Cabin Management Systems: spoilt for choice

posted on 13th June 2018

Connectivity has long been a popular requirement for executive aircraft, with its promise of the ability to transfer one’s office to the clouds. At the same time, personal electronic devices have proliferated and created the problem of successfully integrating them in the cabin environment. Thanks to digital technology, it is now possible to replicate the “on the ground” experience in the cabin of a high-flying aeroplane. Don Parry reports

Honeywell chose this year’s EBACE Show, in Geneva, to demonstrate its approach to the requirement with a full size cabin mock-up of its Ovation Select Cabin Management System (CMS) that has been chosen by Embraer for its new family of Legacy 450/500 jets. Ovation Select is a system taking the in-flight experience to the next level,”  says Mauricio Almeida, Vice President, Programmes – Executive Jets, at Embraer. “Its seamless connectivity and high-definition capabilities perfectly complement our Legacy 450/500 aircraft to create the optimal on-board passenger experience.”

Honeywell’s Ovation Select features an enhanced, intuitive interface that enables passengers to stay informed and connected with their business operations while travelling. In-flight connectivity is seamless and easy, whether travellers are connected via their BlackBerry or laptop, using their iPad, iPod or iPhone or watching a Blu-ray film. An additional, updated feature is the 3D high-definition moving map application JetMap HD, which allows passengers to view their flight path from up to 18 different perspectives and zoom in close on the terrain below.

In addition to controlling the system’s entertainment components, Ovation Select also puts lighting, seats, cabin temperature, galley and window shade controls at the passengers’ fingertips.

The system is built on a 100% digital architecture and Ethernet backbone, which reduces installation time versus competing systems and facilitates the standard end-to-end self-diagnostic and troubleshooting capability. It has been tested to the current industry standard for greater resiliency to environmental and electromagnetic effects. In addition, Ovation is virtually immune from external aircraft interference. Importantly in these fast-moving times, it allows the latest and even future technology innovations to be easily and rapidly integrated.

Rockwell Collins is another major contender in CMS technology, with its Venue system that is the industry’s first high definition (HD) cabin management system and is flying on more aircraft than any other HD system. Now, a new application is available from the iTunes App Store which will transform the Apple iPhone or an iPod touch into a full, two-way remote for the Venue CMS. The free app, called CabinRemote, is available for both forward-fit and aftermarket aircraft equipped with Venue.

CabinRemote provides real-time control of all Venue audio-video systems, as well as aircraft lighting, shades and many other functions from any location in the cabin. For aircraft equipped with a Rockwell Collins Media Centre, passengers can also display the Airshow Moving Map on their device. Use of CabinRemote requires a Wireless Access Point (WAP) and a simple software update to Venue. Once on board the aircraft, the app automatically synchronises with the Venue system, enabling all the unique and specific functions of the aircraft. For fleet operators with multiple Venue-equipped cabins, CabinRemote syncs with each cabin once the passenger boards the aircraft. Rockwell Collins’ new WAP-3000 system was specifically designed to seamlessly work with CabinRemote.

Last May, Rockwell Collins announced the successful aftermarket installation of its Venue CMS on two Dornier 328DBJ aircraft. With this installation, completed by 328 Support Services of Germany (328 SSG), the Dornier 328DBJ became the first European manufactured aircraft to fly with Venue.

Earlier this year, Rockwell Collins announced an agreement with EMTEQ to fully integrate EMTEQ’s line of light-emitting diode (LED) interior lighting with its Venue HD CMS. “The beauty of Venue is its ability to accommodate the latest technology with relative ease, which we’re proving by integrating it with EMTEQ’s lighting products,” says Tommy Dodson, Vice President and General Manager, Cabin Systems for Rockwell Collins. “EMTEQ’s state-of-the-art LED lighting and its sleek look are what customers are looking for in a Venue-fitted cabin.”

Rockwell Collins has now introduced a digital HD upgrade to aircraft equipped with its ACMS and CMS-1 cabin management systems. The digital HD upgrade refreshes and extends the life of a cabin without the expense and downtime required with changing control switches and modifying the woodwork. Elements of the upgrade include HD audio/video distributor, which also can upscale analogue content to HD quality, HD monitors to provide excellent picture quality and dual Blu-ray disc player. Switzerland-based Jet Aviation was the first company to install the upgrade on a Gulfstream V. The digital HD upgrade solution is also available for Gulfstream 400 and 500 series aircraft, as well as the Hawker Beechcraft 750, 800XP, 850 and 900XP.

