (GOL, Air Europa and Neos), Inflight Canada (British Airways, Japan Airlines and Air Transat) and Burrana (a major carrier in Latin America and another in Asia-Pacific) are notable examples, while companies like True Blue Power, Eirtech Aviation Services and Mythopoeia are also picking up business.

110V AC is not Dead…

None of this is to suggest that there won’t be a role for 110V AC power to play in future – there most certainly will be. AC power offers several advantages over USB power – namely its universal nature and the fact specifications are not always changing. Additionally, AC is robust, can charge any device, and outlets normally provide 75 to 95W of power. In premium cabins, airlines will want to continue providing an array of charging options to give passengers as much choice as possible. For this reason, our expectation is that AC+USB combo outlets will be shipped in favour of traditional standalone AC outlets (with no integrated USB ports in the same housing) in all cabins going forward and also, to ease the transition to Type-C while the installed base of compatible PEDs grows. AC will also continue to be adopted for cockpit and galley applications.

While in-seat power is much more commonplace in the twin-aisle market, there is still a significant opportunity to upgrade older systems that provide low power (typically 0.5A or 0.9A). Depending on the power needs of the PED, this may only be sufficient to provide a level or trickle re-charge. That being said, it could be argued that for a passenger who plugs in their exhausted phone at the beginning of a 10-hour flight, only having access to a 0.5A power source will not really matter as it’ll most likely be fully-charged at the end of the journey. Nevertheless, it is clear that as devices become more power hungry and passenger expectation of fast charging becoming engrained, airlines will come under pressure to upgrade such equipment sooner than they might have planned.

Wireless Charging

Passenger expectation of on-board power options may also come to encompass inductive (wireless) charging. Many vendors are seeking to capitalise on airline demand to shorten the cycle time between expectations on the ground (where proliferation of wireless charging spots is rapidly accelerating) and expectations in the air. Indeed, acceptance of the technology is growing with the Wireless Power Consortium recently revealing that 66% of consumers use wireless charging at home. Given the extra real estate with which to play, we initially believed that wireless charging pads would be adopted primarily in premium cabins. But vendors are reportedly seeing interest from carriers keen to deploy the technology in economy cabins too.

Though in-cabin wireless charging has numerous benefits such as obviating the need for passengers to carry charging cables and removing issues with USB sockets being broken/shorted, there are still several problems still to be ironed out. For one, power efficiency of inductive charging pads is currently 60-70%, compared to >90% for traditional outlets. This requires bigger, more expensive power supply units better able to dissipate heat. Second, the cost and complexity of manufacturing wireless charging pads and integrating them into seats is not insignificant. Third, devices must be left on a pad to charge and cannot be moved around or easily operated whilst charging – a problem when it comes to holding a device at a favourable viewing angle. Fourth, there are lots of industry standards to meet (e.g. EMI testing) which are more stringent on aircraft.

Improving Battery Technology

Despite all the above, in-seat power might be considered immaterial if PED battery lives were able to cope with moderate to heavy usage for more than the duration of the longest flights. In airplane mode and with brightness dimmed, tests have shown that a selection of today’s leading smartphones can last well over ten hours on a single charge when left to play back continuous video loops. Obviously, this is not representative of how anyone actually uses their phone and unless the intention is for passengers to consume their own content on their own devices, having Wi-Fi disabled, which considerably prolongs battery life, is not a solution to this dilemma anyway. And even so, it is quite rare for passengers to board a plane with a device that is fully charged.

Battery technology will inevitably improve but presumably not to the point that the in-seat power market will suddenly disappear. Thus far, advances have been largely absorbed by PEDs containing bigger screens, more powerful processors and larger memory and while there are some interesting innovations on the horizon, such as Lithium-air batteries, the demand for in-seat power is only going to increase from here on in.

Valour Consultancy is a provider of high-quality market intelligence. Its latest report “The Future of Aircraft Seating and In-Seat Power” is the newest addition to the firm’s well-regarded aviation research portfolio. Developed with input from more than 30 companies across the value chain, the study includes 93 tables and charts along with extensive commentary on key market issues, technology trends and the competitive environment. For a full table of contents and report scope, visit: https://www.valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/The-Future-of-Aircraft-Seating-and-In-Seat-Power-2019-Brochure.pdf

