FlytEDGE: Thales Announces Innovative Cloud Based Inflight Entertainment System (IFE) May 2024

The image shows a digital screen with a wooden frame labeled "PASSENGERS" at the top. The screen displays a scenic view of a road lined with tall palm trees, leading towards a city skyline in the distance, likely Los Angeles, as indicated by the text. The sky is clear with a warm, golden hue, suggesting either sunrise or sunset. The screen has text that reads "Flight to Los Angeles," "25C," "Welcome aboard," and options to "Sign in" or "Continue as guest." The top right corner shows the local time at the destination as 04:27 PM.

At Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) Hamburg Thales launched FlytEDGE, a customizable connected cloud based inflight entertainment system (IFE).  Thales gave Nerd Ka Travel a closer look at Flyte edge. In this post, we will analyze the technical details & look at how this will impact the passenger experience.

Alt text: The image showcases an advertisement for FlytEDGE, described as the first cloud-based inflight entertainment system. The background is blue with white lines. Two screens display the interface of the entertainment system, featuring a program titled "Opulent Orchids" with a large image of pink orchids. Various icons and thumbnails representing different types of content, such as news, sports, and shopping, are connected in a curved line leading to a server rack on the right. The Thales logo is prominently displayed in the bottom right corner.
Image Courtesy of Thales

The problem with existing IFE systems is that they are typically multi server units. When the aircraft is out of service only then can the airline update the unit and content offerings. This lack of flexibility has a negative impact on the passenger experience as passengers can only pick from the entertainment options uploaded by the airline . 

Thales sees FlytEDGE as a solution to the above mentioned issues. FlytEDGE box comes in a compact box. The device also has an innovative technical setup which will be analyzed at the end of the post.

What does FlytEDGE mean for the Passenger Experience?

Alt text: A digital screen displays a welcome message for passengers with a scenic background of a road lined with tall palm trees and a city skyline in the distance, likely Los Angeles. The screen shows flight information for a flight to Los Angeles, seat 25C, and the current time as 4:27 PM. There are two buttons on the screen: "Sign in" and "Continue as guest." The word "PASSENGERS" is written at the top of the screen.

Thales has decided to partner with both consumer & industry brands to enable installing popular apps on the FlytEDGE platform.

Thales tells Nerd Ka Travel that apps such as Netflix, Spotify and other apps will be available to passengers. This will allow the passenger greater control to use whichever app they would normally use for entertainment. Since FlytEDGE is cloud based this may mean greater reliability & service guarantees which enable the airline to offer passengers a smoother experience. 

What does FlytEDGE mean for Airlines?

Alt text: A large screen displays a software interface for monitoring aircraft status. The interface includes sections for fleet management, software, content, and maintenance & repair. The main section shows detailed information about aircraft connectivity, service deployment status, graphical user interfaces, and flight information such as position, heading, and altitude. The screen is labeled "PASSENGERS" at the top. The software appears to be from Thales and is named FlytEdge. Various filters and status indicators are visible, including connectivity status and last heartbeat updates.
Airline Demo Dashboard

FlytEDGE is flexible as it is open to enterprise apps, this allows airlines a greater degree of flexibility in obtaining information to improve the passenger experience, & operations.

The airline will be able to update content offerings right from a central dashboard even while the plane is in the air. The ability to deploy custom app software is innovative as it will allow airlines to deploy their custom enterprise level software solutions into this system remotely.

When will FlytEDGE launch & with which airline?

Thales says it will be a major airline, however, Thales declined to identify the airline. Thales tells Nerd Ka Travel FlytEDGE is estimated to launch late 2025 – 2026 with that airline. 

FlytEDGE Software Analysis: 

The software component part is fascinating because it makes a lot of the innovations & customization possible with the platform. Think of FlytEDGE as a local server/computer where content is stored. Airlines can access it enroute because FlyteEdge server is connected to the cloud through leading cloud service providers, such as Amazon Web Services, & Microsoft Azure. These service providers have great reliability & service guarantees which may enable the airline to offer passengers a smoother experience. Internet reliability is out of Thales control much similar to internet at your house a internet provider provides internet service to an Airplane. Ultimately the internet provider will determine system reliability.

The reason IFE system has the ability to be open is because it relies on open source software that already has a strong app store & makes it easy to deploy custom applications. Open source software means the original human code is readable to software engineers.

The operating system for FlytEDGE is Linux based, this allows FlytEDGE to install a wide variety of apps due to the Linux app store. While a discussion on containerization is beyond the scope of Nerd Ka Travel, containerization provides the additional flexibility needed to deploy different enterprise level apps.

The server also functions similar to a Content Distribution Network (CDN) system, a CDN allows content to load faster since the server is located near the user. 

I am glad to see this type of adaptation by Thales, the airline industry certainly needs more tech & adoption of open source software. Countless companies outside of the airline industry have adopted the open source approach. These companies have seen great success with this approach. It’s great to see Thales adopting open source technology to innovate that allows for collaboration in the airline technical space. I’m excited to see FlytEDGE in action. I can not wait to try it out in a future flight review

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