Cabin avionics grow in scope and options
Choices widen as office-in-the-sky and IFE capabilities expand.
Rockwell Collins Venue
Rockwell Collins Venue can be controlled with an iPhone application, enabling a personal phone to control music, lighting and video sources in the cabin.
Venue, Rockwell Collins' cabin office and entertainment system, delivers entertainment on large LCD displays and to smaller units at your seat. Venue was launched several years ago, and with a large installed base has continued to update and refresh with customer input the system's operation and ability to scale from small to large cabin environments.
Venue's design integrates Blu-ray DVD, photo slide shows and audio/video juke box and supports gaming systems. Rockwell early on with Venue spent a lot of time conquering new media interface with high-definition audio/video (HDAV) which acts as the receiver to all the various inputs, taking multi entertainment inputs and routing them to the display.
The Venue HDAV also comes with the ability to support standard quality devices such as VHS players or DVD players that are not HD, and up-converts their video signals to improve the image quality for viewing at any of the HD seat displays.
Also, through a unit called the Venue Media Center, you can connect and share music content, video and photos. Venue is designed to provide a customized environment, so at each seat the user can set the preferences for lighting, temperature and video content. You can even move to another seat and with a simple magical command, your preferences will move with you to the seat you now occupy.
But Venue is also designed to provide the support of a sophisticated media office environment, with the ability to take the output from your PC, normally called VGA or HDMI connections and use the cabin monitors and seat displays to discuss a presentation, document or financial documents.
Venue supports your laptop computer, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and other portable devices, and in the future Droid products. In fact, Apple has a cabin remote application for iPhone for the Venue system that lets you control the cabin's media, environment and lighting, and even display the flight's progress. The iPhone app is icon-based and simple to operate.
Rockwell Collins Venue cabin office and entertainment system delivers entertainment both on large LCD displays and to smaller seat-located units. Venue's design integrates Blu-ray/DVD, photo slide shows and audio video juke box, and supports gaming systems.
Rockwell Collins is also moving to integrate information systems from the flightdeck and the cabin office environment.
The company recently created Ascend, an information management system that connects all aspects of flying, business tools for the traveler, and even maintenance management through a single trusted source.
This fusion of flightdecks and information systems will also bring under one manageable service the current patchwork of maintenance database reporting, database updates, satellite connections, cabin entertainment, weather and routing services.
Most importantly, connection of Ascend routing and flight support service with an ongoing development of smart router technology for commercial airlines is going to be a game changer. Rockwell Collins' smart router will allow the user to choose the inflight level of service needed, even based on best cost.
Bizjet as tool
No matter what politicians think, the bizjet is a way of life just as much as electronic gadgets are. The tools used for communicating are now as key as the range of the aircraft—you have to have both. Business is planetwide, and range is no longer the issue—it's the communications and secure business environment.
The rapid development of home entertainment systems tends to set the bar for what some assume will come as standard equipment in corporate aircraft. The problem in the past was that keeping pace with consumer electronics was costly and options were limited.
But this year is different. A number of solid suppliers of cabin systems have affordable solutions with a variety for small cabin aircraft up to the ultralong-range aircraft. Devices such as iPods, iPad and iPhone applications can now be connected to your aircraft to view and share.
The confluence of flight services and office communications is a welcome efficiency that is just beginning. Having access to real-time videoconferencing and worldwide weather and routing will be the way aircraft are equipped, just as now they come with lights and air conditioning.
Glenn Connor is the president of Discover Technology Intl and is a researcher and pilot specializing in the development of enhanced vision systems and advanced avionics.