APEX TECH Panel Preview: Edge Caching in the Content Delivery Supply Chain


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APEX TECH, which is taking place at the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel from February 28-29, will feature numerous panel discussions concerning the latest technologies in in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC). 

On Thursday February 29 from 11:15 AM until 12:30 PM, delegates will be party to a session on “The Integration of IFE & C: Edge Caching in the Content Delivery Supply Chain,” moderated by Panasonic Avionics Corporation’s Chief Systems Engineer Phil Watson. To set the scene before the discussion itself, Watson and a couple of the panelists have outlined what edge caching is, alongside the main opportunities and challenges presented by the technology. 

Watson defines edge caching as “storing internet streaming content on the aircraft.” He explains, “Doing this can result in reduced satellite bandwidth usage and faster video startup. Reduced usage results when a user watches a cached title, since it pulls from the cache rather than streaming over the satellite. Faster startup occurs as onboard wireless performs better (with more bandwidth and less latency) than accessed ground servers via a satellite link. Higher quality content than can typically be streamed over a shared link may also be cached, resulting in overall a better experience for passengers.”

Jim Nelson, CEO at Siden, which provides a network-agnostic intelligent caching system to the aviation and maritime markets, says his company is most excited by the fact that the technology “enables better customer experiences by offering the same personalization, control and quality of content that customers expect in their homes.

“When you combine network-optimized delivery and edge caching, like Siden does, you enable a better customer experience by refreshing content based on known customer preferences and learned behaviors while also reducing lags, buffering and interruptions by storing content at the edge,” he adds. 

Jeremy Desmauts, Director of Sales & Engineering in North America at Broadpeak, agrees. “Streaming blockbuster events like the Super Bowl, Champions League or IPL Cricket to aircraft can be a real challenge: As live streams soar in popularity, they strain the limited satellite broadband capacity, often creating frustrating experiences.”

“Higher quality content than can typically be streamed over a shared link [can] be cached, resulting in overall a better experience for passengers.”

Phil Watson, Panasonic Avionics Corporation

Broadpeak’s solution embraces multicast technology. “Our innovative approach includes streaming video content as part of the VSAT Outbound in multicast, great for live viewing and even allowing for in-flight updates to VOD libraries,” Desmauts claims. 

Multicast functionality enables the streamed broadcasting of live events without duplicating transmission flows, meaning the same content can be distributed simultaneously to connected users without taking up additional network and transmission resources. “By optimizing the content delivery process and embracing dedicated processing, we not only enhance the experience but also save onboard resources and open new revenue streams through targeted advertising,” he concludes.

However, as with any new technology, there are hurdles to overcome, one of which is “how to get the content onto the onboard servers, both from a cost and logistics perspective,” says Watson. “Aircraft are not always connected. Some are powered off overnight, unlike the huge caches used in ground internet streaming.”

For Nelson, the challenge lies in navigating the “multiple ecosystems that are evolving quickly as distribution technologies change, aircraft capabilities advance, and passenger content expectations increase.” But he also feels this new landscape presents new opportunities.

The broader APEX community clearly agrees it is central to the future of in-flight entertainment (IFE). A recent Runway Girl Network article previewing APEX TECH revealed that “several members of the IFE community are members of the Streaming Video Technology Alliance (SVTA) and its Edge Caching Working Group, and APEX has a liaison relationship with SVTA, giving APEX access to SVTA technology.”

The piece continued on to say that “the APEX Technology Committee, chaired by Jonas von Krüchten, Director of Strategy and Business Development at AERQ, is considering establishment of an Edge Caching Working Group to work formally with the SVTA to detail an edge caching specification for IFEC.”

Follow this link to read an interview with Delta Air Lines’ Ekrem Dimbiloglu ahead of his keynote session at this year’s APEX TECH, or preview the panel session on “AI-Assisted” Smart Metadata in the Content Delivery Supply Chain.

To register for APEX TECH, click here.