Home' Asian Aviation : AAV May 2010 Contents Aircraft Interiors
Handheld entertainment systems
have been used by airlines since
the 1990s but only in the last
seven years has technology been
developed speci cally for the in-
In the early 1990s the Sony Video Walkman
proved a popular and reliable alternative for
airlines as they grappled with reliability problems
in the rst generation of seat-back entertainment
systems. Then, in the late 1990s, a number of airlines
led by Virgin Atlantic introduced consumer DVD
devices into their premium cabins, ahead of the
development of in- ight DVD products.
Since then, portable in-flight entertainment
(IFE) systems have become a market sector in
their own right -- and a busy one at that. Portable
devices allow budget airlines to make a relatively
low-cost step into IFE and gain an extra revenue
stream, while full-service carriers can use them to
supplement their installed systems.
Tacoma-Washington-based Aircraft Protect
Systems (APS) was the pioneer, launching its
DigEplayer 5500 in 2003. The system was developed
by former Alaska Airlines baggage handler Bill
Boyer and manufactured by technology company
eDigital. The original video-on-demand system had
a 20 GB hard drive, weighed 3lbs with its battery,
provided nine to 10 hours of entertainment and
was the size of a consumer DVD player.
Passengers had a choice of 20 to 30 movies, TV
shows and music, with content refreshed every 60-
90 days. Alaska Airlines was the launch customer.
Boyer subsequently sold the business to the Salt
Lake City, Utah-based Wencor parts distribution
company which renamed the business DigEcor.
The Springville, Utah-based company is currently
owned by three charities. Many airlines have
become customers along the way, including:
Hawaiian Airlines, Jetsgo, Martinair, Jetair y, Paci c
Blue, Aero ot, Blue Wings, KLM, Garuda, Kenya
Airways, Silk Air and L Avion.
DigEcor declines to comment on how many
customers it has today or how many units are ying,
but marketing director Adam Williams says it claims
approximately 45 percent of the portable market,
according to a Frost & Sullivan report released
last year. Many of digEcor s airline clients o er the
digEplayer as an amenity in rst or business classes,
while some charge US$10-US$15 to economy
DigEcor currently has three models in production
L Series L7 and L10 -- which will begin production
shortly, Williams says. The models vary in screen
size, battery capability and functionality -- ranging
from a 7-inch screen and 10 hours of battery life to
8 inches and 16 hours.
The two new systems -- the digEplayer L7 and L10
-- are the result of a partnership with China s Lefeel
Media Technology. DigEcor and Lefeel signed a ve-
year partnership agreement last October to develop
next-generation IFE systems. Lefeel has developed
the Aircraft Portable Entertainment System (APES),
which is used by a number of Chinese carriers, and
its alliance with digEcor is part of the company s
e orts to break into the international market.
The L7 o ers a 7-inch screen and 20 hours of
battery life, with all the functionality of existing
digEplayers, while the L10 has a 10in screen and
16-plus hours of battery life. Both systems feature
touchscreens, "the brightest handheld screen on
the market", have 60GB-plus of hard drive space
and are ruggedised -- a capability that Lefeel in
particular has brought to the table. The units can
withstand a drop of at least 4 feet and still remaining
The new devices are also Wi-Fi capable. "There
is a wireless card built in. As our clients o er Wi-
The rise of the portables
Portable or handheld IFE units have taken hold of the industry in the last few years, providing entertainment
in new markets and increasing the options in business-class cabins. Emma Kelly looks at what the leading
manufacturers are offering.
The PAV705 is the latest portable unit from IMS.
34 AsianAviation | MAY 2010
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