In the world of in-flight entertainment (IFE), industry stalwarts Panasonic Avionics and Thales reign supreme. But newcomer Intelligent Avionics is eager to carve out a piece of the pie with the introduction of a next-gen IFE system called AURA.
I’ve asked the firm’s newly-appointed business-development VP in the Americas, Rob Britton, to guest-blog about the company and AURA for RWG, since precious little is known about the product. Rob is a former managing director of brand development and advertising for American Airlines.
While the industry will have to wait until the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg to see AURA, I think you’ll agree that Intelligent Avionics’ message is clear (and the proverbial gauntlet has been thrown).
Here is Rob Britton in his own words:
I’ve felt like a newcomer all my life. When I was a kid, we moved all the time, lots of new schools. This time, as the new kid (okay, in real life I am a grandfather, but I feel young), I’m standing on the steps of the IFE School, holding my new AURA system in my backpack. It’s ultra-lightweight, so I’ve got it with just two fingers. I’m excited, and a little scared, and my heart starts thumping when I see these two really, really big guys standing in front of the school doors. One wears a shirt emblazoned with a big “P,” and the other guy has a “T” letter jacket. Both of them look menacing, the kind that don’t welcome newcomers. But then I notice that both their backpacks are huge. They reach for their straps at the same time, and I can tell their packs weigh a ton. I zip between them, into the school. Whew!
It’s often stressful and just plain hard to be a newcomer. But in my adult life, through several different careers (including a long one in airline marketing, where I held a dozen different posts with three airlines), I’ve come to value the benefits of being a newcomer.
Perhaps most important, the newcomer begins with an empty notebook. Incumbents have a thick pile of papers, filled with history, with successes and failures, often with rote, and with a certain amount of “we’ve always done it this way” thinking. Intelligent Avionics designed AURA from a clean sheet of paper, building a system to deliver on the four big things that airlines and airframers urgently want: lighter weight, greater reliability, a better passenger experience, and at a much lower cost of ownership.
Starting with a clean sheet of paper means developing a system with the processing capability and storage in the seat unit, not a heavy and fault-intolerant head-end server – like putting a netbook PC in every seatback. Decentralizing the system “smarts” means if the power is on, the customer has entertainment. Losing hundreds of kilograms of server means enormous fuel savings and reduced CO2 emissions – this means that in many cases the system could pay for itself with fuel savings. Being ultra-lightweight means narrowbody operators can, for the first time, consider a profit-generating AVOD system that’s lighter and easier to manage than portable IFE.
Starting with a clean piece of paper means designing AURA so it’s easy to install and to maintain. Fewer parts means greater reliability, so we’ve minimized the component count, and sourced from industry leaders. If a passenger screen unit fails, because it’s hot-swappable, cabin crew can fix a problem as easily as fixing a pot of coffee.
Starting with a clean sheet of paper means building a flexible platform. From the start, AURA was designed for easy future upgradability – very different from our competitors. It’s been configured from birth to handle copper, fiber, and wireless backbones and offer a broad product line for all cabins. We’ve built in capability for e-commerce and other revenue-generating activity – plus the ability to meet specific non-standard customer requirements.
The newcomer has a wonderful gift in the ability to ask why, always with tact and without threat, but with a genuine interest in understanding earlier choices and decisions and current offerings in the market. The newcomer does not carry any heavy baggage. We like being a newcomer.