castLabs for IFE: Moving IFE to the Cloud
Read all three of our ‘castLabs on IFE’ blogs by following the links to the right.
Conventional in-seat IFE gives passengers a strict non-personalized selection of video content to enjoy, in return for a costly installation and extensive cabling throughout the aircraft. Before the content can be ready for distribution, it will have been through a complex preparation workflow of any number of intermediaries.
As high-speed Internet connectivity in the skies becomes less expensive, capacity is boosted through new Ka and Ku band satellites, and the benefits of cloud-based services are recognized, disruption to the conventional IFE model is underway. Moving IFE to the cloud will simplify the video entertainment workflow.
Improve Content Delivery
Cloud technology enables airlines to offer a much larger entertainment catalogue for passengers to choose from, particularly if airlines choose to use a content aggregator rather than license content directly. With onboard Internet, instead of content being pre-loaded to aircraft servers, titles can be streamed on-the-fly to passenger laptop, Android or iOS apps, a model referred to as ‘bring your own device’ or BYOD, as employed by airlines including XL Airways and Royal Brunei Airlines.
Where traditional seat-screens would typically run locally installed software requiring manual updates, IFE apps on a user’s device connected to the cloud can also receive faster updates.
Because airline supplied screens are not critical to the service, and minimal costs are involved in delivery, cloud-based IFE using the BYOD model is scalable, only limited by the connectivity capabilities on the flight.
Where it’s cost-prohibitive to replace in-seat screens, existing hardware can be connected to cloud IFE platforms via in-cabin WiFi in much the same way as passenger devices – no need to rip-and-replace.
Improve Content Preparation
Taking encoding and packaging of content to one side, airlines must consider many other factors in preparing content for IFE. Films must be screened and censored for reasons as far ranging as display of pork products on flights to or from Muslim-majority countries, to logos of rival airlines displayed on-screen. Accommodating passengers that speak multiple languages requires multi-language subtitling and closed captioning support. Until now, these tasks have often been carried out on a case-by-case basis creating a long and expensive workflow.
Early adopters are already using secure cloud-based content processing services like castLabs’ Video Toolkit to simplify their content preparation workflow. Costs can be greatly reduced by taking on-premises hardware processing out of the equation. In addition to encryption, encoding, and packaging media assets for onboard delivery, Video Toolkit supports universal specifications that make it easier to create multi-version content, including region-specific subtitles and audio tracks.
The Future of IFE?
castLabs technology is already in use with a continental airline, and other carriers are also choosing cloud-based IFE for content preparation and content delivery aboard new and refurbished aircraft.
What we’re yet to see are carriers leveraging passenger data to personalize content, similar to the algorithms used by the large streaming providers, to keep subscriber engagement and retention high. Airlines may also begin to look at a variety of service models, as package add-ons with other streaming services (e.g. Amazon Channels), as benefits or annual subscriptions for regular passengers, or further leveraging passenger data to deliver personalized adverts.
castLabs technologies facilitate DRM license delivery, multi-device playback, and cloud-based content preparation for IFE. We support a wide variety of streaming platform business models and our video delivery solutions are easily integrated with leading video technologies for ad insertion, advanced subtitling, and more.
Research and statistics from: ‘Inflight Entertainment’. XL Airways. http://www.xl.com/en/article.cfm?idArticle=111. Katie Sadler, ‘Royal Brunei Airlines introduces Cloud Streaming in-flight entertainment’. June 2016. International Airport Review. https://www.internationalairportreview.com/news/23607/royal-brunei-airlines-cloud-streaming-entertainment. August 2014. CNN. http://edition.cnn.com/2014/08/12/travel/secrets-of-in-flight-movies. Raymond Kollau, ‘Inflight Ancillaries: How airlines can monetize their inflight engagement platforms’. June 2017. http://www.airlinetrends.com/2017/06/21/inflight-ancillaries-how-airlines-can-monetize-their-inflight-engagement-platforms.