Opinion: Onboard Systems Need to be Digitalized and Standardized


Ralph Wagner has been CEO of Axinom since 2017. He began his career in 1996 as a distribution specialist in the music industry and founded an e-commerce store for movies, music and games. Wagner co-founded Axinom in 2001 with more than 25 years of industry expertise, management experience and technical know-how.

“Aerospace is going to witness increased efforts around digitalization throughout the value chain. There will be a greater drive towards standard technologies that create an open ecosystem for hardware, applications and services. More digital solutions will be adopted, bringing agility, enhancing the passenger experience and generating ancillary revenues.”

Ralph Wagner, Axinom

Which areas of the value chain in aerospace are most in need of digitalization?

All avenues of the aerospace industry are pacing towards digitalization, from passenger booking and handling to operations and maintenance. But while the initial phase of the value chain, namely on-ground operations, have begun benefitting from ongoing digitalization efforts, onboard systems have struggled to keep up.

A couple of things are paramount to make digitalization a success, namely robust connectivity and a standard open platform for data exchange, security and faster deployments. The standardization of onboard systems will bring with it much-needed change, allowing stakeholders to benefit from on-board IoT systems, air-to-ground collaborations, ancillary revenue generation and much more.

How can digitalization deliver more value to stakeholders?

Digitalization will deliver immense value to everyone involved, both in the short and long term. It will increase efficiency, open up the onboard space to smart systems, innovative digital services and applications, and vastly improve the crew and passenger experience by enabling new revenue generation opportunities.

Many parties are attempting to innovate with their respective technologies, but only some will succeed in gaining traction; what is the secret to outlasting the competition in this competitive landscape?

The secret to succeeding in a competitive landscape is to be open and collaborative. The industry needs standards that will be widely adopted and, as a result, available to everyone.

Standardized technology that allows for integrations and provides an API to communicate and operate will be the key to success. Moreover, those who can decrease barriers to entry through reduced certification requirements and lower fixed costs will stand out from the crowd.

What are the benefits of an open ecosystem, and what are the drawbacks?

There are many benefits. On the hardware front, an open ecosystem will allow airlines and integrators to become more agnostic, enabling deployment of off-the-shelf hardware and reducing the initial install time, ongoing maintenance and upgrade costs.

From the software side, it will allow any digital software provider to build services that were previously deemed impossible due to lack of interoperability and integration. Also, a consumption-based model like a platform-as-a-service will reduce the high fixed operating costs associated with proprietary solutions.

Organizations need to build the infrastructure to support such a platform onboard. This will range from deploying wireless access points in the cabin to choosing the right catalog of services and vendors. I firmly believe that these efforts will pay off immensely.

Can you share a recent customer success story in which a customer enhanced the passenger experience while generating revenue?

We have enabled many organizations to digitalize their onboard offerings. Our products serve as the digital backbone for a leading US carrier’s wireless and seatback in-flight entertainment systems. We have also helped to bring modern connectivity portals equipped with advertising capabilities into the cabin, and are now powering smart seat cushions to improve maintenance and allow airlines to up-sell.