With inflight PED usage now standard on most US carriers and connectivity swiftly becoming the “new normal” industry-wide, one can’t help but wonder what the future holds for embedded seat-back IFE. Sure it’s comforting and familiar, but as we surge headlong into the digital age, are traditional embedded IFE solutions really necessary?
According to Rolf Wicklund, the director of presentation software at IFE solutions provider Lumexis, the answer is a resounding “yes”. Admitting that he’s a tad biased on the subject, Wicklund weighed in on the often thorny relevance issue (and much more!) while giving the Runway Girl Network a sneak peak at Lumexis’ new third generation Fiber-To-The-Screen (FTTS) IFE system at the firm’s offices in Irvine, California.
“I’m just looking at this from a passengers point of view,” says Wicklund on the topic of embedded versus wireless IFE solutions. “But, when I get on a plane, especially an international flight … to have a big screen right in front of me that’s very easy to watch content on, that’s content that just left the theatre, and it’s rich, HD video and a beautiful speaker system. I just don’t think you can beat it. And in my mind, if an airline decides to include only wireless streaming content, it’s purely a cost issue.”
And after experiencing the wonders of Lumexis’ FTTS system firsthand, I can see where Wicklund is coming from. And though Wicklund’s video walk-through (see attached) serves up many of the FTTS systems coolest features, it is by no means the final word on this huge leap forward in seat-back IFE awesomeness. Sleek, intuitive and above all else, easy to use, the third generation FTTS system — and it’s feature-packed Second Screen options — are perhaps the best argument going for the continued relevance of embedded IFE.
Of course a huge part of remaining relevant in an ever-evolving marketplace is staying one step ahead of the crowd. And while the FCC’s 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) — which requires programming that is closed captioned on TV to be closed captioned when distributed on the Internet — doesn’t apply to IFE yet, Wicklund says the FTTS system already address many of those concerns.
“We’ve been really forward-thinking in the way we’ve developed our closed captioning and subtitle system and our language system, where it’s adaptive based on how the customer starts using the system,” says Wicklund. “When you sit down … you indicate the language that you’re going to be using and you can turn the subtitles or closed captions on at any time you want for any language. And based on your choices we will automatically display the appropriate subtitles or closed captions if the audio is not available in your particular language, or if you’ve indicated that you always want them on. So, we try to be smart about when we display those things and how they’re displayed.”
And though the company hasn’t yet ventured into the great, wide world of Siri-like “text speech” solutions, Wicklund says the FTTS system can improve the passenger experience for visually-impaired flyers in other ways.
“My honest opinion on [Siri-like “text speech” solutions] is that I put [them] into the category of the Thales waving at the screen thing, in that it’s overboard and gets a little too complex,” says Wicklund. “The reason that they work on your own device is because you get used to it. But in an aircraft environment where you’re not used to it … there’s other ways to go.”
Wicklund is quick to add that should there prove to be a “real passenger demand” for such solutions, Lumexis would definitely provide them, but for the moment the system has other ways to start content. “Right now we have … a feature where you can start content on one screen using a different screen. So, if you’re flying with someone, the person you’re flying with can actually browse and start content for you from their screen and the flight attendant can also start content for you from their screen as well.”
And while new innovations are always fun, at the end of the day, Wicklund says the best IFE systems boil down to three simple words: “ease of use.”
Lumexis CEO and co-founder, Doug Cline could not agree more. “Having watched the evolution of this team and this system over the last eleven years I continue to be impressed with how it continues to expand, and how people, like our presentation team, continue to make [the FTTS system] more and more easy and intuitive to use,” says Cline.
To see Lumexis’ new FTTS system in action, check out Wicklund’s guided tour below.