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" parallax_speed="0.3" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" overlay_color="" video_preview_image="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" padding_top="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" padding_right=""][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" center_content="no" last="no" min_height="" hover_type="none" link=""][fusion_text columns="" column_min_width="" column_spacing="" rule_style="default" rule_size="" rule_color="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""] “I’ve got the power” sang German Eurodance group, SNAP!, in their 1990 smash hit single, “The Power”. Sadly, not every aircraft in every airline in the world can be similarly boastful much to the chagrin of today’s travellers, many of whom cannot bear to be parted from power-hungry personal electronic devices (PEDs) for even the briefest of moments. With the trend towards larger displays in the smartphone market now well and truly established, the demands on batteries are greater than ever. Indeed, it’s not uncommon to see people carrying precious chargers fearful of the likely scenario their device won’t last the day on a full charge. So much so, that a large proportion of us reportedly suffer from a condition known as “low-battery anxiety”. Airlines have been installing in-seat power systems since the mid-1990s when laptops began to be proliferated. Astronics was one of the first to market when it introduced 12-15V “cigarette lighter” DC plugs on American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. AC power outlets came along in 2000 thanks to KID-Systeme but it wasn’t until 2005/2006 that we saw power supplies being integrated with power units for seatback IFE. Since then, the majority of AC and USB outlets and associated power supplies have been integrated within the IFE architecture. Thus, it is common to see USB outlets embedded either within the screen itself or elsewhere on the seat as a remote jack. The rapid adoption of in-flight connectivity (IFC) and wireless in-flight entertainment (W-IFE) and a general acceleration in the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend over the last few years has resulted in much increased demand for in-seat power. Expectation that connectivity be ubiquitous and also, a significant increase in the penetration of consumer devices being carried on board has propelled the number of aircraft equipped with either standalone IFC, IFC+W-IFE, or standalone W-IFE past the 10,000 mark according to our most recent data.

An Untapped Single-Aisle Segment

A large chunk of these are single-aisle aircraft, which is a market where penetration of in-seat power is currently low (about 20% of single-aisle seats have an in-seat power outlet, compared to about 75% of available seats on twin-aisle aircraft). Strangely, many carriers have not always considered IFC/W-IFE and in-seat power to be complementary technologies that really ought to go hand-in-hand – especially if advertising and e-commerce via PEDs is part of their strategy. This thinking is starting to change, however, as airlines begin breaking down departmental siloes to look at connectivity and associated technologies more holistically. GOL and AirAsia are two examples of airlines that have recently added in-seat power after beginning their respective connectivity rollouts several years ago. We, therefore, expect the number of single-aisle seats with access to in-seat power to increase to 2.5 million in 2028 (57% of the available total). Cumulative outlet deliveries over this timeframe will be just shy of 3 million, while annual revenues are set to increase from $82 million in 2018 to $129 million in 2028. Much of this growth will be driven by the emergence of USB Type-C with Power Delivery, which can provide up to 60W of power to all types of PED, including laptops, and offers significant cost and weight advantages over 110V AC power systems. Significant erosion in the ASP of USB systems due to increased competition will serve to dampen this revenue growth somewhat. We already know of vendors that have bid successfully in airline RFPs with solutions priced at less than $275 per seat and even more aggressive pricing can be expected in future. By comparison, an AC power system is estimated to cost in the region of $750 per seat. Today, Astronics and KID-Systeme dominate the market for in-seat power but recent high-profile wins for several newcomers point to a less duopolistic environment in future. IMAGIK (GOL, Air Europa and Neos), Inflight Canada (British Airways, Japan Airlines and Air Transat) and Burrana (a major carrier in Latin America and another in Asia-Pacific) are notable examples, while companies like True Blue Power, Eirtech Aviation Services and Mythopoeia are also picking up business.

110V AC is not Dead...

None of this is to suggest that there won’t be a role for 110V AC power to play in future – there most certainly will be. AC power offers several advantages over USB power – namely its universal nature and the fact specifications are not always changing. Additionally, AC is robust, can charge any device, and outlets normally provide 75 to 95W of power. In premium cabins, airlines will want to continue providing an array of charging options to give passengers as much choice as possible. For this reason, our expectation is that AC+USB combo outlets will be shipped in favour of traditional standalone AC outlets (with no integrated USB ports in the same housing) in all cabins going forward and also, to ease the transition to Type-C while the installed base of compatible PEDs grows. AC will also continue to be adopted for cockpit and galley applications. While in-seat power is much more commonplace in the twin-aisle market, there is still a significant opportunity to upgrade older systems that provide low power (typically 0.5A or 0.9A). Depending on the power needs of the PED, this may only be sufficient to provide a level or trickle re-charge. That being said, it could be argued that for a passenger who plugs in their exhausted phone at the beginning of a 10-hour flight, only having access to a 0.5A power source will not really matter as it’ll most likely be fully-charged at the end of the journey. Nevertheless, it is clear that as devices become more power hungry and passenger expectation of fast charging becoming engrained, airlines will come under pressure to upgrade such equipment sooner than they might have planned.

