Working with IFE or IVI

How IFE Informs IVI

By Peter Winston

ICS is one of a very few companies that has worked on both In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) for passenger airlines and In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) for passenger automobiles. Our experience in both IFE and IVI means that one space informs the other, creating a mutually beneficial cycle of ever-increasingly excellent work.

Given our unique perspective on IFE and IVI, we’re in a unique position to comment on the efforts of the smartphone manufacturers to become the IVI platforms for cars.

Specifically: Google’s Android Auto®, Apple’s CarPlay® and Microsoft’s Windows Embedded Automotive® are all vying for dominance in the IVI space for passenger cars. Auto manufacturers feel pressured to incorporate these Apple, Google, or Microsoft operating systems into future models due to their strong market positions as the de facto operating environments for smartphones.

After all, car buyers are already comfortable with their phones and expect a similar user experience (UX) from their car. Yet our experience has shown us that trying to shoehorn what is fundamentally a smartphone operating system into a car, even if just for an IVI system, has significant shortcomings.

Here’s an example from our work on IFE systems for airlines: each time the plane lands, the media content is refreshed and depending on the plane’s next destination different foreign movies, music and the latest releases, etc., are loaded onto the plane’s hard drives and new content will appear. With aircraft scenarios we’ve learned that you need to pre-fetch and store the vast majority of the content while the plane is on the ground at the gate. One cannot depend on a reliable satellite signal to stream large amounts of content consistently while in the air.

In a similar way a car in motion can’t depend on a reliable, high-bandwidth signal to stream content to the IVI system in the car. A cell phone streams content pretty much directly from a nearby cell phone tower with a minimum of caching. Spotty coverage and jittery hand-offs between cell towers leads to an unsatisfying experience. Any parent going on a long road trip with children in the back seat who depends on movies to entertain the kiddies will appreciate a car with a pre-fetch capability and on-board storage, features smartphones can’t offer today but a car could.

Tesla is one car company that understands this and provides over-the-air updates to the vehicle software only when it’s parked and they’re confident you have a reliable Wi-Fi connection.

Here’s another In-Flight Entertainment example: in a passenger plane it only has to deliver entertainment and assumes the viewer is not flying the plane from their passenger seat. In contrast, the In-Vehicle-Infotainment console in a car has to serve multiple functions such as climate control and navigation.

ICS designs and builds crew consoles for passenger aircraft (those eye-level touch displays in the airplane galleys are used by  the flight attendants use to dim the lights, reboot individual in-seat systems and more), Similar capabilities are required from a car’s IVI console, and a smartphone operating system typically doesn’t have the features or capacity.

In summary: there are complicated under-the-hood issues that aren’t addressed in smartphone architectures today and they don’t currently have the relevant underpinning features and optimizations to enable necessary functionalities. These needed functions that could be made possible through a vehicle’s capabilities for high-availability to power, high-end processing capability, large capacity local storage, and an internal high bandwidth with a low latency network. Adding these capabilities to smart phone operating systems would be highly complex.

The insights ICS gains by working on both In-Flight Entertainment  systems for airlines and In- Vehicle Infotainment systems for auto manufacturers gives us unique and valuable insight we can bring to projects in every vertical. We can apply the full breadth of our experience to your project, leading to superlative results. At ICS we’re proud of our legacy of successfully delivering on a wide range of complex, long-term client engagements across numerous vertical industries.

Looking for an IFE or IVI engineering partner? If you can dream it, we can build it. Please consider us for your most challenging projects: I’m confident we’ve got the engineering and design skills to meet the task.