Skip to main content

Want to live-stream 10,000 feet in the air? Honeywell’s inflight tech will let you

With the growth in the internet of things (IoT), there is rarely a moment when we aren’t connected. Air travel used to be a time when we had to turn our tech off, but no more: planes, too, are becoming a node in the IoT.

However, if you’re a frequent traveler you’ve likely experienced the pain that is inflight Wi-Fi — even on the most cutting-edge airlines. You get in the air, find out there’s internet access, pay the unworldly fee, and you’re supposedly good to go. We say supposedly because inflight Wi-Fi is famously slow and spotty, and while some are advertised as high-speed, you are restricted from using streaming services like Netflix, Spotify, and HBO Go. Although it’s definitely a feat of engineering that there’s internet in a plane at all, it could use some work. And that’s where Honeywell is stepping in.

Last week, in San Francisco, we had the opportunity to check out what Honeywell has been working on in the way of in-flight internet connections, and we were pleasantly surprised. The company is conducting a worldwide tour on a 757 “Connected Aircraft,” and it’s demonstrating its satellite-based inflight Wi-Fi concept in partnership with Boeing and GX Aviation (the Wi-Fi services arm of satellite communications company, Inmarsat, which counts Air New Zealand, Lufthansa, and Qatar Airways as customers).

“You’ve got to be able to connect in-flight, even through conditions that are tough on a satellite receiver.”

Using satellites for broadband internet isn’t new — the concept dates back to 2000 when Boeing launched its now-defunct Connexion service, and, today, it can be found on planes serviced by GX Aviation, Gogo, Panasonic Avionics, Global Eagle, and Viasat, among others. To date, most airlines in the U.S. connect to the internet through air-to-ground (ATG) connections (Gogo is the largest service provider in this front). Switching over to satellites helps alleviate many of the issues associated with air-to-ground connections, primarily a constant connection that covers a wider area, including over large bodies of water. And what early satellite technology lacked in speed, the newest equipment, such as Honeywell’s JetWave (the onboard product used by GX Aviation to connect to three existing Inmarsat Ka-band satellites), aims to improve that.

With its Connected Aircraft, Honeywell is demoing just how its hardware delivers on said performance. And, because the JetWave uses two receivers instead of one, it results in speeds that are up to 100 times faster when compared to existing global connectivity solutions today. According to Honeywell, the simultaneous beams to the satellite allows for seamless switching, and it’s how it achieves a consistent experience, whether over land or water – one beam allows users to stay connected, while the second receiver acquires the new spot beam as an aircraft moves from one beam to another. GX users use one beam at a timeThe JetWave equipment can be installed in new planes prior to delivery to airline partners, but Honeywell says older aircraft could easily be retrofitted with JetWave.

And just how fast is it? Honeywell is advertising speeds of up to 30Mbps, which isn’t bad at all and is just enough to allow for live-streaming purposes. When Honeywell invited us to take part in the flight, it specifically encouraged us to try live-streaming. During the test flight, we were able to conduct a Facebook Live broadcast on the Digital Trends Facebook page, and even though that live video was a little choppy, the fact that we could conduct one at all shows that this is an improvement over previous implementations.

We also verified those speeds with a speed test — it actually surpassed the 30Mbps range, although it’s highly likely that results will be slightly less impressive on a standard commercial flight compared to Honeywell’s fully decked out test flight. Even if an airline chooses to use that bandwidth for other purposes instead, it could, for example, offer improved entertainment streaming in lieu of installing seatback displays, which could help a plane fly lighter and use less fuel.

A better connection opens the gateway for a slew of new tools for pilots and ground control.

“Satellite technology has come a long way,” said Honeywell’s VP of Connected Aircraft Kristin Slyker, in an interview with Digital Trends. “You’ve got to be able to connect in-flight, even through conditions that are tough on a satellite receiver.”

Now, we know what you’re thinking: More reliable and faster Netflix! And that’s true, but that’s really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the advantages of a connected aircraft. And ultimately, many of those advantages could have seriously positive effects on the overall flight experience.

