Solid State Inflight

Cambrionix helps UK business transform speed, manageability of tablet-based inflight entertainment solution

Challenges

  • Maintain service quality for tablet-based, inflight entertainment system
  • Quickly manage huge volumes of data on mobile devices globally
  • Enable more granular, flexible and detail port-by-port control

Solution

Benefits

  • Transforms speed and efficiency of managing thousands of iPads used for inflight entertainment
  • Delivers a 500% increase in charge and data sync speeds
  • Cambrionix API improves manageability with remote control of individual USB charging ports
  • Collaborative partnership to advance and improve mobile charging products
  • Enables charter businesses to kit out aircraft with high-quality, inflight entertainment at very short notice

Challenges

Solid State Inflight provides an inflight entertainment service delivered via tablets to passengers on commercial and private airlines, as well as military aircraft. The service comprises tablet hardware, charge and sync infrastructure, content, and remote, real-time management so that passengers get a pre-loaded personal entertainment device for their flight.

Solid State has around 12,000 Apple iPads and a support infrastructure around the world. Customers are typically small to medium-size commercial airlines and private charter and leasing businesses that want to offer customers a flexible, personal entertainment service using top-of-the range tablets. Military personnel also use the service when travelling to and from tours of duty.

The challenge was removing, updating and charging devices after a flight in time for the next flight. The devices are taken off the aircraft, re-charged and updated with between 25GB and 100GB of data per device, then returned to the next flight. A private aircraft service might only need a few devices, but commercial carriers could have around 2,000, with some airlines putting 250 iPads on a single aircraft. Charging and data sync is done in airline operation centres at hub airports where Solid State sets up equipment comprising USB charge and sync hardware connected to Apple Mac computers.

“The biggest problem has always been the USB 2 speed limitation. If you’ve got 250 iPads and you need to push out 50GB to each one, it’s a lot of bandwidth and it takes a long time. And there are so many bottlenecks in the path, getting from the host computer to the actual device. It’s a real mix and match of connections and work-arounds, but at some point you hit the USB 2 bottleneck. We couldn’t get the information off the host computer fast enough,” says Mark O’Brien, Managing Director of Solid State Inflight.

Solution

In its search for an answer, Solid State came across Cambrionix. O’Brien says, “Right from our first engagement, Cambrionix has always had the best hardware and its people have been fantastic and delivered a great service. Then, when Cambrionix brought out its 20Gbps ThunderSync technology, it was so much better than anything else. The build quality on all the Cambrionix equipment is superb and so is the support. When we were testing ThunderSync, Cambrionix made sure its engineers were available for any assistance we needed, and it made the entire process so simple and painless.”

Solid State had been using a mix of different USB charging hubs, but is now upgrading all its air-side charging stations around the world with the Cambrionix ThunderSync16. Once complete Solid State expects to have the ThunderSync technology installed at around 20 locations worldwide.

ThunderSync is a high-speed data transfer and charging product that connects 16 USB 2 devices to a Thunderbolt host computer without the bottleneck of traditional USB hubs. ThunderSync enables Solid State to maximise the capability of the iPad technology to sync data at high speed.

“Cambrionix technology is mission-critical stuff. We must have a robust hardware system in place because there’s no way you could do this so effectively without it. We have thousands

of tablets around the world used as inflight entertainment devices and the faster we can turn a device around and get it back on the aircraft, the better. For customers it means less investment and for their ground staff, being able to do something better and up to 500 percent faster, is a huge bonus.”

Mark O’Brien, Managing Director
Solid State Inflight

Benefits

With USB charging technology from Cambrionix, Solid State has been able to speed up provisioning and improve the efficiency and manageability of its inflight entertainment solution.

O’Brien says, “Cambrionix technology is mission-critical stuff. We must have a robust hardware system in place because there’s no way you could do this so effectively without it. We have thousands of tablets around the world used as inflight entertainment devices and the faster we can turn a device around and get it back on the aircraft, the better. For customers it means less investment and for their ground staff, being able to do something better and up to 500 percent faster, is a huge bonus.”

Solid State recently had to do a last-minute deployment in Madrid for an aircraft leasing company. In the airline industry, when an aircraft breaks down or has to go out of service, carriers go to leasing companies for replacement aircraft. O’Brien says, “We sent out one of our guys to set up a temporary facility in the airline’s ops room and provision around 400 iPads. Had we not had the Cambrionix ThunderSync, there is no way we could have turned them around fast enough to get them on the aircraft. So, in a situation like that, Cambrionix makes an enormous difference to us and our customers.”

Solid State says that because of the Cambrionix technology, it is able to achieve content download and sync times five times faster than previously. Before it used to take nine hours to sync 25GB to 48 devices, now it is just 90 minutes.

Cambrionix equipment quality is also a critical part of the Solid State solution. O’Brien says, “Without doubt, reliability is essential. We’ve got to have as near to 100 percent reliability as possible and so far we haven’t had a single issue with the ThunderSync product.”

Another benefit of the ThunderSync hubs, that helps improve manageability and efficiency, is remote control of individual ports using the Cambrionix API. O’Brien says, “For one of our leasing customers, branding and content on the iPads has to be changed quickly since it is kitting out aircraft for different airlines. That requires a lot of reconfiguration on a single batch of devices. Before there were various ways to do it, but it took a lot of time and it was a bit of a kludge. With Cambrionix it’s great to have the control and flexibility to put some devices on charge while others are on sync mode, as well as downloading different data sets.”