The Place to Be

posted on 10th December 2021
The Place to Be

Collins Aerospace has updated its Venue cabin management system with a new graphical user interface and other features, as Craig Bries, VP Sales, Marketing and Business Development, Avionics and Tracy Miller, Venue Engineering Lead, Avionics, explain

Venue, the cabin management system (CMS) from Collins Aerospace, has become a trusted companion to many bizjet passengers and crew. The name is familiar from years of service, but the product has moved on – most recently through a revision of its graphical user interface (GUI, pronounced ‘gooey’), to improve the user experience and refine customisation options.
Craig Bries, VP Sales, Marketing and Business Development, Avionics at Collins Aerospace says the latest Venue iteration continues the tradition of providing more than simple control over the cabin. He describes it as a ‘total cabin management system’, but it also has elements of a smart TV or iPad about it, enabling access to apps as well as control functions.
Speaking at the Dubai Airshow in November, Bries explained that Venue was among the main business aviation exhibits Collins Aerospace was showing. “During and since the pandemic, we’ve seen a 150% increase in Venue retrofits,” he said. “Our bizjet and VIP customers want that ‘at home/in office’ experience when they’re in the aircraft and we think we can deliver it.”
After more than 1,500 Venue installations to date, Collins Aerospace has also perfected the art of supporting its customers, both remotely and in person. Bries continued: “We have our avionics support network, including field managers available 24/7 and our trusted dealer network. The latter is there for installation and subsequent field support.”
Meanwhile, the new GUI introduces an icon-based philosophy. Tracy Miller, Venue Engineering Lead, Avionics, outlined: “Instead of customising the GUI for different languages, we made it international by using basic, easily recognised icons for lighting controls, window shades, temperature and so on. The system shows a 3D layout of the aircraft, including the cabin zones, with the same interface on the galley and cabin monitors, or a personal device. Regardless of how the crew or passengers interact with Venue, the interface looks and acts the same.
For a passenger stepping onto a Venue-equipped aircraft for the first time, interaction with the system requires an app, through which all the functionality of the cabin touchscreens is available on a phone or tablet.
“The philosophy was to have the permanent, touchscreen cabin monitors behave like an iPad, making the system more similar to how people use their everyday phones and tablets. Each of the 3D models is customised for the aircraft, so different cabin zones may be modified from one controller regardless of cabin layout.” In reality, the 3D model goes beyond replicating zones, with the GUI depicting exactly the seating arrangement of the subject aircraft.
The level of functionality is surprising. “You can control the temperature of the oven in the galley,” Miller continued, “and the water levels in the lavatories; it’s really comprehensive.”
‘Comprehensive’ also means multiple functions; to streamline the process of achieving regular settings, Venue provides programmable multi-task buttons. “There might be a button labelled ‘Good Morning’, Miller explained. “It could gently bring up the lights in the cabin, or play a particular type of music, or movie.” Alternatively, a user may prefer a particular ambience in which to watch movies and a multi-task button could be set to lower the lights, close window shades, set volume levels and even, perhaps, adjust the temperature.
It is probably fair to assume that lavatory water level will be outside the scope of most users’ interests, while entertainment is more likely to be a headliner. “From an entertainment perspective,” Miller enthused, “we’re bringing 4K to bizjets for the first time, both in movies and our new ASXi high-definition Airshow moving map product.
“Something that stands out for many Middle East and Gulf customers is that Airshow features a ‘Mecca pointer’ that shows the direction of Mecca wherever a customer is flying, and local prayer times.”
And if a 4K moving map is insufficient to impress, then Airshow is also customisable so that the 3D aircraft depiction progressing across the screen may be adjusted to represent the aircraft being flown, while there are also options for delivering additional information on points of interest. It means the map becomes a story-telling entertainment app in its own right and Miller, clearly an Airshow fan, is especially pleased with its ability to show topography, cities and more on an iPad as the user moves the device in different directions.
“We also have Stage, our inflight streaming service for business jets and VVIP aircraft. It involves a server for which we provide content including Hollywood movies, TV series, weather data and city information.” Stage content remains fresh and relevant through ground or airborne connection, although updating and synchronising in the air is likely to incur prohibitive data costs – the Stage server has a 2TB hard drive. Access is via a website or mobile app, with desired content checked from a long list of options. With connectivity the system is then synched, or it can be synched via PC and an external hard drive. The latter is connected to the Stage server, where the data is available for viewing on personal devices and cabin monitors within five minutes – there’s no requirement to wait for the system to fully synchronise.
Compatibility with an external drive also means customers are not restricted to Collins Aerospace content. So long as the file type is compatible, personal movies, photographs or music may also be uploaded and played.
Bries and Miller do a very good job of selling the Collins Aerospace CMS vision, but there is clearly a level of personal pride involved. As Venue Engineering Lead, what’s Miller’s favourite aspect of the system?
After a moment’s pause for consideration, he responded: “From a maintenance point of view, I think our Auto Recovery feature is remarkable in that if a component, let’s say a touchscreen controller, were to fail and the replacement didn’t have the same level of software as the other components, then because they are networked it will be updated to match. It’s a really impressive feature.
“From a customer standpoint I think it’s the level of control. Lots of cabin management systems control some features, like entertainment or lighting, but Venue really does control everything.”