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Biometrics and Digital Identity are Key in Ensuring the Future of Air Travel

Guest blog written by John Devlin, co-founder of P.A.ID Strategies, with whom we are partnered on producing a soon-to-be published report on smart airport technologies.

Air travel has been massively impacted and disrupted in the past six months. Until Covid-19 hit, the biggest challenge facing airport operators and airlines was how to cope with an ever-increasing demand for air travel and the limited infrastructure to support it. Now, they are scrambling for survival as the industry has been turned on its head and looking to cut costs and develop new means of handling and processing passengers.

Here are a few points demonstrating how steep a cliff the industry has fallen off:

  • At the height of the pandemic and lockdowns in various countries, passenger volumes were down over 90% and in August were still ~80% down on the same time last year in the peak summer months
  • As a result, the Airports Council International (ACI) stated that airports globally will see an expected drop in income of $104.5 billion in 2020 with passenger volumes revised down from 9.4 to 3.8 billion (a 59.6% decline)
  • Heathrow Airport alone estimates that Covid-19 has cost it £1 billion since March
  • Gatwick Airport, London, announced in its 1H20 results that passenger numbers were down 66% for the first 6 months of the year, with revenues declining 61.3% effecting a loss of £321 million

It doesn’t stop there. Whilst flight volumes are increasing, passenger numbers are lagging. The bulk of an airport’s operating costs are related to airport movements whilst their revenues come from passenger spend, which further increases price pressure on airports.

  • Accordingly, Gatwick has cut CAPEX by £157 million this year and plans cuts of £196 million for 2021 with OPEX reduced by £100 million – but this is by compromising and consolidating air traffic into a single terminal, over 70% of staff furloughed and large scale redundancies are planned

Whilst the numbers are (slowly) ticking upwards, our expectation is that passenger volumes will have only recovered to near 2019 numbers by 2023-24, so it is important for airports and airlines to find new, more efficient ways to operate their businesses and recover at least some of their lost revenues.

New Partnerships, Processes and Strategies to Ensure Survival and Plan for the Future

Airports and airlines are looking to implement solutions to enhance “safety” (or the perception of it) and encourage passengers back to fill the flights that are taking place. There are various approaches and technologies that can help them do this. We initially looked at the adoption of biometrics and digital identity in airports three years ago and there has been an increasing number of pilots and trials in the time since. COVID-19 will only accelerate adoption of eGates and self-service kiosks with airports keen to reduce costs and increase efficiency with more automation so that they can prioritise their resources to where needed given the huge drop-off in passenger volumes.

Additionally, new business models and partnerships are being explored by sector specialists so that airports, airlines and traditional suppliers can work together more closely. There is also a move away from the bespoke solutions typically demanded in aviation to more COTS approaches and more use of the public cloud to knit all the various systems together and reduce costs, improve delivery times, etc.

Further, the sector is looking to reassure travellers by reducing human interactions and minimising necessary contact. The added advantage is that these solutions also (typically) reduce OPEX and increase efficiency, plus give more control and increase digital footprint, which gives more data on users and can help drive further advances with analytics and track and trace (if necessary and acceptable).

A Smarter and Better Passenger Experience Utilising Biometrics, Digital Identity and Mobile

There is even a potential silver lining, once the immediate concerns have been addressed. Whilst numbers are depressed, airports and airlines are able to restructure their businesses and operational processes, form new partnerships, adopt new business models and plan how they will not only recover but build back better. If they are able to garner industry and government support, new standards and processes, based upon smartphones, biometrics and digital identity, can be designed and implemented to give the customer more choice and flexibility without the restrictions of traditional inspections. Want to have your bag-tags automatically printed when you enter the airport? And to create a biometric token when you get to the airport so you can seamlessly make your way through all passenger checkpoints and board your plane without having to repeatedly show your passport and boarding pass? How about checking-in to your flight when checking out of your hotel? Give permission for the airline to share your digital identity with your destination country for quicker passage through customs and border control? Well, soon we may be able to do just that.