For starters, a better connection opens the gateway for a slew of new tools for pilots and ground control, essentially allowing planes to communicate in real-time. According to Honeywell, instead of a pilot having to spend a few hours before the flight sifting through data that they have and having to file a flight plan, pilots can get can update their flight plan in real-time if, for example, unforeseen bad weather is ahead. That can make for a faster flight that’s better on fuel efficiency, and more comfortable for passengers who might otherwise be flying through spotty weather patterns.

A connected experience also makes for better maintenance management. Different components of Honeywell’s test plane had sensor in them that could detect when those components might wear out or break based on terabytes of previous data, using predictive analytics. That could ultimately save a lot of money for airlines, which wouldn’t have to take a plane out of use for a few weeks for repairs, instead being able to quickly and efficiently replace worn-out parts as they come up in Honeywell’s system.

These services are available to flight operators through Honeywell’s GoDirect suite of apps, which include apps for weather, flight planning, ground control, and so on.

Of course, Honeywell isn’t alone. As the biggest service provider of inflight broadband Gogo is making serious moves of its own. The company is transitioning from its ATG infrastructure in favor of its satellite-based systems, called 2Ku, which should make for a much better customer experience than ATG. But what Gogo doesn’t necessarily have, according to Honeywell, is Honeywell’s experience in aviation and its ability to help pilots — not just the customers sitting in the cabin. Honeywell also isn’t selling connectivity directly to passengers — it’s selling to airlines who will, in turn, handle pricing and connectivity for passengers, including how much of that bandwidth is allocated to passengers and how much goes to pilots and the connected plane.

According to Honeywell, within the next 18-24 months we’ll see a much wider adoption of its JetWave technology, including on domestic flights in the U.S. Regardless of which company is delivering the connection, the flying consumer can get ready for better inflight Netflix.

Christian de Looper
Christian’s interest in technology began as a child in Australia, when he stumbled upon a computer at a garage sale that he…
Find exceptional talent: the best hiring platforms for small businesses
For hire sign used by small businesses on hiring platforms to find top-tier talent.

This content was produced in partnership with ZipRecruiter.
Without the right talent or the right people rather, no business could thrive, big or small. But finding top talent is extremely crucial for small businesses, especially when it comes to remaining competitive in today's market. Smaller operations generally have limited resources, so it's necessary to improve productivity and efficiency wherever possible, which is precisely where securing good talent comes into the picture. But how do you find those people? The answer is via hiring platforms a la ZipRecruiter. They not only bring in the talent but also help you better understand the people, their work histories, and their overall expertise. Moreover, they help streamline the hiring process making it easier to find relevant candidates.

In light of that, here are the seven best hiring platforms for small businesses that can help you secure a competitive edge with top-tier talent:

Read more
Need Help? These Are the Best places to hire people online
ZipRecruiter Job Board Lifestyle Post

This content was produced in partnership with ZipRecruiter.
Hiring the right people is a crucial part of developing your business. The best person for the job will be one that shares your vision, is highly responsible, appropriately skilled, and is an efficient worker. You know what you want from your next employee but what do you do when it comes to finding that person? With many different sources out there for finding the best way to hire employees, we've picked out the best places to hire people online including ways to find employees online fast or for a long-term commitment. There are dozens of sites available but it's important to pick the best outlet for the task, so you can spend less time on your recruitment drive and more time interviewing the best candidates for the job. Take a look below at the best places to hire people online.

One of the most reliable names in the job posting world, ZipRecruiter is a great way of finding staff and quickly. It aims to make the hiring process as smooth as possible. It works by connecting to more than 100 job boards so the moment you create a job listing for your firm, ZipRecruiter posts it across the huge network so you're casting the net as wide as possible without having to manually create job listings at numerous sources.

Read more
The best 17-inch laptop bags and backpacks for 2023
Close up view of a zipper on an Asus ROG Nomad V2 backpack.

You need a bag to safely transport your laptop with you to work or school, but not all laptop bags are created equal. Some bags aren’t robust enough to carry heavier models or large enough to carry your charger and extra supplies. Some bags come at an affordable price, while other options are more of an investment.

Whether you’re in search of a sleek briefcase or a tricked-out gaming backpack, skip the guesswork and read on to find out the best ways to carry your laptop in 2023.

Read more