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Cabin management systems

As the passenger environment becomes ever more complicated – lighting, IFE, connectivity, onboard sales – the cabin crew needs to take control. Mario Pierobon examines some of the options

Traditionally, the flying experience has meant total detachment from the world below for the duration of the flight. Nowadays however, this is increasingly less the case as personal electronic devices (PED) have made their way into peoples’ lives, significantly changing habits and expectations. More than ever, we communicate and access personalised content during flights. As a result of this shift in habits and expectations, antennas are being installed on scheduled passenger aircraft to guarantee increased data connectivity, thereby ensuring people can remain connected and access whatever content they wish.

In this way, aircraft are becoming an extension of peoples’ homes and offices, and aircraft cabin management systems (CMS) are also evolving to ensure that people remain connected.

“CMS are evolving in relation to inflight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) passenger services. Most airlines today are now including internet connectivity and wireless cabin (W-IFE) audio visual on demand (AVOD) services as part of their IFEC strategy to allow passengers to use their own PEDs. Those airlines with large single aisle fleets are balancing decisions to install limited in-seat video services based on cabin class (such as business class sections) while also installing W-IFE to service the entire cabin,” says Richard Nordstrom, Senior Director of Global Marketing, Information Management Services at Rockwell Collins. “This decision for single aisle aircraft is quite varied among airlines, but the trend for newer aircraft to make longer flight segments is giving a strong reason for W-IFE cabin capabilities. These CMS trends expand and enable new communication pathways between passengers, cabin crew, airline frequent flyer programmes, advertisers, third party services and others. The connecting of these aviation market segments allows the passenger’s journey to quickly evolve in support of an experience where passengers are engaged, connected, entertained, and informed throughout their journey.”

Lufthansa Technik has developed a CMS called ‘nice HD’ which has the ability to interface with standard IP connections, enabling passengers to connect their smartphone or tablet to the system. “nice HD is an Ethernet-based distribution network which allows a seamless interface to common connections – HDMI, USB, wired and/or wireless Ethernet. Furthermore, the system has a built-in digital rights management framework (including encryption), which allows for licensed content to be legally distributed and viewed on the aircraft. nice HD is a certified flying IT solution,” says Laila Helmy, Manager of the Original Equipment Innovation Product Division at Lufthansa Technik.

“Upgrades associated with Cabin Management Systems are focused in the area of an integrated cabin. To that end, there has been a greater use of open source IT technology such as HTML5, with a strong emphasis on security,” says Marty Leab, Program Manager for Controls and Avionics Solutions at BAE Systems, the supplier of IntelliCabin, an integrated approach to cabin management that provides a modular, scalable architecture for controlling capabilities such as in-seat power, LED lighting, IFE, and dimmable windows, all managed via a centralised attendant control panel or crewmember’s handheld device. IntelliCabin’s in-seat power solution reduces weight and costs while distributing power based on the needs of each passenger and the overall cabin. By adding cabin control capabilities, IntelliCabin reduces the number of components that would need to be installed, creating a lighter system that should help airlines save on fuel and operating costs. Additionally, since IntelliCabin can be seamlessly integrated into existing on-board systems, it does not have to depend on other buyer-furnished equipment or original equipment manufacturer installations.

“The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming how people live, including their travel expectations of anytime-anywhere connectivity. Fuelled by standards adoption, innovation, and seemingly endless applications, there is significant and pervasive growth in device connectivity and security ramifications. This technology force is entering the aircraft cabin by enabling internet-ready devices to be seamlessly integrated to create a highly interoperable and efficient environment,” says Leab. Furthermore, IoT is driving down the cost of electronics and emerging technologies, which are making cost reductions viable. BAE Systems is focused on leveraging the trends in IoT into the cabin of the future. >>

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