Note: P.A.ID Strategies and Valour Consultancy have combined their respective areas of expertise in biometrics, identity, security and aviation to develop a new market research report entitled “The Seamless Passenger Journey in Smart Airports”. The report will assess the potential for biometrics, digital identity and smart solutions for self-service, automation and traveller processing to improve the passenger experience, increase efficiency and build revenue streams for airports and airlines as they initially cope with the disruption resulting from COVID-19 and plan their strategies to recover and build back better. More information and the report proposal can be found here: https://valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/The-Seamless-Passenger-Journey-in-Smart-Airports-Report-Proposal.pdf

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  • At the height of the pandemic and lockdowns in various countries, passenger volumes were down over 90% and in August were still ~80% down on the same time last year in the peak summer months
  • As a result, the Airports Council International (ACI) stated that airports globally will see an expected drop in income of $104.5 billion in 2020 with passenger volumes revised down from 9.4 to 3.8 billion (a 59.6% decline)
  • Heathrow Airport alone estimates that Covid-19 has cost it £1 billion since March
  • Gatwick Airport, London, announced in its 1H20 results that passenger numbers were down 66% for the first 6 months of the year, with revenues declining 61.3% effecting a loss of £321 million
It doesn’t stop there. Whilst flight volumes are increasing, passenger numbers are lagging. The bulk of an airport’s operating costs are related to airport movements whilst their revenues come from passenger spend, which further increases price pressure on airports.
  • Accordingly, Gatwick has cut CAPEX by £157 million this year and plans cuts of £196 million for 2021 with OPEX reduced by £100 million – but this is by compromising and consolidating air traffic into a single terminal, over 70% of staff furloughed and large scale redundancies are planned
Whilst the numbers are (slowly) ticking upwards, our expectation is that passenger volumes will have only recovered to near 2019 numbers by 2023-24, so it is important for airports and airlines to find new, more efficient ways to operate their businesses and recover at least some of their lost revenues. New Partnerships, Processes and Strategies to Ensure Survival and Plan for the Future Airports and airlines are looking to implement solutions to enhance “safety” (or the perception of it) and encourage passengers back to fill the flights that are taking place. There are various approaches and technologies that can help them do this. We initially looked at the adoption of biometrics and digital identity in airports three years ago and there has been an increasing number of pilots and trials in the time since. COVID-19 will only accelerate adoption of eGates and self-service kiosks with airports keen to reduce costs and increase efficiency with more automation so that they can prioritise their resources to where needed given the huge drop-off in passenger volumes. Additionally, new business models and partnerships are being explored by sector specialists so that airports, airlines and traditional suppliers can work together more closely. There is also a move away from the bespoke solutions typically demanded in aviation to more COTS approaches and more use of the public cloud to knit all the various systems together and reduce costs, improve delivery times, etc. Further, the sector is looking to reassure travellers by reducing human interactions and minimising necessary contact. The added advantage is that these solutions also (typically) reduce OPEX and increase efficiency, plus give more control and increase digital footprint, which gives more data on users and can help drive further advances with analytics and track and trace (if necessary and acceptable). A Smarter and Better Passenger Experience Utilising Biometrics, Digital Identity and Mobile There is even a potential silver lining, once the immediate concerns have been addressed. Whilst numbers are depressed, airports and airlines are able to restructure their businesses and operational processes, form new partnerships, adopt new business models and plan how they will not only recover but build back better. If they are able to garner industry and government support, new standards and processes, based upon smartphones, biometrics and digital identity, can be designed and implemented to give the customer more choice and flexibility without the restrictions of traditional inspections. Want to have your bag-tags automatically printed when you enter the airport? And to create a biometric token when you get to the airport so you can seamlessly make your way through all passenger checkpoints and board your plane without having to repeatedly show your passport and boarding pass? How about checking-in to your flight when checking out of your hotel? Give permission for the airline to share your digital identity with your destination country for quicker passage through customs and border control? Well, soon we may be able to do just that. Note: P.A.ID Strategies and Valour Consultancy have combined their respective areas of expertise in biometrics, identity, security and aviation to develop a new market research report entitled "The Seamless Passenger Journey in Smart Airports". The report will assess the potential for biometrics, digital identity and smart solutions for self-service, automation and traveller processing to improve the passenger experience, increase efficiency and build revenue streams for airports and airlines as they initially cope with the disruption resulting from COVID-19 and plan their strategies to recover and build back better. More information and the report proposal can be found here: https://valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/The-Seamless-Passenger-Journey-in-Smart-Airports-Report-Proposal.pdf [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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]

