World’s first continuously deployed IFE Interactive

Reaching numerous world’s firsts, Reaktor created a harmonised In-flight entertainment experience for Air France and KLM, with a UI that evolves and allows for continuous updates across 19 different aircraft configurations and two distinct brands.

Drawn image of travellers inside a plane. Person in the middle is using an interactive system.

Time flies when you’re having fun. That’s exactly how Air France’s and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines’ passengers feel with the interactive in-flight entertainment system providing them with information and entertainment seamlessly throughout their journey.

The collaboration started with Reaktor developing the world’s first fully native Android IFE Interactive experience. The system evolves under continuous development and deployment – another world’s first achievement. In-flight entertainment Interactive is the application passengers can use and control on their seatback screens.

Development of new features follows a product strategy for connected cabin services devised by Reaktor early on as a separate project.

Project highlights

  • The world’s first fully native Android IFE Interactive for both Air France and KLM
  • Developing a continuously deployed, continuously evolving IFE Interactive – another world first
  • Design and development of QT IFE Interactive retrofit for KLM
  • Product strategy for future connected IFE Interactive
A long-haired person drawn from behind, looking at a screen, listening to something with headphones.

Passengers first

Designed with a true passenger-first mindset, the solutions help the airlines deliver meaningful contextual information and tailored content, both of which provide the passengers with an experience to remember.

Air France and KLM were running a new Panasonic eX3 IFE. The solutions had several codebases for multiple aircraft configurations and distinctive branding based on one UX design. 

Based on Reaktor’s proven track record in the airline industry, we were contracted to develop a new user experience on native Android. The task at hand was to migrate the Qt Qml UI to native Android with basically no major changes, although a platform supporting such UI for IFE did not exist at the time.

Reaktor adapted and implemented the existing design, enhanced usability, and wrote the world’s first native Android in-flight entertainment application. The application was built using Kotlin language and modern Android development techniques. Simultaneously, Panasonic, the owner of the IFE platform, built the core software platform with the necessary API structure. Once the first version was done, Reaktor proceeded to improve the experience with an incremental approach: The old UI has been gradually replaced, and the design keeps on evolving with a continuous deployment model.

The IFE Interactive built from a single codebase runs across multiple different configurations, headends (eX2, Ex3, and eXLite), and two brands with distinct media content and applications.  We believe this to be another world’s first because usually, the UX codebases have distinctly followed standalone aircraft configurations.

Beyond the screens

To make an interactive in-flight experience truly enjoyable means understanding the needs of the passengers beyond the screen. 

Reaktor simplified the user experience for the main IFE Interactive screens and redesigned the use paradigm for the existing Air France video handsets. We also designed a new UX for the handsets and designed and implemented a bespoke communications protocol between the handset and the screen to facilitate the new paradigm. This makes for a true, user-first design and for a perfectly synchronized 2nd screen experience. 

Great user experience also means taking into account the actual environment users operate in. Some KLM’s aircraft include older screen models in the economy class and newer Android screens in the business class. To make the application work in both settings, Reaktor designed and developed an interactive retrofit, resulting in a configuration with two different interactives running from the same eX3 IFE headend. 

Development is done with a CI environment, automated tests, and a development rack with both the Air France and KLM headens and screens at Reaktor’s premises. This functions as an end-to-end test environment for continuous integration.

Continuously better

The cool thing is that the system is built to evolve continuously. The UX and visual design have changed over time, new features – including connected ones – have been added, and old, unnecessary features have been removed. The result is a UX with less clutter and a better focus on engaging with the passengers’ needs. 

The IFE Interactive is now in continuous development with gradual changes to the design being wrought on the go. Incremental changes to it are pushed to the aircraft once or twice a month using an OATP process. We have the capability to do updates daily, but less frequent ones have been found to be enough. 

The UX software is deployed during regular maintenance. If no faults are found, the changes are pushed to all the aircraft during regular turnover maintenance. The whole fleet can be updated with this method over the course of one to two weeks with little overhead and without a lengthy testing and certification period.

World’s first Android IFE Interactive

  • A harmonised IFE Interactive experience shared by Air France and KLM in 19 different aircraft configurations
  • Design and development of QT IFE retrofit for KLM
  • Product strategy for future connected IFE Interactive
  • Development of connected IFE Interactive features

Towards a connected cabin

Now, Reaktor helps Air France and KLM Dutch Royal Airlines develop their connected cabin strategy to new heights. 

Leveraging the power of connectivity, a wide range of smart solutions can enhance the passenger’s experience. Even further, connected cabin solutions can help airlines streamline and automate their processes, saving money and giving the crew more time to focus on the personal touch.

Our contributions

  • Software development and deployment
  • UX and UI design
  • Product strategy and design
  • Continuous improvement

Konsta Hansson

Managing Director, Reaktor Aero

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