At the Aircraft Interiors EXPO in Hamburg, Global Eagle Entertainment (GEE) revealed its Next Generation Wireless IFE (wIFE) solution, Entice, designed to appeal to both airlines and their customers.
The new Entice system is a combined hardware and content distribution system with an ample library of entertainment and activities, as well as an opportunity for airlines to earn revenue through advertising and simplified onboard retail.
A monthly fee covers GEE hardware, software updates, content management and services. GEE also offers detailed analytics which helps better target advertising and onboard offerings.
The Entice system can store up to 10,000 hours of content including a broad mix of movies, television programs, games, music and advertising. A Premium upgrade option includes new release movies, digital publications, “near-live” news and sports, and destination information.
While operating as a traditional onboard closed network wIFE system at the basic level, the Entice system is also ready for upgrade to Ku- or Ka-band satellite inflight connectivity offering customers high speed Internet and live entertainment.
“Entice is a cutting-edge inflight solution developed to help global airlines offer personalised passenger entertainment,” explains Alexis Steinman, SVP of Digital Media Solutions for GEE.
“The volume of content and intuitive browsing deliver an experience comparable to popular home streaming services. It is the perfect solution for airlines seeking a new generation of IFE,” Steinman says.
The interface to passenger devices is simplified, and the touch UX is intuitive. It will be familiar to customers accustomed to popular streaming services at home.
wIFE v IFE–Why Can’t We All Just Get Along
There’s an ongoing debate in the industry over whether wireless-IFE entertainment will conquer the market of seat-back entertainment, making the latter outdated.
While nothing is impossible, should airlines find themselves having to cut costs dramatically again, I believe it is highly unlikely–especially in the short term.
Over the long term, I believe, these labels we use to differentiate these two will ultimately be meaningless.
In the interest of brevity, I’ll explain how and why in a separate post.
For now, both systems can and will co-exist.
There are hundreds of aircraft, thousands of flights, on which passengers will find no entertainment offering at all–beyond what they carry with them. Others offer legacy systems which passengers, used to modern electronics at home, find twitchy to operate, or generally inadequate.
While it’s true that many of us travel with entertainment downloaded to our devices, the storage capacity of these electronics makes it impossible or passengers to carry the variety of content GEE Entice and similar wIFE solutions offer. That makes this service attractive to flyers.
The ease of adoption of systems like Entice also makes them attractive to smaller airlines.
But wIFE is also elegant solution to a nagging problem for larger flagship carriers. Proposing that these large airlines keep all the aircraft in their fleet updated with state-of-the-art, embedded IFE solution is impractical.
Beyond the costs of that equipment, it would require expensive, frequent refurbishments of seats. In some cases, the certification of those seats and those aircraft make a change impossible. It’s just not viable.
Installing a single server at the front of the plane, which then delivers a wider selection of content to the devices passengers already carry with them–especially with GEE rolling the costs into the monthly fee–is far more attractive.
There were a large variety of wIFE solutions on display at the Aircraft Interiors Expo this year, and that’s no surprise.
This space is highly competitive, and attractive both to airlines and suppliers. We should expect more growth and continuous improvement to follow.
For more on this wIFE trend, read my article ‘Entertainment Unwired’ starting on page 79 of the latest issue of the Airline Passenger Experience (APEX) Association magazine.
In this same issue on page 38, the article ‘Shells, Clamps and Mounts’ reviews various options available to airlines to quickly convert BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) entertainment to seat-back entertainment by passengers somewhere to place devices for viewing at eye-level while they work, dine, or just sit back and relax.
‘Double the Fun’ on page 46, reviews consumer trends for multi-screening and the popularity of In-Flight Entertainment options which allow passengers to switch between entertainment on the seat-back screen and on their personal device.