Using Connectivity to Enhance the On-Board Experience and Drive Passenger Loyalty

Countless whitepapers, studies and technical analyses of the connected aircraft have published in recent years. Much of these – including our very own research here at Valour Consultancy – have tended to focus primarily on the potential for airlines to realise cost savings through deployment of various connected aircraft applications. Very few papers have zeroed in on the many ways in which connectivity can be used to indirectly enhance the on-board experience, drive passenger loyalty and boost revenues via increased ticket sales and repeat business. And that’s precisely the angle this new paper – developed in conjunction with our friends at Intelsat – takes.

Click here to check it out and learn about some of the innovative things airlines are doing with today’s connectivity solutions. Hear from industry leaders on pain points, success stories and how they are making passenger connectivity work for their business needs.

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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="5240|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/2020/02/VC-Intelsat-Whitepaper-e1581421869696.png[/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=""] Countless whitepapers, studies and technical analyses of the connected aircraft have published in recent years. Much of these – including our very own research here at Valour Consultancy – have tended to focus primarily on the potential for airlines to realise cost savings through deployment of various connected aircraft applications. Very few papers have zeroed in on the many ways in which connectivity can be used to indirectly enhance the on-board experience, drive passenger loyalty and boost revenues via increased ticket sales and repeat business. And that’s precisely the angle this new paper - developed in conjunction with our friends at Intelsat - takes. Click here to check it out and learn about some of the innovative things airlines are doing with today's connectivity solutions. Hear from industry leaders on pain points, success stories and how they are making passenger connectivity work for their business needs. [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

2’s Company, 28’s a Crowd: Truth and Lies in Wireless IFE

With the world and his W-IFE now seemingly involved, keeping track of developments in this market is one that becomes more difficult with every passing quarter. At last count (Q1 2019), 25 service providers had installed their respective solutions on at least one aircraft, and more are entering the fray all the time. TEAC’s new portable solution, PortaStream, launched with IBEX Airlines on April 1st, Mythopoeia is currently rolling out its streaming platform on Rossiya and Atlas Air, while Phitek’s long-delayed deployment of Cabinstream boxes on the Afrijet ATR fleet is finally underway. So there will be at least 28 active vendors when we get round to crunching the numbers for Q2 and as we’ve covered before, plenty of candidates providing infotainment solutions in other transportation markets that may also decide they want a piece of the action.

Even so, the market is what the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (HHI) would define as “moderately concentrated” – 1,693 being the total of each companies’ squared market share. In comparison, seatback IFE, which is dominated by Panasonic Avionics and Thales, has a HHI of 4,809, which is indicative of a highly concentrated marketplace. The reason for this is that the top five vendors – Gogo, Panasonic Avionics, Global Eagle, Viasat and Thales – collectively account for just over three-quarters of all aircraft with W-IFE. Each company owes their lofty position in the market share rankings primarily to their in-flight connectivity (IFC) heritage – W-IFE shares the same on-board architecture as IFC and can be bolted onto existing installations relatively easily.

