When Apple released the first iPad in 2010 some airlines and pilots dashed out and immediately bought the devices and electronic chart apps without giving deep consideration to their software needs. By putting the cart before the horse, in some instances they added a layer of complication to the process of fully migrating to paperless cockpits. But this paradigm also created an opportunity for trusted partners to step in to assist airlines and crew.
Enter software company Arconics, which provides enterprise data management platforms and mobile app solutions to the aviation industry, and now counts a raft of airlines as customers for its electronic flight bags (EFBs), cabin crew apps, real-time flight data management and wireless inflight entertainment (IFE) solutions.
“We started with pilot portals after the iPad was released so we have half-a-dozen customers that totally eliminated paper and use iPads for all their manuals and forms. We have a solution that synchs everything to the ground. It helps with compliance and auditing; they can prove to regulatory authorities that all pilots have read compulsory notices and signed them. A big part of our business is associated with document management and compliance, and that has led to the whole aircraft e-enablement process, because we’re removing paper,” explains Arconics VP avionics and entertainment Michael Reilly.
Cathay Pacific is among the airlines to select Arconics’ so-called AeroDocs EFB Digital Library for installation on all e-enabled aircraft beginning in January 2015.
The Digital Library, which will be available on Class 3 EFBs on the flight deck, enables pilots to access and search manuals and documents, allowing fast search, real-time updating, and offline access. Cathay Pacific administrators on the ground get real-time visibility and control of the distribution process, ensuring that all aircraft are updated and that all pilots have access to the current version of documents. Arconics will also integrate AeroDocs into existing Cathay Pacific systems to minimize the operational overhead and assure consistency across all systems.
More broadly, Arconics is now duplicating for cabin crew what it did for pilots at various airline partners. “We have digitized apps for cabin crew, as well as engineers with tech logs, so there is a whole digitization process occurring. For the last few years, it’s been about realizing the aircraft is a gigantic network. Though airlines had access to gigabytes of data, they weren’t using that data cost effectively and that has been our mission in the last two years – to show airlines how to effectively manage data and lower costs along the way.”
Over the last year, aviation consultancy AirInsight has released reports highlighting the fact that many airlines still do not have a cyber security plan in place for their pilots’ EFBs. “I’ve seen those reports, and in some cases, it is true,” says Reilly. “Security maybe hasn’t gotten quite the attention it deserves considering that connectivity is increasingly becoming part of the picture, whether ground-based connectivity or of course air-to-ground activity, in which case you’re opening the door to hackers. So it is an issue that more airline IT departments need to start paying more attention to, especially for Class 3 installed EFBs in the flight deck – hence the whole aircraft is protected.”
Arconics has also made gains on the inflight entertainment front. It will roll out its CloudStore wireless IFE software platform on Corendon Dutch Airlines’ Boeing 737-800s beginning in the first quarter of 2015. Content for the go-live system will include Hollywood and Dutch movies, television shows, music, a moving map, and destination content. The airline, meanwhile, chose Flight Focus’ streaming hardware solution to provide the in cabin Wi-Fi hardware.
Corendon Group founder Atilay Uslu says the airline’s immediate goal with CloudStore “is to enhance the passenger experience” by streaming content to passengers’ own devices, “but over time we expect to create new ancillary revenues. We did a comprehensive evaluation of the various IFE systems on the market, and CloudStore stood out. It gives us a one-stop-shop for the core IFE features, and allows us to add payments, e-commerce, and new retail partnerships when we need them. Equally importantly, Arconics demonstrated the ability to work with our internal technology team to deliver a system that perfectly meets our requirements. Over the coming years, CloudStore will enable us to serve our customers better and increase our ancillary revenues through innovative new offerings.”
Arconics’ Reilly notes that the conversation with Corendon and other carriers “started as IFE, but increasingly what we’re finding is that as our message” – that you shouldn’t look at e-enablement programs in isolation – “is getting out there. We’ve been getting further engagement from airlines, who are saying, ‘You’re doing this for us; now do this.’”
The company is in talks “with several other airlines” about CloudStore and is hopeful of making further announcements before the end of the year.