If the recent World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) conference and exhibition in Palm Springs showed us anything, it is that an economic recession may be the very best time to innovate.
Several IFEC companies have done just that, and are now standing out for their technological envelope-pushing. One such firm, The IMS Company, received mad props from industry experts, observers and stakeholders - and an article on Flightglobal's new IFEC channel - for its new RAVE IFEC system.
Created in 1996 as an engineering services company, IMS became the "Intel inside" on many of the in-flight entertainment sector's major systems. The firm is perhaps best known for its in-flight portable media player, the PAV705, which is based on consumer-off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies (for more info check out the following links: IMS_PAV705.pdf
The IMS Company's vision today differs from most IFEC systems companies in two major ways, both illustrated by the cleverly-named RAVE.
"One is the [continued] focus on COTS technologies rather than purpose-built, proprietary technology," says Michael Childers, a former IMS managing director who now works as an independent content management consultant.
"The second - which is largely born of IMS' experience with COTS in the portables sector - is the movement by IMS away from head-end centric systems to a system architecture that emphasizes independent units at each seat utilizing the head-end system only for content loading."
Another system that is part of the new breed of embedded IFEC platforms - and which also garnered big attention at WAEA - is Lumexis' fiber optics-based fibre-to-the-screen system, which has secured a full-fleet customer, and has been featured on this blog.
"It is instructive that smaller companies like The IMS Company and Lumexis are generating considerable interest in their platforms, both of which challenge traditional IFE architecture. Each of these companies is offering a solution that is priced below those of the more traditional IFE systems, yet their approaches are quite different," says Childers.
Here is Childers' opinion on the two systems:
"Lumexis offers a solution in which the head-end system offers considerable functionality to a very thin client at the seat over a high-speed connection. The IMS solution is an even bigger departure from traditional architecture in that it locates all of the functionality, content storage, applications, and playback at the seat--using the head-end only for content loading. In its trial, the Lumexis system seems to be forging an excellent record of system reliability and performance.Now, get a load of RAVE.
"The decentralized architecture of the IMS solution would seem to guarantee exceptional reliability in that it avoids systemic failures--every seat stands on its own. If the self-contained RAVE unit in any seat should fail, it is quickly and easily swapped out with a pop-in replacement unit with no impact on any other seat. I am personally very intrigued by this concept of decentralization as a way to avoid systemic failures and enable in-flight replacement of any faulty unit."