TrueNorth Avionics has introduced a compact Wi-Fi cabin-networking device, the TrueNorth Express+, which manages all wireless communications, IFE and cabin management devices. Using a built-in Ethernet-to-Wi-Fi link, the TrueNorth Express+ interfaces with all FCC-approved airborne wireless devices, from communications units like handsets, intercoms and smartphones, to inflight entertainment (IFE) units like DVD players, music players and game consoles, to cabin control systems for lighting and ventilation, to electronic flight bags (EFBs) in the cockpit. Incorporating built-in security for all operations, the TrueNorth Express+ creates a wireless access point for the aircraft that’s RTCA DO-160 qualified and is certificated by both the FAA and EASA. The first installation was by AMAC Aerospace of Basel, Switzerland, aboard a B777 business aircraft.

Lufthansa Technik’s Innovation Business Unit has now introduced nice HD (high-definition), the new generation of its cabin management and in-flight entertainment system (CMS/IFE). The fully digital nice HD is based on a full-fledged wired and wireless high-bandwidth Ethernet network.

nice HD users are able to access all cabin, communications and entertainment devices such as a Blu-ray film on an HD display or the cabin lighting with just one wireless touch screen controller such as an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Wirelessly accessing the Internet, or viewing real-time images of the outside world captured by on-board cameras and displayed on any screen is possible, too.

Thanks to its open architecture, nice HD is highly configurable and flexible, allowing Lufthansa Technik to offer a wide number of cabin equipment packages, from lighting and environmental control to the integration of third-party solutions such as satellite communications and TV, portable audio/video devices or cameras. Due to a minimum of hardware components, nice HD installation is both very reliable and easy to maintain.

More importantly, nice HD meets current stringent requirements for the legal streaming of HD content with integrated Digital Rights Management (DRM) and Hollywood-approved encryption. DRM is a system for protecting the copyrights of data circulated via the Internet or other digital media by enabling secure distribution and preventing illegal use of the data. DRM and content security are essential features of a high definition IFE system, because they protect the ownership rights of content providers and meet, for example, the requirement for receiving HD audio/video on-demand content or distributing Blu-ray content within the aircraft network.

Passenger PEDs (personal electronic devices) such as smart phones or tablets can be linked to nice HD via an HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) cable to feed high-definition content into the system. This makes it possible, among other things, to connect consumer media players to the system, allowing users to transmit content into the nice system.

Earlier this year, the first ever retrofit of a nice CMS/IFE system on a Bombardier Global Express aircraft was completed in cooperation with H4 Aerospace (UK) Ltd, an EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) Design Organisation Approval (DOA). The installation was carried out during the 8C-check, which is performed on a Global Express aircraft every 10 years.

Gulfstream Aerospace has introduced the G280 Cabin Management System. This all-new Gulfstream CMS creates the optimum cabin ambience. Simple navigation gives the passenger complete control of everything from the environment to entertainment. The Gulfstream-designed system uses a familiar platform, the iPod touch, with plans to introduce other personal handheld devices. In operation, it is a simple matter of downloading the application from the Apple store and the system does the rest. Just step on board and the aircraft will automatically sync the device and provide the correct floor plan. The Gulfstream CMS was designed using Gulfstream’s Cabin Essential philosophy, so functionality isn’t affected by a single point of failure. No matter what, the system will continue working.

The rotary wing world is equally in need of CMS technology. In April, Flight Display Systems announced that American Eurocopter has successfully installed and delivered the first Eurocopter EC 145 with a Select Cabin Management System (Select CMS). VIP passengers can now control XM Radio, Blu-ray video, cabin lighting, air conditioning and a Flight Display Moving Map from their seats. Flight Display Systems provided four 3” VIP touchscreen control panels, Blu-ray and DVD player, flight display moving map, a 10.2” widescreen LCD with ceiling mount and 6 Genre Music Player.

The technology is available; the only drawback is that the customer is now spoilt for choice.