Things to do while strapped in your seat on an airplane? Hmm … Maybe a dozen?
The latter could change drastically if a new partnership by Lake Forest’s Panasonic Avionics Corp. and New York’s CoKinetic Systems Corp. takes off. The two companies are building an marketplace where airline passengers can order flowers, make dinner reservations or even find a date while on board for that night .
Kris Stevens, CoKinetic’s CEO, envisions this “apps store” to be like Apple’s popular iPhone apps store, which had 60 million downloads in the first month!
“Individual developers will be able to put their imaginations to work and that’s the part I find very exciting. You never know on the Internet. There’s a bunch of crazy people creating a bunch of cool stuff. We’re going to take this somewhere the airline industry has never been able to go before,” said Stevens, who has a growing team of 11 employees next door to Panasonic’s Orange County headquarters.
Currently, getting new software onto an airplane’s in-flight entertainment (IFE) console is a long and costly process. Developers must write in C++ programming language for the Linux operating system, and then go through a rigorous certification process with the Federal Aviation Administration to avoid another crash like the SwissAir Flight 111. Just testing software for the FAA can cost $20,000 or more. And it could be a year or longer before the software makes it to the IFE console.
But much easier is getting media, such as a movie or music, onto the plane because it’s just a content update. CoKinetic took this “content” idea and developed an XML-based platform called Airplay. It’s already FAA approved and is used by airlines such as Virgin America, which allows passengers to use IFE to order food (see a video demo of Virgin’s Red in-flight entertainment console on YouTube). New software apps are considered content and can be quickly added without government scrutiny.
“This concept (of a marketplace) doesn’t exist right now,” said Stevens, who’s been working on the project with Panasonic for three years. Read the rest of this entry »