Beyond this top five lies a clutch of vendors offering W-IFE solutions with no connectivity element of their own, although several have partnered with IFC providers to combine the two services. Only five of these companies have equipped more than 100 aircraft with W-IFE; Lufthansa Systems, AirFi, Safran (Zii), Immfly and Bluebox Aviation Systems. And contrary to the incredible number of competing W-IFE studies being pumped out on a near daily basis (see exhibits A, B and C), BAE systems are not active in the market and haven’t been for some time, while Bluebox Avionics became Bluebox Aviation Systems more than two years ago. Just remember folks, not all market intelligence firms were created equal. Some of us spend hours conducting real, primary research ?

The influx of vendors certainly makes sense when you consider the apparent advantages of W-IFE – less costly systems, reduced weight/fuel burn, rapid installation (in the case of portable W-IFE), lower maintenance costs, an abundance of PEDs being brought on board, a large untapped single-aisle market, the potential to generate ancillary revenues etc. But eight years after wireless streaming first came to the fore, there are problems still to be ironed out.

Chief amongst them is the apparent frustration passengers experience when dealing with app-based DRM. Whether it be confusion that on-board Wi-Fi is not necessarily the same as Wi-Fi that opens the door to the world wide web, an inability to download an app in a disconnected environment, or issues with compatibility across different mobile operating systems, it would seem that the move away from app-based DRM can’t come soon enough. For service providers, app-based DRM is undesirable for several reasons. Not only do passengers often forget to download W-IFE applications ahead of their journey, evidence is stacking up to suggest there’s a ceiling on the number of apps they are willing to download and use. And of course, apps create additional costs every time an update to an operating system is rolled out.

Another issue is the lack of in-seat power on the majority of single-aisle aircraft – the key target market for W-IFE vendors. According to our latest study, about 20% of single-aisle seats have an in-seat power outlet, compared to about 75% of available seats on twin-aisle aircraft. With no access to on-board power, there is every chance passengers won’t use W-IFE and instead, opt to preserve precious charge for when they land. Thankfully, departmental siloes that have prevented these two amenities from being deployed at the same time are showing signs of breaking down.

The question remains whether the market can sustain nigh-on 30 different vendors. It’s one thing putting together impressive looking demo solutions inexpensively. However, ensuring these solutions satisfy Hollywood studios, demonstrating PCI compliance and getting installations done under STC are all difficult, time consuming and expensive. That’s without taking into account the difficulties in facing off against established IFE players who carry more clout when it comes to getting their solutions approved for the line-fit market and who can often draw upon expansive R&D budgets of parent companies, as well as the ability to offer truly global after sales services.

Consolidation seems inevitable and it would be foolish to assume others won’t go the way of Storebox Inflight, Ocleen TV, BAE Systems and PaxLife, all of which entered and exited the market in a relatively small space of time.

As part of our aviation portfolio, and to supplement our in-depth annual deep dive into the in-flight entertainment market, Valour Consultancy delivers a quarterly tracker designed to keep those with an interest in the area updated on W-IFE installation activity and key trends. Unlike other quarterly trackers, the W-IFE tracker is extremely rich in data with various splits including airline, product type, aircraft type, sub fleet, fitment type, geographic region, connectivity and service provider and hardware partners. Its updated with input from service providers and airlines and is a must-have resource for anyone looking for an accurate and up-to-date understanding of the market.