Wireless Charging

Passenger expectation of on-board power options may also come to encompass inductive (wireless) charging. Many vendors are seeking to capitalise on airline demand to shorten the cycle time between expectations on the ground (where proliferation of wireless charging spots is rapidly accelerating) and expectations in the air. Indeed, acceptance of the technology is growing with the Wireless Power Consortium recently revealing that 66% of consumers use wireless charging at home. Given the extra real estate with which to play, we initially believed that wireless charging pads would be adopted primarily in premium cabins. But vendors are reportedly seeing interest from carriers keen to deploy the technology in economy cabins too. Though in-cabin wireless charging has numerous benefits such as obviating the need for passengers to carry charging cables and removing issues with USB sockets being broken/shorted, there are still several problems still to be ironed out. For one, power efficiency of inductive charging pads is currently 60-70%, compared to >90% for traditional outlets. This requires bigger, more expensive power supply units better able to dissipate heat. Second, the cost and complexity of manufacturing wireless charging pads and integrating them into seats is not insignificant. Third, devices must be left on a pad to charge and cannot be moved around or easily operated whilst charging – a problem when it comes to holding a device at a favourable viewing angle. Fourth, there are lots of industry standards to meet (e.g. EMI testing) which are more stringent on aircraft.

Improving Battery Technology

Despite all the above, in-seat power might be considered immaterial if PED battery lives were able to cope with moderate to heavy usage for more than the duration of the longest flights. In airplane mode and with brightness dimmed, tests have shown that a selection of today’s leading smartphones can last well over ten hours on a single charge when left to play back continuous video loops. Obviously, this is not representative of how anyone actually uses their phone and unless the intention is for passengers to consume their own content on their own devices, having Wi-Fi disabled, which considerably prolongs battery life, is not a solution to this dilemma anyway. And even so, it is quite rare for passengers to board a plane with a device that is fully charged. Battery technology will inevitably improve but presumably not to the point that the in-seat power market will suddenly disappear. Thus far, advances have been largely absorbed by PEDs containing bigger screens, more powerful processors and larger memory and while there are some interesting innovations on the horizon, such as Lithium-air batteries, the demand for in-seat power is only going to increase from here on in. Valour Consultancy is a provider of high-quality market intelligence. Its latest report “The Future of Aircraft Seating and In-Seat Power” is the newest addition to the firm’s well-regarded aviation research portfolio. Developed with input from more than 30 companies across the value chain, the study includes 93 tables and charts along with extensive commentary on key market issues, technology trends and the competitive environment. For a full table of contents and report scope, visit: https://www.valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/The-Future-of-Aircraft-Seating-and-In-Seat-Power-2019-Brochure.pdf [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Cruise Line Connectivity and Partnering Opportunities

Over the years, the cruise line industry has experienced a period of continuous evolution in regards to integral communications and information technologies. Many stakeholders are leading this charge, since broadband connectivity is becoming a crucial component whereby many passengers decide which cruise line offers the greatest connection of all. The idea of people going on a family/solo cruise to “escape” from ther routine and other obligations is fast becoming outdated.

Nowadays, passengers, along with crew, are demanding superior levels of connectivity and bandwidth at port, near port, and on board. Major cruise companies are aware of this consumer pattern and have diverted efforts towards a systematic level of collaboration and innovation in the industry. In synergy, satellite communication providers and cruise line operators are working together to capitalise on opportunities based on infrastructure, expertise, passenger experience, and efficiencies offered by partnering.

With more than 25 million global passengers projected to cruise this year, carrying aboard multiple sensor-enabled devices with them, cruise line operators are determined to enable the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) at sea to cure the urgency of costly manned processes and fragmented data management. Yet, its applicability requires a single unification of limitless data systems and a sharing architecture that facilitates end-to-end communications and industry optimisation.

In other words, the confluence of business and technical fashions in the pursuit of interoperability and standardisation of systems builds on incremental connectivity ashore, which is a detour to reach inexpensive and blazing-fast Internet connection for exigent passengers at sea. As an exemplification, it is imperative to observe how three top-tiered cruise line companies – Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Carnival Corporation, and Royal Caribbean Cruises – have announced strategic agreements with key satcom solution providers to respond to the demands of IoT at sea and meet the performance expectations of guests/crew on board.

