APEX Insight: AirFi opens new headquarters, announces antenna trials and highlights fully autonomous semi-embedded system development.
This week in Holland, portable wireless IFE pioneer AirFi hosted 80+ airline customer and partner representatives for its inaugural Innovation Day and officially opened its new bespoke headquarters in the heart of The Hague, Netherlands.
The event kicked off with an address from AirFi CEO Job Heimerikx, who talked about the robust expansion of the company from just 10 employees in 2014, to an organization that now provides portable wireless IFE solutions to 55 airlines, trains and coach line operators, and employs nearly 100 staff across Holland, India, the UK, Spain and Indonesia.
Speaking with APEX Media, Heimerikx said: “The whole idea of the Innovation Day is to really inspire our customers to do more with our system. It’s still a new product, but we have added a lot of features over the past few years and no two airlines use them the same way. It’s all about keeping track of the trends and making sure that one customer inspires the other customer on bringing these features to life.”
“The whole idea of the Innovation Day is to really inspire our customers to do more with our system.” – Job Heimerikx, AirFi CEO
Guests were treated to expert insight from ancillary revenue specialist Diggintravel and from respected market research agency, Valour Consultancy. A panel discussion, featuring speakers from IMM Digital, Orange Games, West Entertainment and Media Carrier focused on optimization, personalization and monetization of content media and advertising through smarter use of passenger’s interests and onboard consumption data.
In the afternoon sessions, AirFi was very candid in outlaying its strategic roadmap with regard to technology. AirFi’s CIO, Martijn Moret and CTO, Nicolas Peeters, told attendees how its AirFi Wireless IFE and Connected Crew EPOS product is set to evolve in the coming few years, while being careful about revealing concrete timelines.
In addition to exploring offline transactions using a host of digital wallet service providers like Alipay, Mynt, Ascend and others, AirFi says it is working with as-of-yet unnamed antenna providers offering stable, low-bandwidth connectivity for applications like instant messaging, inventory updates for retail and real-time transaction verification.
AirFi believes that, for its customer base (primarily low-cost carriers and leisure operators), low-bandwidth connectivity introduces new value-added services to establish a strong business case for a light antenna installation. Trials of this technology, using the AirFi boxes as the access portal, paywall and filter, are expected to take place in the coming months with Germany’s PrivatAir providing B737 and A320 test-bed aircraft.
AirFi also elaborated on the Venus AirFi Box’s migration to more autonomous operation, thanks to sensors and algorithms already built into the hardware and software. Presently, flight crew are responsible for switching boxes on and off, configuring flight details and other operating tasks. Smart sensor technology enables fully autonomous operation by the box itself: detection of route and flight path information, switching on/off at the correct altitudes, ground-based cellular transmission of data between each aircraft and the cloud.
Underpinning autonomous operations, AirFi has developed a semi-embedded solution, whereby an installed aircraft-power source supplies the AirFi boxes. As long as the box can be removed, it is still considered carry-on equipment and does not need to be certified. AirFi is working closely Air Works on the modification and ADSE for certification. AirFi believes the cost of installation saves enough daily operational (catering management) fees to pay back in less than three-years.
The presentations were followed by a visit to the new offices, which opened two weeks ago, and where some 40 people will be based. “We’re expanding quite fast,” said Heimmerikx. “Last year at Aircraft Interiors Expo we had something like 30 customers, so we’ve been almost doubling every year. This is a tough line to continue, but the growth absolutely has not ended yet.”
“AirFi has brought well over a dozen new airlines into APEX as members in the past year.” – Joe Leader, APEX CEO
Over the past year, AirFi has been working with APEX to increase airline membership and advance the passenger experience by sponsoring its interested airline customers to join the association.
“AirFi has brought well over a dozen new airlines into APEX as members in the past year in their rapid expansion with their Near-Fi content solution,” APEX CEO Joe Leader stated. “AirFi’s commitment to bring every one of their new customers on-board as APEX members shows one of the best attributes of our industry. Low-cost carriers, major regional and commuter carriers that had never before considered content and connectivity are enacting both enthusiastically.”
Click here to learn more about the APEX Airline Sponsorship Program.