walkitout (walkitout) wrote,
walkitout
walkitout

Link FU: BYOD vs Seatback for next gen IFE(C)

First, a translation for that acronymically obscure headline!

BYOD = Bring Your Own Device. Rather than supplying you with a TV or a phone or a tablet or a gaming system, you are expected to bring your own. To support your device, wireless inter/intra net is often provided, perhaps for a fee. Power may or may not be provided for a fee as well. Some contexts will help you get your device working on the internet; many will just supply you with some piece of paper or announcement or sign that indicates the network name and password and from there, you are on your own.

Seatback: when you are on an airplane, and looking at the back of the headrest of the seat in front of you, there is often a video display unit. Aka, a TV. In this context, "Seatback" refers to that kind of entertainment system.

IFE(C): In Flight Entertainment (and Connectivity) Starting with 16mm projection in the 1960s and proceeding through 8mm, video tape, disc, CRT and flat screen systems, many flights over the years have offered some form of audio/video entertainment. In the United States, these heavy, electrical systems are subject to stringent safety requirements enforced by the FAA. They are expensive, and the regulatory component of the process makes airlines loathe to upgrade, however, they are heavy and as long as fuel is expensive airlines are motivated to move in a lighter direction. If system modifications can also make it possible to wedge more seats in (seatback systems require thicker seats, for example), that's also a motivation.

Wikipedia article on IFE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In-flight_entertainment

Hypothesis: the flat screens we are currently accustomed to, operated by a wired remote, or by buttons in the armrest, and used in conjunction with electronic headphones (either bring your own or rented/complimentary from the airline) are due for replacement. The transition currently involves adding cabin wifi (and in some parts of the world, cellular service), however, once we are fully through the transition, there will no longer be seatback screens. They will have been replaced by power and data connectivity and a BYOD policy, probably in conjunction with in-cabin rentals of tablets. The tablets are likely to be Android, running a custom layer on top commissioned by the airline and designed to interface well with the in-flight movie content licensed by the carrier. The power and/or data connectivity may have a free layer for light use (email, chat) but requiring a volume based payment (by time increment or by gigs used) for heavier use (streaming movies, skyping a business meeting).

Basically, some time in the next few years, you'll get on your JetBlue or United Flight with your laptop, tablet, phone, etc., make sure they can all connect to cabin wifi, plug in anything that is running low on battery, and otherwise proceed as if you were at Starbucks. Anyone who fails to bring their own device will be forced to consume aging magazines, altho presumably at some point they will be able to rent a tablet. On flights where wi-fi to terrestrial internet is unavailable, there will likely be intranet available on the flight to stream movies to devices. Cabin crew will have a panel somewhere with a bunch of data sticks that plug into USB slots to serve the content.

Supporting evidence for the hypothesis:

http://blog.apex.aero/2014/11/apex-tec-snapshot-of-the-wireless-ife-landscape/

Hey, I found this _after_ I came up with my hypothesis. Altho you have no reason to believe me.

"Passengers are clearly “equipped’ for wireless IFE, and they’re primed to access streamed content in the air. Airlines are looking to provide enhanced tablets to those who don’t “BYOD” – bring your own device."

The usual issues apply: can we monetize it? Adequately? And how the hell do we deal with all those different kinds of devices?

"Préfontaine suggests that the revenue potential for wireless IFE has been tested, but is not yet proven. But will the revenue generated ever offset the cost of a wireless IFE system? “There isn’t an answer yet, but I don’t think so,” he says.

Wireless IFE installations can offer the passenger a new in-flight experience, but Préfontaine says that management of the multitude of devices and operating systems is a critical factor in making the experience a positive one. The regional differences in device popularity also needs to be addressed."

One airline is already doing this:

http://www.getconnected.aero/2014/09/apex2014-philippines-sees-byod-future-ifec/

Other airlines are in process:

http://www.engadget.com/2014/08/05/future-of-ife/

Honig emphasizes that the screens are gone, and that is confusing people who think there has been a return to the Bad Old Days.

"Earlier this year, I boarded a United flight from Newark to San Diego. After passing the first few rows, a young boy turned to his mother and asked, "Why aren't there any TVs?"

"It's probably an older plane," she responded -- but that couldn't be further from the truth."

Worse, in some cases, the screens are gone and the Good New Stuff isn't fully deployed:

"Instead of the DirecTV logo that occasionally appears in the entertainment section of United's flight status page, the flight only listed onboard WiFi, along with a promise from the airline: "Personal device entertainment is coming soon," which will enable you to view content streaming from the plane using your own laptop, smartphone or tablet. Boeing delivers all of United's 737s without entertainment or WiFi -- instead, a third party handles the installation. But since airlines want to get their new planes into service immediately, they usually schedule installations, which take an aircraft out of commission for several days, for a few weeks or months down the line. That means hundreds of bored passengers every day, and a negative perception of the plane and the airline."

Yikes!

That article is where I got the part of the hypothesis that said content would be a bunch of USB sticks. So, yeah, I ripped bits out of that one.

Comments suggest there are a fair number of people who are going to want to rent an in-cabin tablet. And they may balk at the rental part.

I got interested in this topic because of a really silly BI repost of a Patrick Smith getoffmylawn screed against requiring transoceanic flights to provide location and possibly some condition information every 15 minutes. A lot of people think that if we can readily track people and phones, tracking planes really shouldn't be that difficult or even that expensive. Contrary to what numerous commenters and the author of the stupidity believe, it really isn't that difficult or that expensive -- that is, the uninformed masses are actually more correct than people who believe they have relevant expertise.

I have a theory about what is going on here. I'll be exploring it in a later post.
Tags: our future economy today
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