Image via Immfly

APEX Insight: A bridge between seatback IFE and BYOD? OMG! Barcelona-based startup Immfly is doing just that, allowing an airline to serve all kinds of content to a passenger’s smartphone or tablet using an in-cabin Wi-Fi network. Think of Immfly as seatback IFE without wires or terminals. This is W-IFE, or wireless in-flight entertainment: passengers bring their own devices, but can discover and enjoy content curated by the airline.

The content menu includes TV shows, sports, news, comedy and e-books, with most of the content provided free of charge. Going beyond the cabin, Immfly also produces travel guides to select destinations, as well as access to special deals once they land.

We spoke to co-founder and CEO Jimmy M. von Korff about Immfly’s emergence on the PaxEx scene, starting with the company’s name. With a laugh, von Korff said that he and his team wanted something short, simple, and evocative: “The name comes from the concept of immersion, immersion in an experience.”

That experience will be disruptive to traditional IFEC, if von Korff has his way: Immfly stakes its claim as the first W-IFE system to offer a positive business case while offering free content. ‘We reach 35 destinations across Europe with Iberia Express, which is our first customer,” said von Korff. Currently serving content aboard ten aircraft, Immfly has logged an average of 40 minutes of usage per passenger, on flights averaging two hours in length. Four out of those ten aircraft have seatback USB charging points, noted von Korff, which led to longer usage.

So the passenger is using Wi-Fi, but not to access the Internet at large. In somewhat old-school terms, it’s a LAN (local-area network)… at least until an Immfly-equipped plane touches down. That, says von Korff, is when the magic happens: “our software synchronizes autonomously, without human intervention.” The IFE system automatically shares usage data with the company, as well as actuating any charges incurred through premium content purchase.

At the moment, Immfly has no phone-call or messaging connectivity, but that’s only because of Iberia Express’ hardware configuration. The software is ready and willing to support outside communication, said von Korff: “Let the airline decide what they want. We are specialized in creating this wireless platform, and monetizing that platform.” Iberia Express only wanted internally-networked IFE in its initial rollout, added von Korff, and that’s what Immfly delivered: “This is something we’ve been developing over the last three years with a specific goal.”

“Let the airline decide what they want. We are specialized in creating this wireless platform, and monetizing that platform.” – Jimmy M. von Korff, Immfly CEO

Immfly has been flying under the radar for the past few years, but now its founders reckon that the young company is ready for its debutante moment. That will come at the Next Web conference on November 18 in New York City. Von Korff said, “This is part of our communication strategy to start being international. Our first event was the London Aviation Festival, where we presented together with the president of Iberia Express.”

Clearly excited for New York and the prospects it can offer, von Korff said, “This is the the start of us being more international after a year and a half of having a very low profile.” Coming at the rest of the world with real metrics and real revenues was very important, he added: “New York is part of that strategy, related to the investment world, but also because we want to use that event to connect with other [airline-industry] stakeholders. We have meetings, for example, with JetBlue.” He also mentioned connecting with Bloomberg and Vivo for potential news and entertainment content deals.

They say that if you can make it in New York, then you can make it anywhere. However, the foundation for Immfly’s success has been laid not by geography, but by modern human behavior. Almost all of us fly with a mobile device, and Immfly is capitalizing on that fact as it aspires to IFE greatness.