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With the world and his W-IFE now seemingly involved, keeping track of developments in this market is one that becomes more difficult with every passing quarter. At last count (Q1 2019), 25 service providers had installed their respective solutions on at least one aircraft, and more are entering the fray all the time. TEAC’s new portable solution, PortaStream, launched with IBEX Airlines on April 1st, Mythopoeia is currently rolling out its streaming platform on Rossiya and Atlas Air, while Phitek’s long-delayed deployment of Cabinstream boxes on the Afrijet ATR fleet is finally underway. So there will be at least 28 active vendors when we get round to crunching the numbers for Q2 and as we’ve covered before, plenty of candidates providing infotainment solutions in other transportation markets that may also decide they want a piece of the action. Even so, the market is what the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (HHI) would define as “moderately concentrated” – 1,693 being the total of each companies’ squared market share. In comparison, seatback IFE, which is dominated by Panasonic Avionics and Thales, has a HHI of 4,809, which is indicative of a highly concentrated marketplace. The reason for this is that the top five vendors – Gogo, Panasonic Avionics, Global Eagle, Viasat and Thales – collectively account for just over three-quarters of all aircraft with W-IFE. Each company owes their lofty position in the market share rankings primarily to their in-flight connectivity (IFC) heritage – W-IFE shares the same on-board architecture as IFC and can be bolted onto existing installations relatively easily. Beyond this top five lies a clutch of vendors offering W-IFE solutions with no connectivity element of their own, although several have partnered with IFC providers to combine the two services. Only five of these companies have equipped more than 100 aircraft with W-IFE; Lufthansa Systems, AirFi, Safran (Zii), Immfly and Bluebox Aviation Systems. And contrary to the incredible number of competing W-IFE studies being pumped out on a near daily basis (see exhibits A, B and C), BAE systems are not active in the market and haven’t been for some time, while Bluebox Avionics became Bluebox Aviation Systems more than two years ago. Just remember folks, not all market intelligence firms were created equal. Some of us spend hours conducting real, primary research ? The influx of vendors certainly makes sense when you consider the apparent advantages of W-IFE – less costly systems, reduced weight/fuel burn, rapid installation (in the case of portable W-IFE), lower maintenance costs, an abundance of PEDs being brought on board, a large untapped single-aisle market, the potential to generate ancillary revenues etc. But eight years after wireless streaming first came to the fore, there are problems still to be ironed out. Chief amongst them is the apparent frustration passengers experience when dealing with app-based DRM. Whether it be confusion that on-board Wi-Fi is not necessarily the same as Wi-Fi that opens the door to the world wide web, an inability to download an app in a disconnected environment, or issues with compatibility across different mobile operating systems, it would seem that the move away from app-based DRM can’t come soon enough. For service providers, app-based DRM is undesirable for several reasons. Not only do passengers often forget to download W-IFE applications ahead of their journey, evidence is stacking up to suggest there’s a ceiling on the number of apps they are willing to download and use. And of course, apps create additional costs every time an update to an operating system is rolled out. Another issue is the lack of in-seat power on the majority of single-aisle aircraft – the key target market for W-IFE vendors. According to our latest study, about 20% of single-aisle seats have an in-seat power outlet, compared to about 75% of available seats on twin-aisle aircraft. With no access to on-board power, there is every chance passengers won’t use W-IFE and instead, opt to preserve precious charge for when they land. Thankfully, departmental siloes that have prevented these two amenities from being deployed at the same time are showing signs of breaking down. The question remains whether the market can sustain nigh-on 30 different vendors. It’s one thing putting together impressive looking demo solutions inexpensively. However, ensuring these solutions satisfy Hollywood studios, demonstrating PCI compliance and getting installations done under STC are all difficult, time consuming and expensive. That’s without taking into account the difficulties in facing off against established IFE players who carry more clout when it comes to getting their solutions approved for the line-fit market and who can often draw upon expansive R&D budgets of parent companies, as well as the ability to offer truly global after sales services. Consolidation seems inevitable and it would be foolish to assume others won’t go the way of Storebox Inflight, Ocleen TV, BAE Systems and PaxLife, all of which entered and exited the market in a relatively small space of time. As part of our aviation portfolio, and to supplement our in-depth annual deep dive into the in-flight entertainment market, Valour Consultancy delivers a quarterly tracker designed to keep those with an interest in the area updated on W-IFE installation activity and key trends. Unlike other quarterly trackers, the W-IFE tracker is extremely rich in data with various splits including airline, product type, aircraft type, sub fleet, fitment type, geographic region, connectivity and service provider and hardware partners. Its updated with input from service providers and airlines and is a must-have resource for anyone looking for an accurate and up-to-date understanding of the market.

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]