Display Executive, a new bizjet IFEC portal from Eclipse Global Connectivity and Display Interactive. Image: Display Interactive

Under lockdown in Paris, Thierry Carmes, chief operating officer, Display Interactive, sheds some light on his company’s partnership with Eclipse Global Connectivity, the features they’ve built into their wireless IFE portal to bolster ancillary revenue capabilities, and the Shanghai-based joint venture that is taking a backseat due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Display Interactive (DI), which specializes in developing in-flight entertainment (IFE) portals, has signed a strategic agreement with satcoms provider Eclipse Global Connectivity that will send its wireless IFE platform, UGO, from software product to full-service offering. The company had been eager to make the announcement at Aircraft Interiors Expo, which was scheduled to take place this week, before it was postponed due to COVID-19.

“We are now able to provide hardware, engineering analysis, STC, kit manufacturing and aircraft modification management and security expertise,” said Thierry Carmes, chief operating officer, Display Interactive, whose clients include Qatar Airways, Corsair International and the now defunct Air France-owned Joon. “Our offer can be vertically integrated, resulting in shorter delays, reduced complexity and smaller capital expenditures for all our commercial airline customers.”

The recently developed UHD moving map. Image: Display Interactive

The affiliation with Eclipse, which owns Eclipse Technics (formerly EAD Aerospace) and is now a shareholder in Display Interactive, has already opened up the company to a new group of customers – VIPs and heads of state. To cater to the flying elite, DI has developed Display Executive, a high-resolution panel-mounted screen that streams movies, audio, live news and ultra high-definition (UHD) moving maps. With its scalable technical design, the product was completed in weeks and is being installed on a few private jets.

“We believe any successful business case relies on the multiplication of ancillaries by connectivity.” – Thierry Carmes, Display Interactive

Scalability is also built into DI’s UGO wireless IFE platform, which is constantly evolving to support specific requirements, “whatever the geographies or business models,” with improvements geared toward generating ancillary revenue. “We have successfully integrated advertising engines with associated services, a full e-commerce platform inclusive of various payment methods and solutions to virtualize duty-free sales or last-minute seat upgrades, just to name a few,” Carmes said.

While the current UGO model operates in a non-connected environment – streaming only to a local network from an onboard server – Carmes said those features would be enhanced with in-flight connectivity. “We believe any successful business case relies on the multiplication of ancillaries by connectivity,” he said. And with Eclipse Global Connectivity’s expertise in satcom and air-to-ground communications, the companies can now demonstrate an “optimal business case for the installation of in-flight Wi-Fi,” said Sylvain Thomas, communications officer, Eclipse Global Connectivity.

The focus on ancillary revenue will also drive DI’s joint venture with Eclipse Global Connectivity, which will be based in Shanghai and employ local talent. The companies plan to present the same products and services they currently offer, but tailored to China’s aerospace and digital ecosystems. “We need to adapt our respective offerings to the requirements of the Chinese market – not as a cosmetic painting above an existing product, but as a deep customization [that fits into] the local ecosystems,” Carmes said. Progress has been set back by the coronavirus outbreak, but Carmes hopes the JV will emerge under a new identity, sometime mid-2020.

Having participated in Impact China, the China International Import Expo and the French Tech Tour China in the past year (the latter as part of Eclipse Global Connectivity), Carmes said he’s noticed a vigor in the Chinese market that’s different from that of airlines of other regions. “Airlines are much more engaged in a digital transformation. They have been investigating and rolling out a bulk of digital services, new activities in the pre- and post-flight travel segments and other touchpoints.” And this behavior is expected to echo in the IFEC market. “It has become imperative for operators to upgrade their onboard entertainment and connectivity offerings to stay competitive, especially when the demand for high-end IFE services for passengers in China is growing,” said Thomas.