Roughly a year ago IMS debuted the RAVE system, which stores content and functionality independently in each seat-back, and has since amassed a customer list that includes Lufthansa, airBerlin, Air Niugini, Air Tahiti, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Icelandair, Omni Air, Royal Air Maroc, SriLanken and a single unannounced customer.
The agreement with its latest customer Omni Air covering the carrier’s two Boeing 777-200ER aircraft appears to be a coup for IMS. During the September 2011 APEX EXPO, Airvod announced a multi-million dollar deal with Omni to outfit the carrier’s 777s with its “Seatcentric” inflight entertainment system. Airvod did not respond to queries from the APEX Editor’s blog regarding the status of the Omni deal, but the carrier only operates two 777 widebodies, and IMS has stated that RAVE installations on those aircraft are scheduled to start in early 2013.
As IMS celebrates new business from Omni, the company does not foresee a slow-down in the swelling interest for RAVE. “I think we had seven contracts before we ever flew,” IMS president Rod Farley recently told the APEX Editor’s blog. “That is unheard of. I cannot even tell you how we got that lucky.”
Farley says IMS is filling a niche with RAVE among carriers looking for a lightweight, less expensive IFE solution. “We don’t see orders and interest declining at all. We see the interest level picking up.”
As with all new products that come to market, the RAVE system has battled some teething issues, remarks Farley. He explains that the growing pains IMS has seen in introducing RAVE to the market are very common. “You’ve got a supply chain that you’ve never exercised before that you’re trying to ramp up at a phenomenal rate,” he states. “If you look at our backlog, we landed a lot of contracts in parallel with launch dates that were stacked up on top of one another, so we had a few hiccups there.”
IMS launched and delivered about 10-15 shipsets of the RAVE system instead of having an opportunity to put a single aircraft in service and monitor the system for a couple of months, says Farley. “We had a few anomalies that we had to deal with in the field, but I hope that our responsiveness in addressing those problems has been atypical. In other words, better than what your normal industry standard is.” He estimates that RAVE installs are averaging between three and six aircraft per month, and IMS expects 40-42 aircraft to be equipped by year-end.
Despite the birthing pains Farley declares that RAVE’s architecture is “proving to do exactly what we thought it would do”. Even with the hiccups it is hard for passengers to detect an issue. Since the entire package is resident in the seat-back, Farley states “if you lost the head-end server or lost the network, you still have at your disposal 100% of your audio and video games, moving maps, video announcements…things that are broadcast”.
While other manufacturers are offering their own versions of seat-centric IFE systems, Farley states “there is an attribute of RAVE that we do have an interesting protection on, and that is…we have the only system that will allow you to replace a display unit in flight…and that is really the key, to combine seat-centric with an ability to swap a failure immediately”.
Presently IMS has a backlog of roughly 150 aircraft waiting for RAVE installs. “We are busy, but very fortunate,” says Farley.