Lufthansa Systems is pivoting away from focusing on its BoardConnect onboard streaming IFE product, and is repositioning itself as an IT systems provider, while offering its onboard platform as an option for the centre of digitalization onboard the aircraft. “We’re into IT” is the new slogan, and the move is no less than a “transformation”, Lufthansa Systems’ head of passenger experience products & solutions Jan-Peter Gaense told Runway Girl Network at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg.
In terms of products, Gaense says, “I do believe in wireless IFE only. It’s just not going to be a market in five to six years anymore — or a sustainable market. There’ll always be a market but you need to differentiate and come up with cooler things and other solutions that give you bigger volumes, bigger markets.”
The reality in this medium term is that the vast majority of jet aircraft will be equipped with either seatback inflight entertainment, streaming-capable inflight connectivity, or both.
The “buy a box and pop it in the overhead for streaming” option, as far as Lufthansa Systems goes, is not the future, though it continues to offer a next-gen version of its BoardConnect Portable hardware (a white-labeled Kontron box developed in collaboration with LS).
In the future, says Gaense in reference to wireless IFE, “I think we have to move away from that because what happens in the cabin is no longer isolated from what happens outside the cabin. Airlines and partners look for a solution that integrates with their travel chain. Look at how cool apps have got on baggage tracing. When I check in now, drop off my bag, I get a message: ‘Your bag has been accepted.’ That’s pretty cool stuff but once I get on board of an aircraft? All the digital cool gimmicks on the ground, they seem to have forgotten about me.”
To that end, Lufthansa Systems is now focusing on enabling its partners to deliver that sort of digitized passenger experience via the framework it calls BoardConnect Dock, highlighting its work with Mahata at Citilink and Garuda Indonesia, plus Epteca at Air Europa, on the airline integration side. It also lists a wide range of partners including WhileFly, repay.me, Touch, Lasker, IMM, PXCOM, IMD, optile, INADVIA, RIM and Lufthansa Technik.
“The idea is to bring companies together, no longer be closed, but make use of our expertise, expertise in the industry, and bringing the right people together to solve a certain problem or to help in the new stuff,” Gaense says. “We no longer insist on it has to be the BoardConnect IFE front end, we’re actually okay to help a partner bring their IT solution on board. And I think that’s where we can add a good value, having the legacy of 25-year-old IT company that has an awesome amount of experience in airline IT.”
A system that just provides streaming entertainment can’t play the digitization hub role that Lufthansa System foresees. It is notable, though, that the company developed a new generation of the BoardConnect Portable box as recently as at the APEX Expo in September last year, focusing on its inflight entertainment abilities.
Inasmuch as the ‘package in a box’ solution might survive, therefore, “airlines are looking for a turnkey to design, they’ll look for a turnkey solution that gives them the space in the cabin or look for something that they can plug in, integrate with their entire travel chain to make it a seamless experience,” Gaense highlights.
That travel chain is already well under development, with numerous airline groups and even smaller independent airlines — as well as other players in the passenger experience world all the way up to OEMs — operating their own technology incubators. “Who are we to think we can do better than them?” Gaense asks. “Obviously, they’ve decided this is important to them. This is key knowledge they want to have. Let’s not fight them, but let’s help them to enable what they want to achieve.”
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