To meet the growing demand for ship connectivity, EMC (now part of Global Eagle) has entered into a long-term strategic agreement with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings for the provision of high throughput satellite (HTS) links, infotainment, and other terrestrial services. Through major investments in new multi-band antennas that are allocated in multiple strategic angles and Wi-Fi infrastructure, Norwegian Cruise Line has achieved competitive advantage using Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSAT) technology to have rich access to C-, and Ku-band frequencies at sea.

Auxiliary investments in terrestrial broadband networks and web browsing accelerating tools (in this case, EMC’s patented SpeedNet technology) were also implemented in the provision of superior passenger experience and online traffic management. Norwegian Cruise Line has strongly upgraded its Wi-Fi infrastructure to allow not only absolute, ship-to-shore connectivity, but also to develop smart switching technologies that enables passengers/crew to keep browsing using terrestrial links at port, while holding on to satellite links for operational and other core management priorities.

Similar efforts were also led by Carnival Corporation to further enhance guest-onboard experiences through major communication upgrades and innovation. The American-British cruise company signed a five-year contract agreement with Harris CapRock in 2013 to supply fully managed communication services to more than 100 ships across its ten global cruise line brands, using a multi-band VSAT system to enable vessels to power high bandwidth and connectivity under a flat-rate fee for social media usage.

Using the latest generation of iDirect communication technology, via hybrid C- and Ku band solutions, Harris CapRock masters the art of VSAT systems and infrastructure based on global coverage, specialised equipment, secured installation, ongoing maintenance, and, more importantly, 24/7 customer support centers to guarantee proactive monitoring and technical support. By expertise, Harris CapRock is committed to delivering highly improved bandwidth and performance with modern stabilised antennas systems in order to provide new services and infotainment solutions onboard.

Royal Caribbean Cruises has also established a strategic agreement with Harris CapRock to equip new Spacetrack stabilised antennas across its entire fleet, using a combination of Ku- and C-band connectivity. The main objective of the agreement is to provide reliable Internet access in order to attract younger passengers, help retain crew, and streamline operations while at sea. The Melbourne-based communications and IT provider has supplemented performance with the provision of advanced VSAT systems to increase bandwidth, reassigning satellite capacity on demand through a more secure and cost-effective angle.

The collaboration likewise integrates O3b’s medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellite systems for two Royal Caribbean ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, to benefit from unmatched capacity, consistency, and coverage. Technically, MEO satellites, which orbit the earth at an altitude of approximately 8,000 kilometers, enable even higher bandwidth services as well as optimised Internet and broadband connectivity without experiencing the traditional satellite delays (lag). This new platform improves overall communications performance and guest/crew online experience through breaking-record Internet speed and reliable Wi-Fi capacity.

For the most part, the aforementioned cases explain how cruise ship operators contrastingly partner with major satcom providers to cope with their most perilous challenge – the fulfillment of passenger expectations. However, the key takeaway is that new global technologies that comprises cloud, IOT, mobile platforms, satellite, and big data management are helping turn connectivity challenges into sustainable end-to-end solutions for the maritime sector.

More importantly, cruise operators are required to keep prioritising technology strategies that encourage innovations to pursue an integrated, fully-managed satellite, wireless, and terrestrial connectivity platform to remain ahead of the curve. The ideal communication solution should also embrace hybrid systems, smart switching functions to increase performance at any given point during the voyage, and supporting applications to enhance passenger experience onboard.

