Posted on: 15 September 2014
Michael Childers (pictured), APEX Technology Committee chair called upon members to make their voices heard today on an issue that will affect many of them.
He wants voting members to respond on the draft closed captioning white paper, which needs to go back to the US Department of Transport (DOT) by 26 September.Speaking on a panel at the education sessions at the organisation’s annual Expo today, Childers was joined by Geoff Freed – director of technology projects and web media standards, for the US National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM). Andy Rosen, Consultant and Bryan Rusenko – APEX Technical Consultant also joined the discussion.The DOT has stated it will announce new regulations requiring closed captioning for inflight video in US airspace to assist deaf and hard-of-hearing passengers. Other regulations intending to assist the visually impaired may also be in the notice from DOT.
Childers said, “Clearly, new closed captioning and similar rules have the potential to seriously impact many segments of our industry and present challenges from economic, practical and technical standpoints.”
APEX has taken the lead on this matter and is dealing directly with DOT on behalf of the industry.Critical issues include how to integrate a new standard with older analogue technologies and systems still flying, as well as different standards used by international carriers flying into US airspace. One clumsy solution would be for foreign carriers to turn off the IFE when they enter US airspace, although this would patently be untenable in the long term.The committee would like to see the adoption of Timed Text Mark-up Language as an industry standard, which integrates with many older technologies and offers a high degree of interoperability between devices.Earlier this year Rusenko compiled a member survey, and reached out to 60 APEX members, comprising suppliers and airlines.
Childers said, “We are under pressure to respond to the DOT with facts and recommendations.”The transition could potentially cost the industry billions of dollars, unless APEX can help manage a smooth stepped transition, since every component of the IFE must be CC capable. Given that the average lifecycle of an IFE system is 12-15 years, we are looking at a ten-year time frame before older analogue systems are completely phased out. New CC technology may be required to support perhaps three or more generations of IFE systems simultaneously across a fleet, since multiple edited versions of content may be necessary. Given that IFE systems may cost as much as US$5 million per aircraft, that is a huge cost to the industry.The committee is calling for a “Defined and easily achievable specific workflow,” for such integration and needs members’ votes and opinions in order to achieve the best possible outcome.