Thales Avionics is shortening IFE content cycles by transferring data through the internet, with Russian flag carrier Aeroflot the first airline to test the technology.

Films, TV and audio content are typically delivered to airlines monthly or bi-monthly by courier on hard drives, a process that usually take three to five days.

Transmitting the data electronically would shorten and simplify the distribution process as well as allowing IFE providers to refresh the content more often and sell more of it. Near-real-time news could become reality, even if the aircraft is not equipped with inflight internet access.

Digital data transmission could also automate content delivery.

Thales has partnered with California-based data distribution specialist Aspera - which is co-operating with Hollywood studios to transfer their films through the internet - to transmit the material to Aeroflot's headquarters.

Sending the 600GB data package from Thales's media centre in Irvine, California, to Moscow took about 36 hours which, according to Chris Allirot, senior manager for product development and strategy at the French IFE system provider, is "very good considering the distance and remoteness of the [receptor's] location".

The delivery time could be cut further if only fresh content was transmitted. The 600GB package comprised the airline's entire IFE content, including for example, films that would not need to be updated at the same rate as current affairs programmes.

Aircraft operators will need to have internet connections with sufficient bandwidth at acceptable costs.

Allirot says the digital transfer is more expensive than shipping the hard drive.

Protecting the large volume of free-floating content against unauthorised access has also been critical for Thales. But Allirot says Aspera employs data encryption techniques that are also in use for transmissions by the Hollywood movie industry.

"I don't expect that every airline will go along this [digital transferral] route, because it is more expensive than the hard drives," he says. "But when you see the benefit of time, content cycle and automation, I think it is going to grow pretty quickly."

Source: Flight Daily News