MIAMI— The future of in-flight entertainment and connectivity is on display once again this year at the annual APEX Expo, offering up views into what passengers can expect to find on board in the coming months and years. The announcements at this year’s edition are a mix of things travelers can expect to see in the cabin and back-office bits which most passengers will never notice. And yet they still will have a big impact on the overall passenger experience.

IFE Content Gets Better

Two companies made significant announcements on the IFE Content front during the show, both significantly expanding the options available to passengers. BAE Systems announced a significant coup vis a vis content licensing rights. Its IntelliCabin IFE streaming solution is the first in the industry to secure permission for early window content from a major Hollywood studio to play on passenger personal devices rather than one embedded in the seat or a tablet owned by the airlines. In a statement the company notes that this approval necessitated that “the IntelliCabin IFE system successfully satisfy rigorous data security requirements to safeguard copyrights.” The service will launch on Vistara airlines in early 2016.
Panasonic and IMG made the other significant announcement, indicating a renewal and expansion of the pair’s live sports contract. Panasonic provides the Sport 24 channel to many of its partner airlines and the new deal ensures a further 5 years of content for the airlines and passengers. The licensing deal includes expanded content choices, adding the NBA and the 2016 Summer Olympics to the roster. It also will include a second channel of content on board, further expanding the options for passengers.

Radomes Get Lighter

Airlines face significant cost challenges when it comes to getting satellite connectivity on to their aircraft. The weight and size of the radome “bump” atop the plane means reduced aerodynamics and additional fuel burn. Astronix unveiled a new radome solution at this years show promising to be one of the lightest Ku-band antenna covers on the market.

A significant part of the weight savings comes from the mounting plate being constructed from carbon fiber rather than the traditional aluminum. Astronix estimates significant cost savings for its customers based on the new offering.

Operations Matter

Connectivity has long been focused on getting passengers the ability to be online. Airlines and network operators are now focused more than ever on realizing benefits from the broadband pipes on the aircraft. Gogo is showing off new flight deck apps which include real-time weather and turbulence forecasting based on reports from the ground and other aircraft in the area. Global Eagle Entertainment’s recent acquisition of masFlight is already showing benefits as the latter’s flight status data is being integrated into applications to help passengers and flight crews better track and plan for delays or other irregularities.