Source: Panasonic Avionics

Airlines are under increasing pressure to provide passengers with a digital experience that goes beyond traditional in-flight entertainment.For instance, during flights passengers expect the same level of on-demand streaming they’re used to at home—not to mention access to live sports and other entertainment options. They also want an integrated experience that starts when they book their flight and continues after they land. Meeting and exceeding these kinds of expectations demands a seamless digital ecosystem—and in-flight entertainment plays a large role in that.

This has historically presented a challenge to budget-conscious airlines that want to maximize the value of their existing hardware investment, while still delivering new passenger-business value. To that end, Panasonic Avionics is developing a solution for airlines that are unable to upgrade aircraft hardware but understand the value in meeting the needs of the modern passenger.

Using DevOps practices, Docker images installed on head-end line-replaceable units (LRUs) will deliver a customizable digital experience and unlock new value from existing technology.

Key Definitions

DevOps: “DevOps is the combination of cultural philosophies, practices, and tools that increases an organization’s ability to deliver applications and services at high velocity: evolving and improving products at a faster pace than organizations using traditional software development and infrastructure management processes. This speed enables organizations to better serve their customers and compete more effectively in the market.” (Source: AWS)

Docker: “Docker is an open platform for developing, shipping, and running applications. Docker enables you to separate your applications from your infrastructure so you can deliver software quickly.” (Source:

Docker image: “An image is a read-only template with instructions for creating a Docker container. Often, an image is based on another image, with some additional customization.” (Source:

Kubernetes: “Kubernetes (sometimes referred to as K8s) is a popular open source platform that orchestrates container runtime systems across a cluster of networked resources. Kubernetes can be used with or without Docker.” (Source:

The complexities of old systems

Traditional in-flight entertainment was built on a closed-box system, meaning airlines had to go back to the vendor to make changes. This means that updates have, historically, been difficult or time-consuming to make.

There’s a reason vendors developed the technology in this way, though: the focus was on creating in-flight entertainment systems that were secure and efficient.

The evolution of this technology has made leaps and bounds in recent years, allowing new systems to retain the same high levels of security and efficiency while being continuously refreshed.

Because technology moves at such a quick pace, passengers expect the latest trends wherever they go and airlines need to work hard to keep up. This is difficult when development teams are hamstrung by integrated, closed systems that were never designed to be easily updated.

Things are changing

There are unique challenges in updating aging in-flight entertainment systems, something Panasonic Avionics has taken into consideration with its App Manager solution.

Inspired by an open architecture and cloud native app infrastructure, it allows airlines to make changes to the in-flight experience directly, drastically reducing the time it takes to get new features to market. This revolutionary DevOps model eases restrictions on airlines, allowing them to better keep up with rapidly evolving passenger expectations.

Airlines have a huge opportunity to differentiate through the digital experience they offer. Not only does this please passengers, but it enables flights to run smoothly. Digitizing onboard collateral can, for example, make it much faster and easier to deploy services that provide passengers with personalized services, shopping opportunities, and up-to-date arrival information.

It also facilitates time-sensitive promotions. For example, leading up to Halloween, airlines can deploy Halloween-themed content and specials on limited-time Holiday-themed products. Software and content can be refreshed regularly to target sales related to those promotions.

This new way of doing things gives airlines many more options to serve passengers. It also provides more connectivity tools to improve the overall running of a flight. A more open architecture means developers will be able to use familiar tools and languages to make regular updates but also to create different experiences as needed.

Panasonic Avionics employs a streamlined version of Kubernetes as its primary orchestration platform for Docker containers. Kubernetes, in this context, offers several operational benefits for managing containerized applications effectively.

Desired State Management: One significant advantage of Kubernetes is its capability to allow operators (or administrators) to define the desired state of the system. This means specifying how the system should ideally operate. Kubernetes then takes on the responsibility of automatically handling tasks such as deployment, rollback, and runtime management of containers. This automation minimizes manual intervention and contributes to a more efficient and reliable system.

Resource Management: Kubernetes enhances the management of resources on limited onboard server infrastructure. Resources, such as memory, compute power, and storage, are finite and need to be allocated judiciously. Kubernetes addresses this challenge by implementing tenant limits and container-level quotas. These measures help mitigate resource contention issues, ensuring that each service gets its fair share of resources. This approach not only optimizes resource utilization but also contributes to improved uptime for IFEC services.

A personalized passenger experience

This connects to a wider digital ecosystem where passengers see similar content options and suggestions throughout the entire buying journey. This ensures a seamless experience and allows airlines to add revenue-generating services at various touch points. If development teams can become more efficient using DevOps, new ideas and innovations can be quickly rolled out to keep your airline ahead of the game.

These quick updates and changes will also come at a much lower cost. Not only will new releases shorten time-to-market for new products, features, and enhancements, but you’ll also get a higher level of consistency. For example, an airline can have 18 different configurations across its fleet, but Docker support means an update can be tested once, then deployed to all aircraft at the same time.

On top of this, Docker also allows airlines to plug in additional solutions from other vendors. This will encourage further breakthroughs in the type of content offered and provide a better environment for developers to work in.

In a time when airlines are looking for quick, low-cost ways to upgrade the digital experience, streamlining the development and deployment process is a top priority. Passengers expect a certain standard from their digital services and want the same access to the platforms and apps they use at home when they’re on a plane. The App Manager solution offers flexibility and allows airlines to be more agile than ever when it comes to serving the demands of today’s tech-savvy population.