By Chris Rippe, Gogo Distinguished Member of Technical Staff Product Development,
and Jeremy Tyler, Gogo Sr. Director Software Application Engineering
Business aircraft connectivity has caught the “platform” bug. In ads, marketing content, and sales pitches, many technology players in business aviation are all talking about the “latest and greatest platform” or “our new and improved (add buzzword here) platform.” But what, specifically, is a technology platform? What does it do and what benefits must it provide to warrant that term?
To answer that question, let’s take a closer look at the Gogo AVANCE inflight connectivity and entertainment (IFEC) technology platform and show you how we’re defining “platform” in the same way other leaders like Apple and Tesla define it.
At Gogo, we look at a technology platform as a whole host of disparate pieces of software that run on well-architected hardware – and it all works together to create a simpler, more powerful, and more cohesive experience for everyone that uses the technology.
One of the best examples of this technology design approach is Apple. The Apple iOS operating system is the “brains” across all their hardware. This single software allows users to do everything from taking pictures to sending an email, browsing the web, watching entertainment, organizing their personal/professional lives, video conferencing, and spending hours doing other things that even a few years ago we never thought a cell phone could do. But Apple didn’t stop there. Apple created an entire digital ecosystem where everything can be integrated, automatically synchronized through the cloud, and even updated/improved between any Apple device. The result is a seamless, consistent “Apple” experience independent of what device you are using it on.
Finally, what makes the Apple platform compelling, is the plethora of apps, both native and third-party, that are available. Apple did this by giving tools that make it easy to develop and test applications. The result is companies want to release software on Apple. In the end, all of this has made the Apple platform incredibly intuitive and compelling to use.
Gogo AVANCE is the first, and only, inflight connectivity platform that brings to business aviation many of the same benefits Apple has brought to cell phones and personal computing.
AVANCE is a platform, not a product
AVANCE software is the “brains” on all Gogo systems – AVANCE L3, AVANCE L5, SCS – and future products as well. The goal is to have only one operating system that detects what hardware it is running on, and what systems and services it is connected to. This means that every feature is available to every system without extra effort, and AVANCE can be configured to create a simple and seamless inflight connectivity experience for the customer.
The result is that every customer can pick the system that works best for their aircraft and mission, but leverage the entire feature set AVANCE provides: including inflight data service connectivity, an 802.11ac Wi-Fi router, a terrestrial modem, an onboard/on-demand entertainment server with a vast onboard catalog of the latest movies and TV shows, a fully immersive 3D worldwide moving map, and automatic syncing from the Gogo Cloud. The benefit for aircraft owners, operators and passengers is that Gogo can get innovations and updates into their hands almost instantly: things that other providers have to do with hardware, which takes longer and requires putting the aircraft down for a period of time for the change.
In terms of hardware engineering, AVANCE is built modularly and it’s designed to be "plug and play" -- which makes it easy for customers to expand and upgrade the connectivity experience. When we create a new solution, we don’t have to start from scratch, we can simply and quickly use our base set of features. When we need to do an upgrade, we can design it once for the whole platform. The Gogo 5G system is a great example of this modular design. When you’re ready to upgrade, you won’t have to remove any hardware to add 5G speed to your AVANCE L5 system – you’ll simply plug a small Gogo X3 LRU into your AVANCE L5, much like how you’d connect a peripheral like a printer to your laptop. Swap out the antennas and your aircraft will be 5G ready.
AVANCE is also designed with integration and customer-driven usability in mind. The platform uses the power of the cloud to allow you, the customer, to easily set up, monitor, and configure any AVANCE-enabled system in your fleet. And the experience is very user friendly. Gogo DASH gives you a self-service toolkit for user management, service settings, activations, and all the monitoring someone could ask for – all in one place. Gogo Vision movie and TV content is automatically updated, plus, hardware and software issues are automatically detected, and the system can notify Gogo’s support organization before anyone even knows there is a problem – similar to how Tesla cars perform self-diagnostics and updates.
Another big buzzword right now is “future-ready.” But again, what does that really mean? What does that look like in terms of IFEC solution design?
If you think about it, most equipment on the aircraft does only one thing: particularly traditional inflight connectivity and IFE systems. For a complete IFEC inflight user experience from other providers, you need to buy different “one-off” systems and services: you need broadband network data and voice service, then the actual connectivity hardware, a terrestrial modem, an onboard router, a CMS, an entertainment system, and don’t forget a moving map system. However, once you get it all installed and running, it doesn’t “talk the same language” and work together as a cohesive solution. And finally, when something new comes out, you bring the aircraft back in, tear it apart, and do it all over again.
It’s a cumbersome and frustrating, and the opposite of “future-ready.”
The Gogo AVANCE platform, on the other hand, gives you everything you need for complete IFEC today in a single, elegant LRU that’s also designed to be future-ready right out of the box. With AVANCE, Gogo can:
Another example is when we lowered our service altitude from 10,000 feet AGL to 3,000 feet, every AVANCE customer received that update over-the-air. Since Gogo is the only IFEC provider that can use the cloud to push software updates to an aircraft, customers never had to touch the aircraft or bring it down for the upgrade to be done. Lastly, when we released Gogo Vision 360 and our amazing 3D moving map, we launched the service purely via a software update.
Looking farther down the road, we have designed AVANCE to be leveraged by third-party developers. In aviation, it’s a real hurdle to build aviation-certified hardware that customers are allowed to install. Our platform solves that problem for third-party by letting them use APIs and SDKs that we provide. Thus, third parties can focus on building innovative products, and because AVANCE runs on all our hardware, partner developers can easily offer their experiences to everyone who has an AVANCE system onboard.
All of this is what makes Gogo AVANCE a true, future-ready technology platform that's transformed the IFEC experience for more than 1,900 business aircraft to date -- and counting.