Round 1: Intelligent Avionics answers questions about AURA

Intelligent Avionics’ claim that they can bring a super reliable, super lightweight PC to every seat recently prompted an industry observer to ask that I hold their feet to the fire for specifics, in essence turning RWG into a bit of a boxing ring. And you know I’m game for that.

Check out the following video taken by yours truly at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg and then read on for AURA vice-president Asia Pacific (and former Boeing Australia president) David Withers’ response to our industry observer’s questions.

 


Dear RWG (or is that now Ring Girl),

 

We are more than happy to rise to the challenge and climb into the ring – and not at all surprised to hear that our competitors are keen to learn more about AURA.

Whilst I’m not going to give away our intellectual property, I’m very happy to expand on our solution, particularly in the customers key areas of cost, weight and reliability.

Let’s start with these crucial weight savings. You’ll understand that we’ll save the actual weight, power and cost numbers for our customers, but everyone can do the maths to quickly grasp why a system without servers, significantly reduced distribution hardware, and slimmed down in-seat weight is seen as advantageous by airlines. Aircraft flight manuals provide fuel burns figures for different weights so fuel savings are easily calculated, but remember that many airlines operate many sectors at max weights and will choose to increase their payload rather than take the fuel saving.  Either way, an investment in AURA can payback in a very short period of time.

As a guide the entire AURA system weight for a typical 300 seat economy deployment would is around 1.5kg per pax place – that’s for everything – a full function IFE system including screens, mounts, cables, controllers, avionics, everything!

We are as driven about reliability as saving weight. For years now, avionics engineers have been building mission-critical systems with availability figures well in excess of the 99.999% we propose as standard. They are able to do so through the intelligent application of systems engineering disciplines. 

Recent changes in technology enable us to apply these disciplines to our architecture in a cost and weight effective manner to ensure that our reliability/maintainability and availability promises can be fulfilled. Of course components do fail over time, so AURA is designed to ensure the IFE experience isn’t lost when they do. We achieve this through content storage at the seat, careful component and supplier selection, redundancy of system hardware, and easy inflight hot-swap of screen units.  Where the passenger experience, the sexy stuff, sells seats for airlines, it’s ensuring the system doesn’t fail which brings them back next time.

You are right that media loading is a major issue for airlines.  AURA offers a powerful yet simple content-management system using a single very large hot swap hard-drive at the cabin interface head-end, and large solid-state storage (0.5TB and up) in the seat.  It takes crew about a minute to exchange a secure content drive and start the process to seamlessly push the bulk content load to every seat. An aircraft-wide parallel load takes about 3mins/GB – and this can happen on turn around or in the background during flight. Daily or interim updates such as news or UI changes are easily managed via USB inputs or wireless groundlink.  AURA is highly secure and gained its first approval for early window content within six weeks of submitting technical papers to Hollywood.

Our other passion is to deliver a fantastic passenger experience. AURA provides the tools for airlines to completely customise their IFE system – first-run Hollywood content, gesture user interface, new apps, business productivity and travel tools, inflight shopping, meal and bar ordering, social networking and connectivity, and compatibility with carry-on smart devices. We are working closely with DELL and MICROSOFT to bring the reality of a PC-in-the-seat to air travellers very soon.

Will this satiate our observer, and will other industry players respond with their own stats?


 

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5 Responses to Round 1: Intelligent Avionics answers questions about AURA

  1. Anonymous April 21, 2011 at 12:47 am #

    Gosh, this SOUNDS SO good…

    BUT, Dell and Microsoft? Please…

    Are we to believe that these companies know anything about streaming entertainment to consumer devices? Last time I looked, AAPL was north of $300 per share and rising. Dell has become irrelevant and Microsoft is “Office” — maybe.

    Lemme think about all that storage in the seats for a minute… Isn’t that expensive? If reliable “solid-state” storage is $1.25 per GB, then a 0.5 TB per seat B777 aircraft would need US$ 237500 in memory alone (AU$ price may be higher). That kind of money can by a lot of head-end equipment!

    Head-end equipment? Well, any system such as the one described will still have at least one on-board server. How else will the thing be loaded with content? And wiring? The content doesn’t just leap to the seats — wiring is required.

    Mary, Mary… show some guile. If Mr. Withers was trying to talk you into bed, you’d be more skeptical.

  2. Mary Kirby April 21, 2011 at 8:03 am #

    Show some guile and miss all the fun? This isn’t a proper boxing match if folks like you don’t jump in the ring, is it? So thank you for your comment. The point of this blog is to get the conversation rolling. AURA operates over gigabit ethernet or wireless backbone. But let’s see if the AURA guys are willing to respond further. Anon, your last comment has given me a much needed chuckle. Afflicted with Strep Throat right now, and looking my absolute worst, I’m afraid I’d be the one having to do the convincing with Mr. Withers. :-)

  3. William April 21, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    If they are putting half a Terabyte into each seat, they’ll be paying rather less than $1.25 per GB…

  4. Seat Cynic April 22, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    The AURA IFE system is absolutely state of the art – if the year is 2004.

    In 2011, there is no reason that a new IFE system should weigh more than 0.5 kilos or perpetuate the “woodpecker effect”.

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