Lufthansa will let you watch in-flight movies on your own tablet
The design team at Lufthansa Systems, a subsidiary of Lufthansa Airlines, wasn't looking to revolutionize in-flight entertainment for the world's airline passengers. It was simply looking for some new products and sources of revenue for its business.
That's when the idea of potential improvements in on-board entertainment systems first came up, Nobert Mueller, a senior vice president with Lufthansa Systems told CITEworld. Those hard-wired in-flight entertainment systems in seatbacks and ceilings on narrow body commercial passenger jets have been around for years, but they can be limiting for passengers because they often don't work and they can offer poor sight angles.
"We looked at all kinds of aircraft," Mueller said. "A lot of U.S. airlines had invested in seatback screens, and many European airlines used ceiling-mounted screens, which are not that much use because they don't give a real personal experience to passengers."
An idea was hatched.
"We saw this … and thought how can we solve that and make the product more attractive for passengers and also make some money?"
After some brainstorming, the idea for a new product became clear -- to develop a revolutionary on-board server that would deliver material like in-flight movies, music, electronic publications, and more to each passenger using the tablets, laptops and smartphones the passengers were already carrying aboard.
"Instead of modifying seats and building screens into seats, we simply use the passengers' own personal electronic devices" to provide the content, Mueller said. "It was more about creating a new market than about solving a problem."
The result was BoardConnect, a small server that can be easily installed inside a jet's electronics bay and linked to several wireless access points mounted in the aircraft's ceiling. The access points transmit customized entertainment that fits passenger requests. The system is particularly aimed at narrow body jets, where it's harder to package on-board entertainment systems that are easily visible to all passengers. An adequate number of access points is used for each plane type to ensure that all passengers can use the service at the same time.
BoardConnect can also be used by passengers to order food and drinks from their seats, as well as by cabin crew members to provide flight information and other travel details to passengers. BoardConnect also gives airlines the opportunity to send custom content, including targeted advertisements and in-flight offers to purchase goods.
The BoardConnect systems are built by Lufthansa Systems and run on Microsoft Windows Server 2008. They also run Microsoft's PlayReady DRM application which encrypts content so passengers can stream and watch it, but can't save it.
On the client side, passengers have to download an app onto their devices before boarding a plane so they can use the service. The app has been available for iOS and Android for about a year, and a new Windows 8 version has just been added. Passengers carrying Kindle Fire devices can also use BoardConnect using the Android app.
Google made a big splash almost a year ago with its Google Glass Internet-connected eyewear. Now the search giant is ready to broaden its assault on the wearable computing market by releasing a software development kit for developers to create Android-based software for wearables.