Air, Land and Sea Connectivity

Sept. 20, 2018
Honeywell GoDirect™ keeps passengers and crew connected on the ground, over the sea and in the air

The demand for connectivity in the air is growing. Consider the facts. According to an Inmarsat study,

• 60 percent of passengers believe in-flight Wi-Fi is a necessity not a luxury,

• 61 percent say quality in-flight Wi-Fi is more important than onboard entertainment,

• 45 percent would pay for in-flight Wi-Fi rather than use free onboard entertainment, and

• In-flight internet is described as a “life saver” by 66 percent of parents traveling with children.

Though this study looks at commercial aviation needs, the same rings true in business aviation, where Wi-Fi access is essential to operations for both pilot and crew, directors of maintenance and the passengers themselves.

However, though Wi-Fi access may be essential in today’s world, it also packs a big punch to the aircraft owners’ pocketbooks, with costs running upward of $40,000 a month.

For this reason, operators are looking for ways to offer this capability while also controlling their costs. Pilots are seeking better tools that put real-time information at their fingertips. Flight departments need the ability to anticipate and fix problems in flight and on the ground. And, as demonstrated above, passengers want in-flight Wi-Fi service that mimics the speeds they have in the office and at home.

Enter GoDirect Cabin connectivity from Honeywell, which is designed to meet the varied needs of these customers. Honeywell’s answer to flexible, reliable cabin communications puts information at everyone’s fingertips, on the ground and in the air, while keeping costs at bay.

The solution places easy-to-use tools in directors of maintenance hands and gives them real-time data to help them make decisions about the flight in the air. It affords them total control over the cost and service of the network. Meanwhile, passengers get the connectivity they crave throughout their flight. They can stream video, watch live TV and download large files without exceeding the budget.

“Our goal is to get as close to that home- or office-like connectivity and have passengers not notice a difference,” states John Peterson, senior director, Honeywell. “From a passenger perspective, there is a seamless handoff between the service they are used to on the ground, and the service they receive in flight.”

Best of all, GoDirect Cabin connectivity provides control, by allowing aircraft owners to stream video without subscribing to the most expensive data package out there. “By gaining control of connectivity services and usage, they can save up to $100,000 per aircraft annually,” states Adam Sheppard, product manager at Honeywell.

Consider the Cost

Though Honeywell has offered satellite connectivity via Swiftbroadband services for some time, the high cost of providing in-flight internet access has been a recurring concern among customers.

“They told us the cost of the system itself wasn’t the hard part, the cost of the service was where they were struggling,” states Peterson. “They were seeing year-on-year that their service costs were increasing by double digits.”

And, these operators knew as more people walked on their planes with personal electronic devices, that included tablet and laptop computers and smartphones, their costs would continue to skyrocket. “People were not only on the internet more often, but they were also consuming considerably more data,” Peterson says. “It was driving their costs up and they didn’t feel like they had any control over them.”

Honeywell decided it was time to put control in operators’ hands by giving access to the information they needed to make decisions and control costs. The solution helps operators understand how data is being consumed, who is consuming it, and helps them gain control over their service plans, so that “once they set a budget and an expectation with the passenger and their clients, they could hold onto those expectations, control their data, and in the end control their costs,” Peterson concludes.

The resulting solution, GoDirect Cabin connectivity, gives directors of maintenance and other decision makers heightened control over Wi-Fi networks by enabling them to monitor aircraft connectivity status, control access to the network, control network priorities, maximize experience via the most reliable hardware configurations, and eliminate wasteful data consumption by filtering data coming to the aircraft. In addition, should trouble arise — and Wi-Fi slows down or cuts out altogether in-flight, directors of maintenance can troubleshoot the issue from the ground and work with Honeywell’s 24/7/365 support team to resolve the issue seamlessly.

Get Only What You Need

The GoDirect process begins with a fact-finding mission, where Honeywell experts ask directors of maintenance and key decision makers what they want to accomplish via Wi-Fi in-flight. “Do they want to stream video? Will there be one, two, three or more video streams? Or are they only using it for email and things like that?” asks Sheppard. “We need to peel back the layers of the onion to get at the heart of what they really need.”

This information helps determine the packages, filters and other means they will use to control data usage. “If you’re doing a lot of streaming, you will need a heavy package to handle that,” he says.

