A DATA CENTER IN THE SKY A Lufthansa Systems expert explains why the company’s BoardConnect IFE platform is the optimal solution for airlines by MARY JANE PITTILLA
ufthansa Systems is preparing for an exciting AIX show in Hamburg, where a series of big announcements will be made regarding its wireless IFE platform BoardConnect, which is operational onboard some of the world’s leading airlines. In an interview with PAX International in the run-up to the show, Jan-Peter Gaense, Director Project and Certification for BoardConnect, says he is looking forward to announcing a “major new release” of the award-winning product in Hamburg. Although the details remain under wraps until the trade fair begins, he reveals: “We have a major new release with a new user interface, which is more flexible for the airlines. They can modify the user interface to adapt to the look and feel of their airline, and add or remove features. It will also be an even better experience for the passenger.” The technology powering BoardConnect has also been modified, he says, so that other, third-party applications can access the features of the operating system. Put simply, it means more content can be provided to passengers. Gaense is very clear about why he believes BoardConnect is the best solution for airlines: its stability and its wide range of features. “Lufthansa Systems is the most experienced in delivering wireless IFE to airlines, and it is the most stable solution. It is good, reliable solution that will increase the passengers’ travel experience,” he enthuses, adding that the company’s reputation in the market for providing a quality product is an important factor in its success. BoardConnect offers both Classic and Portable solutions – a product suite that Gaense believes is unique in the marketplace. BoardConnect Classic is accessed via an app onboard the aircraft, allowing up to 350 devices to enjoy content such as chat, games, TV series and movies from leading content partners such as Napster. Virgin Australia was the launch customer, and the connectivity-ready product flies today on Virgin Australia, El Al, Lufthansa, NEOS and AirCalin. BoardConnect Classic won the Crystal Cabin Award in 2012. BoardConnect Portable, meanwhile, is a low-cost, low-effort solution that supports up to 150 devices. This flexible system does not require an STC, and the only piece of hardware needed is a portable modem, meaning installation onboard can be fast. Eurowings, the Lufthansa Group subsidiary, has installed BoardConnect Portable on its entire 80-strong fleet. “As a platform, BoardConnect is more than IFE,” explains Gaense. “We offer a platform to hook up with any airline’s
BoardConnect Classic is accessed via an app onboard the aircraft, allowing up to 350 devices to enjoy content such as chat, games, TV series and movies from leading content partners such as Napster Copyright: Westend61/Getty Images
connectivity partner. It is an open platform. Our preferred partner for connectivity is Inmarsat, but if the airline chooses another supplier, we are able and open to cooperate.” During the AIX show, Gaense said the company will reveal a further new product development: “On top of IFE, we have opened up BoardConnect to become a data center in the sky, thereby completing an airline’s digital transformation goals. Essentially, we give airlines the tools to get digital in the aircraft. We are an open platform that can host all their applications.” For example, a moving map used in the BoardConnect system can also be provided to other applications. He cites Lufthansa, which has incorporated the BoardConnect moving map data into its Lufthansa app. Therefore, by opening up the platform to applications from other partners, the breadth of content and data can expand exponentially. “Content” can also mean boosting ancillary revenues. Lufthansa Systems has partnered with Epteca to offer a holistic approach to passengers across the entire travel chain, providing targeted offers such as hotels and car hire. For now, Lufthansa Systems is busy equipping Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines and Eurowings aircraft with connectivity solutions provided by Inmarsat. Austrian Airlines’ system will go live fleetwide by the end of April 2017, while the entire Lufthansa A320 fleet will be operational in mid-2018. After equipping the whole Eurowings fleet with BoardConnect Portable within one weekend last summer, Lufthansa Systems is now upgrading the Eurowings aircraft step by step to the connectivity solution based on BoardConnect Classic. “This shows the great flexibility of theproduct suite,” says Gaense.
BoardConnect flies today on Virgin Australia, El Al, Lufthansa, NEOS and AirCalin Copyright: Manfred Nerlich
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