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Android hijacks in-flight entertainment

Sep 27, 2010 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 4 views

Thales announced the Touch Passenger Media Unit (TouchPMU), an Android-based in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) handheld with an ARM Cortex processor and a 3.8-inch touchscreen. Meanwhile, rival Panasonic is planning its own Android-based seat-back IFEC system, says reports.

The TouchPMU is designed to be both a stand-alone media access handheld device and a controller for Thales' seat-display TopSeries IFEC systems, says the company. Built on an ARM Cortex-based processor, the device is said to feature a 3.8-inch capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 800 x 480. The handset is physically wired to the seat-back device, says Thales.

The announcement was made at the 2010 Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) exhibition last week in Long Beach, Calif. The current TopSeries system is not based on Android. However, according to a report by Mary Kirby on RunwayGirl, a next-generation version of TopSeries, due in 2012, will also run Android.

As a controller for the TopSeries seatback display system, the TouchPMU enables the passenger to browse all system functions available with the current controller systems. However, the handheld (pictured) also supports Android apps independent of the TopSeries system.

For example, after selecting a movie from the handheld, users can continue to interact with other apps while the movie is playing on the seat-back display, says the company. Potential apps might include a map tracking flight progress, food and beverage ordering, games, shopping, and onboard chat.

The device is said to include Android Market support and standard Android features such as a web browser and e-reader apps. A future version will include an Adobe Flash player, suggesting the initial version will be earlier than Android 2.2.

Multi-touch capabilities include two-finger pinch for expanding and reducing picture or menu sizes, finger swipe for turning menu pages, and two finger rotation to adjust viewing orientation, says Thales. The ARM Cortex processor's 3D graphics acceleration is said to enable 3D graphics rotation on local games and applications.

Thales serves nearly 60 world airlines and has offices in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Singapore, and China, says the company.

Stated Alan Pellegrini, managing director for the Thales In-Flight Entertainment business, "The TouchPMU is a very powerful device that will provide airlines tremendous flexibility on what they offer their passengers and how they can engage with them."

Demo of Thales TouchPMU at APEX
Source: RunwayGirl; YouTube
(Click to play)

Panasonic switches IFEC to Android

Also at APEX, Panasonic Avionics showed off a new version of its IFEC system that switches from its previous Linux operating system to the Linux-based Android, writes Mary Kirby on the RunwayGirl blog. The unveiling comes shortly after Panasonic Avionics announced it will open a dedicated app store for its IFEC systems in 1Q 2011.

Panasonic had no formal announcement of its upcoming Android-based system, which uses Android in the main seat-back system. As shown in the video below, the system is demonstrated as a seat-back touchscreen interface as opposed to a separate, quasi-independent handheld.

Panasonic Avionics CEO Paul Margis was quoted by RunwayGirl as saying, "The reason for going down this road [and using Android] is the same reason we were in Linux instead of Windows. This stuff is open and relatively easy to get to and do your own drivers."

Android apps can already be downloaded to Panasonic's current eX2 and smart monitor IFEC systems, says the story, which includes a video demo of the apps. However, this only hints at the features that will be available in the upcoming full-featured Android platform, says the story.

Demo of upcoming Panasonic IFEC system at APEX
Source: RunwayGirl; YouTube
(Click to play)


Thales did not offer availability information on its Touch Passenger Media Unit (TouchPMU), nor did Panasonic offer further details on its future Android-based IFEC system.

More information about Thales In-Flight Entertainment Systems may be found at the company's site, here. Panasonic Avionics may be found here.

The RunwayGirl blog on the TouchPMU should be here, and the report on Panasonic's system may be found here.

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