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Wireless option enables new IFE opportunities: BAE Systems

BAE Systems believes the introduction of a wireless option to the in-flight entertainment system allows new market opportunities to be created.

Speaking to FlightGlobal on the sidelines of Airline Passenger Experience Expo, the company's director for IntelliCabin products Jared Shoemaker said "the advent of a wireless [option] is an opportunity to drive new innovations and solutions into [the IFE] market".

He notes that leveraging the wireless option enables the rapid development of new hardware and software products. This progress led to the company's decision to focus on a wireless IFE system.

BAE Systems places the wireless IFE system under the IntelliCabin brand. This includes the in-seat power system, cabin lighting, crew mobile device solutions, and MRO support. Customers for its IFE product include Vistara and Virgin Australia.

The company used the Airline Passenger Experience Expo to announce that the Australian carrier would use the in-seat power product on its fleet of Boeing 737-800s from the second quarter of 2017.

Asked about the benefits of having a wireless system over an embedded option, Shoemaker admits that comparing the two systems is "very difficult", as they serve different purposes.

An embedded system has the ability to store more content for the passenger, while the wireless system "is a great way to get content at a very low cost and weight to passengers".

The wireless system works well with short- and medium-haul flights, as well as on regional aircraft, and could also play a complementary role to the embedded system, BAE Systems foresees.

"On a widebody or even narrowbody, [it plays] a complementary service to embedded and/or [wi-fi] connectivity, serving the needs of passengers. In conjunction, we're seeing a lot of interest for embedded screens on their premium seats, and wireless streaming to devices in economy," says Shoemaker.

He also mentions that there is a growing need for those devices to be recharged for subsequent journeys.

"It's great to be a provider of content to passengers. But even on a short-haul flight, streaming a show for two hours can have a significant drain on batteries. As a passenger, I would want to recharge my batteries as there's the journey at the other side," says Shoemaker.

"We're seeing more realisation that there is a need or demand or basic requirement of passengers, and we're well positioned both as a standalone in-seat provider, as well as providing the total turnkey solutions that include wireless IFE."

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