by Caroline Gabsewics
After years of only having movies to watch on airplanes, there are now companies that market interactive in-flight entertainment to airlines, and one company is located in downtown Jacksonville.
It’s a different type of business where their customer base is the airlines, not the public.
The company, eFlyte, Inc., located in Independent Square, provides in-flight software for domestic and international airlines, said president Dan Harris.
“Our customer’s aircraft is equipped with interactive movies, music and games,” he said. “Everything done at this office is software development.”
eFlyte formed in 1999 in Memphis, Tenn. and they relocated to Jacksonville in 2000.
“We are thrilled to be in Jacksonville and pleased to be here,” said Harris. “Jacksonville offers an attractive cost of living and it is business friendly.”
The company formed because they recognized an opportunity to enter the small field of six to eight companies worldwide, and have a superior quality to their software.
“We are the second largest in our industry and we are climbing fast,” he said.
eFlyte only provides the software for in-flight entertainment. There are other companies that provide the hardware that is found covered underneath the passengers’ seats. The screens can be touch screens or a remote can be used. The size of the screens depends on what class the passengers are seated in.
“The screens can be on the back of a seat in economy or they can be retractable in the arms in business class,” said Harris. “Each person has their own personal display.”
eFlyte has games from other gaming companies and some of their own that they have to test before they are put on the market and many of the video games include controllers. The movies that are offered are chosen by the airlines, but Harris said they are mostly current releases.
“All of the movies are on demand and you can do all of the things you can do with DVDs,” he said.
There is also a large variety of music choices that can be put into a personal play list.
“Airlines love it (interactive entertainment),” said Harris. “It is now necessary for international airlines to offer these systems to their passengers.”
Some of the older aircraft have to get the wiring installed into the plane, but in the new planes, the wiring comes preinstalled for interactive entertainment.
At their location in Independent Square, people may walk by and not see a person in the office. However, they are usually in the back testing the software, shipping it to the manufacturers who then send it to the engineers to get Federal Aviation Administration certification, said Harris.
“Each day we start with and end with conference calls with our Asian colleagues,” said Harris. “Because of the time difference, we talk to them early in the morning and later in the evening.”
Most of eFlyte’s customer-base is in Asia.
“We discuss all types of software, from in-flight e-mail, games to destination information,” said Harris. “All of the software is designed to run with the systems for the passengers.”
Currently eFlyte is evaluating games that have movie and sound clips, said David Morgan, CEO of eFlyte.
“We want to make the games more interactive,” said Morgan. “We also are the first company to provide multi-player games for the in-flight market.”
Six months ago, they made a multi-player poker tournament for Delta Song Airlines to promote certain destinations like Las Vegas and the Caribbean.
The interactive nature of in-flight entertainment began in 1995 when the systems began to offer more than just a movie channel.
“Now you can make choices as to what you see,” said Harris. “And the choices are always expanding.”
Any international carrier has in-flight entertainment systems, but not all of them are interactive yet, he said. Right now, eFlyte has almost 30 customers, including airlines such as Virgin Atlantic, Northwest, Delta Song, Singapore and Emirates.