Valour Consultancy will soon commence work on the second edition of its acclaimed report “The Future of Maritime Connectivity”. If you would like to learn more about how you can influence the scope of this research so that it more closely matches your needs, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" parallax_speed="0.3" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" overlay_color="" video_preview_image="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" padding_top="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" padding_right=""][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" center_content="no" last="no" min_height="" hover_type="none" link=""][fusion_imageframe image_id="5000|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="center" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]http://217.199.187.200/valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/ferry-boat-123059_1920-1024x685-1.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="default" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text]Over the years, the cruise line industry has experienced a period of continuous evolution in regards to integral communications and information technologies. Many stakeholders are leading this charge, since broadband connectivity is becoming a crucial component whereby many passengers decide which cruise line offers the greatest connection of all. The idea of people going on a family/solo cruise to “escape” from ther routine and other obligations is fast becoming outdated. Nowadays, passengers, along with crew, are demanding superior levels of connectivity and bandwidth at port, near port, and on board. Major cruise companies are aware of this consumer pattern and have diverted efforts towards a systematic level of collaboration and innovation in the industry. In synergy, satellite communication providers and cruise line operators are working together to capitalise on opportunities based on infrastructure, expertise, passenger experience, and efficiencies offered by partnering. With more than 25 million global passengers projected to cruise this year, carrying aboard multiple sensor-enabled devices with them, cruise line operators are determined to enable the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) at sea to cure the urgency of costly manned processes and fragmented data management. Yet, its applicability requires a single unification of limitless data systems and a sharing architecture that facilitates end-to-end communications and industry optimisation. In other words, the confluence of business and technical fashions in the pursuit of interoperability and standardisation of systems builds on incremental connectivity ashore, which is a detour to reach inexpensive and blazing-fast Internet connection for exigent passengers at sea. As an exemplification, it is imperative to observe how three top-tiered cruise line companies – Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Carnival Corporation, and Royal Caribbean Cruises – have announced strategic agreements with key satcom solution providers to respond to the demands of IoT at sea and meet the performance expectations of guests/crew on board. To meet the growing demand for ship connectivity, EMC (now part of Global Eagle) has entered into a long-term strategic agreement with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings for the provision of high throughput satellite (HTS) links, infotainment, and other terrestrial services. Through major investments in new multi-band antennas that are allocated in multiple strategic angles and Wi-Fi infrastructure, Norwegian Cruise Line has achieved competitive advantage using Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSAT) technology to have rich access to C-, and Ku-band frequencies at sea. Auxiliary investments in terrestrial broadband networks and web browsing accelerating tools (in this case, EMC’s patented SpeedNet technology) were also implemented in the provision of superior passenger experience and online traffic management. Norwegian Cruise Line has strongly upgraded its Wi-Fi infrastructure to allow not only absolute, ship-to-shore connectivity, but also to develop smart switching technologies that enables passengers/crew to keep browsing using terrestrial links at port, while holding on to satellite links for operational and other core management priorities. Similar efforts were also led by Carnival Corporation to further enhance guest-onboard experiences through major communication upgrades and innovation. The American-British cruise company signed a five-year contract agreement with Harris CapRock in 2013 to supply fully managed communication services to more than 100 ships across its ten global cruise line brands, using a multi-band VSAT system to enable vessels to power high bandwidth and connectivity under a flat-rate fee for social media usage. Using the latest generation of iDirect communication technology, via hybrid C- and Ku band solutions, Harris CapRock masters the art of VSAT systems and infrastructure based on global coverage, specialised equipment, secured installation, ongoing maintenance, and, more importantly, 24/7 customer support centers to guarantee proactive monitoring and technical support. By expertise, Harris CapRock is committed to delivering highly improved bandwidth and performance with modern stabilised antennas systems in order to provide new services and infotainment solutions onboard. Royal Caribbean Cruises has also established a strategic agreement with Harris CapRock to equip new Spacetrack stabilised antennas across its entire fleet, using a combination of Ku- and C-band connectivity. The main objective of the agreement is to provide reliable Internet access in order to attract younger passengers, help retain crew, and streamline operations while at sea. The Melbourne-based communications and IT provider has supplemented performance with the provision of advanced VSAT systems to increase bandwidth, reassigning satellite capacity on demand through a more secure and cost-effective angle. The collaboration likewise integrates O3b’s medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellite systems for two Royal Caribbean ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, to benefit from unmatched capacity, consistency, and coverage. Technically, MEO satellites, which orbit the earth at an altitude of approximately 8,000 kilometers, enable even higher bandwidth services as well as optimised Internet and broadband connectivity without experiencing the traditional satellite delays (lag). This new platform improves overall communications performance and guest/crew online experience through breaking-record Internet speed and reliable Wi-Fi capacity. For the most part, the aforementioned cases explain how cruise ship operators contrastingly partner with major satcom providers to cope with their most perilous challenge - the fulfillment of passenger expectations. However, the key takeaway is that new global technologies that comprises cloud, IOT, mobile platforms, satellite, and big data management are helping turn connectivity challenges into sustainable end-to-end solutions for the maritime sector. More importantly, cruise operators are required to keep prioritising technology strategies that encourage innovations to pursue an integrated, fully-managed satellite, wireless, and terrestrial connectivity platform to remain ahead of the curve. The ideal communication solution should also embrace hybrid systems, smart switching functions to increase performance at any given point during the voyage, and supporting applications to enhance passenger experience onboard. Valour Consultancy will soon commence work on the second edition of its acclaimed report “The Future of Maritime Connectivity”. If you would like to learn more about how you can influence the scope of this research so that it more closely matches your needs, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]