13 Apr 2018

Pied Piper has nothing on this software to make flights more entertaining

Step aside, Silicon Valley. Munich is giving the fictional startup Pied Piper a run for its money.

What began as a university research project has grown into a data management software that would let airlines carry huge libraries of entertainment, with less demand on their network.

And that is only one of the many useful future applications for the Cadami solution in travel.

Cadami uses a unique, patented combination of the latest coded caching and transmission standards for a more efficient use of memory resources on existing servers, Ethernet network and screens or passenger devices. The company promises a bandwidth reduction of 50%-80%, on any data transferred in a network using its unique bit encoding.

Tnooz met Andreas Dotzler, CEO of Cadami and Thomas Kuehn, Cadami’s chief sales officer, at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, to discuss how the development will benefit inflight entertainment systems.

Dotzler explains:

“Passengers expect to be able to watch pretty much any movie they want, wherever they are. It’s what we’re all used to in our Amazon Prime and Netflix world. That volume is not currently available to airline passengers and upgrading the IFE hardware is expensive and time-consuming.

“We do not operate on the video data so there is no compromise on quality. You will have the exact same quality as a conventional technology. We do this compression on the bit level. There is a part of the software on the tablet that stores small parts of files and then, later, if there are a lot of requests from a lot of tablets, it brings that little bit of data into the system. Then we can very efficiently distribute the data throughput.

“We don’t lose quality. Every video is just bits and we make sure that the bits get there very efficiently.”

Cadami’s bit encoding could make all kinds of data transfer more efficient, not just wired networks, as Dotzler explains:

“It’s any kind of transfer. It can be Wi-Fi. It can be wired networks. It could be the satellite network. It works wherever you have a network with limited capacity, and a lot of users—which is a typical scenario on an airplane. You always have a lot of users; and a lot of users generate a lot of traffic and then networks break down.”

Sturdier IoT and Better IFE

The flexibility of the Cadami software also makes it a useful data management tool for applications like hotel entertainment systems, and would make better use of the limited satellite data transfer resources on cruise ships and in other maritime applications.

The development can even help fill the gap as demand on developing 5G networks grows with the IoT, helping more devices, from smartphones to cars and refrigerators to communicate. In fact, Cadami began as a research project to boost 5G networks, Dotzler says:

“We started the company three years ago, but before that we did research on this at the technical university in Munich. This software is the research results that we started to commercialize.

“Most of the research we’ve done was for general cellular mobile network applications. We then had good context in the aviation model. The use case is perfect for what we have developed. With this aeronautical use case we have massive gains and it was the easiest way to get it to the market. It’s a piece of software they install no their servers and clients..It’s much faster and cheaper than doing modifications to hardware.

“We see situations now where airlines want 10, 20 or even 30 Terabytes of content. That’s too much to store [in cache] on seat-back screens. This technology is not only very efficient in the network, but is also very efficient on how much storage it uses.

“We take advantage of the times when the airplane is grounded, for an hour or two, and we manage those caches. Typically, high peak times [for demand on the network] are like an hour after take-off. Then, everyone starts to watch a movie and you get 300 simultaneous users. That’s when you get the benefit.”

As Kuehn explains, not having to upgrade hardware systems to support more and better entertainment content is one feature that makes this attractive to airlines.

Cost and aircraft downtime are always an issue for airlines, and a quick software fix is far more attractive than a hardware upgrade, especially on older aircraft. Yet, as airlines introduce new hardware on new planes and a larger library of content, they need to maintain a seamless experience—no matter which planes a passenger flies. As Kuehn says:

“There are some design choices and trade-offs between the number of simultaneous users and the quality you can have. But the idea we follow with this technology is that you can take a network on an airplane that was meant for low resolution libraries, and you can upgrade to HD without changing the network.”

The more efficient use of memory is also attractive to IFE systems providers because they could use the software to boost the performance of new hardware as demand for more HD and 4K content grows.

Unlike the fictional parallel, Pied Piper, Cadami’s software actually works, and has been well received. The company expects to be flying on a dozen airlines by the end of summer, though it cannot reveal which airlines yet.

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