Embedded screens are a common fixture in many aircraft cabins. Whether installed in seatbacks, armrest consoles or bulkheads, or as a drop-down system from overhead panels, they facilitate the distribution of entertainment content, safety messaging and flight information to airline passengers. They also serve as the main interface for modern cabin management systems that control lighting and passenger service system functions, for example.
But in the coming years, new use cases are expected to emerge, as flexible ultra high definition OLED screens are integrated into galleys and other cabin monuments for use as digital signage; and are applied to ceiling panels to create ambiance or enhance brand identity and awareness. They might even be positioned as elegant cabin dividers.
Among the firms leading the charge is AERQ, the joint venture between South Korean multinational technology conglomerate LG Electronics and aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul giant Lufthansa Technik. Together, as AERQ, these companies are eager to take the digital transformation of aircraft cabins to the next level by turning them into spaces for new ideas and business development.
AERQ’s proposition sounds hardware intensive. But the core of its offering is in fact an open IT platform called AERENA, which creates an ecosystem onboard that can quickly deploy airline and third-party apps, content, and user interface (UI) changes to the screens in a way that effectively enables airlines to become the “playmaker” of their own cabins and create a unique experience for passengers in a cost efficient manner, company head of marketing and public relations Verena Bintaro told Runway Girl Network at the recent APEX/IFSA Exhibition in Long Beach.
This vision can take many shapes; it can be something as simple as a Welcome Board integrated into a front row monument that provides flight information; seating guidance and upgrade offers; weather and destination content; and advertising.
For example, Boeing EnCore Interiors (BEI) has already integrated the AERQ Welcome Board into a BEI galley design for testing and evaluation purposes. The concept, which was first shown this summer at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, was also on display at the APEX/IFSA Exhibition.
Another potential option for AERQ’s UHD OLED screen technology is as a class divider that can show content on one side whilst remaining totally transparent on the other — or indeed show content on both sides in a non-offensive way. Airlines could highlight their sustainability goals, for example, and promote their carbon offset programs to passengers.
The transparent class divider is still in the concept phase, but Bintaro said the response from industry has been “great so far”. Indeed, parent company LG is already working on other sizes beyond the 55″ screen seen in Long Beach.
AERQ enjoys presenting the art of the possible to airlines. According to the firm, lightweight, flexible OLED screens could also be used to create virtual windows or a virtual sky ceiling to make memorable experiences for passengers.
Bintaro said AERQ focuses on integrating the technology “in smart ways and new ways” to create a win-win for both airlines and their passengers.
But to achieve the goal of a digitalised cabin, collaboration with other vendors is key. Bintaro stressed the importance of working directly with integrators, galley manufacturers and seat manufacturers.
“[G]enerally speaking, the whole idea for us is being a partner to the airlines, primarily of course, but within the industry to partner up directly with other experts of other areas,” she said.
As such, in addition to its collaboration with Boeing EnCore Interiors, AERQ this year teamed with premium seatmaker Stelia Aerospace to initially propose the integration of a 32” UHD OLED Welcome Board in the front row monument of Stelia’s Opera seat for the A320neo family.
But more traditional IFE/seat integrations are also being pursued by AERQ.
For example, Recaro Aircraft Seating showed off a new screen integration project in partnership with AERQ, and a new pivoting inflight entertainment system arm, during the Aircraft Interiors Expo.
And AERQ is preparing to debut its AERENA system — with seatback monitors — onboard an A320 operated by Eurowings Discover, the new leisure carrier of Lufthansa Group. The A320, which will be fitted with the screens next year, will serve as a test aircraft of AERQ’s new digital experience for passengers.
The inherent flexibility of AERENA allows airlines to test content sets on different aircraft. And in time, the firm anticipates that some airlines will offer both its inseat system and cabin digital signage, combining both for maximum impact.
Bintaro explains AERQ’s approach in the following video.
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