But what most operators do not realize is that by limiting the number of data streams (say three instead of five) and controlling the resolution quality of those streams, they can save money. “The difference can be dramatic,” states Sheppard. “It can mean the difference between spending $20,000 a month versus $40,000 a month.”

The GoDirect Filter service controls costs by filtering the data coming in. This feature enables operators to set priorities, limit data consumption, improve access and speed of essential data, and control the data sent and received.

The service’s content filtering feature allows operators to block some data from entering in the first place. For example, an operator may wish to block Facebook, YouTube, automatic device updates and other high-data-use options. Or, the operator may want to control Wi-Fi access during flight. Let’s say everyone is sleeping but there are nine devices connected to Wi-Fi, access can be blocked until people wake up. “It’s kind of like turning the lights off when no one is in the room,” Peterson says. “Why pay for data no one is using?”

Another solution, GoDirect Data Control also can be used to limit the resolution of the data streams. Though a JetWave package might offer 15mbps and 1,080p quality resolution, this speed and resolution may be “overkill for a smartphone or table computer,” says Sheppard. Honeywell’s GoDirect Data Control allows operators to limit bandwidth to 720p or even 480p. “This substantially reduces data consumption on an aircraft, which can save up to $20,000 a month, but customers have the same user experience,” Sheppard says. “The difference between 1,080p and 720 or 480p resolution on a small monitor is almost negligible but the difference in cost is significant.”

Finally, GoDirect Access can allow users to set a limit on what they want to pay for in terms of internet access. This makes sense for lease or charter flights. Users can set data usage limits or shut off Wi-Fi access altogether. “In the past, a charter flight either offered internet access or it did not,” Sheppard says. “Now you can give users an allocation to work with, so they only use a certain amount of data. Likewise, if they exceed that data package, you can make money by charging them for the additional data service.”

Directors of maintenance can use GoDirect Access to change their streaming rates and filtering policies, and set alerts on the fly, to gain control of consumption and keep the aircraft within budget while in flight.

Support When Trouble Arises

“We always want to deliver on the promise of providing the best overall network performance regardless of where the aircraft is in the world,” states Sheppard. This is provided by making sure support is always available.

Honeywell’s GoDirect Network app enables operators to diagnose and troubleshoot inflight connectivity. Once connected to the onboard, Wi-Fi network, the app can perform status queries of satellite communication hardware. The app’s icons and text messages show the status of each component and whether the end-to-end internet connection is complete. Visual cues of this status are provided in an intuitive way so that users can see at a glance where trouble lies.

“When the app is connected to the onboard Wi-Fi network, each icon will turn green when the end-to-end internet connection is complete. If there is no connection available, the icon will turn red, alerting the user of a connection issue, and the app will provide potential solutions to the problem,” states Peterson.

With this app, operators know the internet is working before the aircraft ever leaves the ground. Once in flight, they can view where the aircraft is positioned and see network coverage, a status log will capture any connectivity issues in-flight, and they can email this information to Honeywell support for troubleshooting.

GoDirect Toolkit contains advanced troubleshooting information but also provides direct access to Honeywell’s internet support labs, based in Phoenix, AZ; Paris, France; and Asia. “If a director of maintenance calls, we have all of the routers and equipment in-house and we can walk them through troubleshooting in real time,” Curt Gray, GoDirect Global Support at Honeywell, says. “We will replicate the problem in our lab to determine what the issue is and how to remedy it.”

A director of maintenance can access this information from the ground no matter where the flight is. “We’ve integrated flight tracking into our system, so you can see the aircraft over the ocean and know if it’s connected,” he says.

A Paris-based company relies on Honeywell GoDirect for its Jet ConneX services and reports the customer support Honeywell offers was key in their decision to go with the company’s services. When trouble arises, it’s Honeywell’s ability to offer support and get things running again on their Bombardier Global 6000 aircraft that has meant the most.

“When we have experienced issues, Honeywell’s technical team downloaded some logs and identified the problem very quickly,” reports Sebastian Willai, the aircraft’s director of maintenance. “Our passengers were happy because they were able to fly with such a powerful system on board. And we are more than happy with Honeywell because their team is always ready to assist us.”

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