Planes, Trains, and Video

Posted by Chuck Harrell on Aug 5, 2014 11:04:00 AM

Woman Touching Multimedia Screen At BusOn-board entertainment has long been the preserve of passengers taking flights. In-flight entertainment systems have come a long way since their early introduction and have no doubt the reduced the amount of free alcohol consumed on long haul flights.

Train passengers however have long been denied this pleasure, largely because of costs and the fact that typically train journeys have been much shorter and more interesting than peering out at clouds. But with reducing costs and more convenient faster and longer rail travel happening throughout the world, there is renewed enthusiasm for installing flat screens on the back of a carriage’s headrest and in sleeper carriages.

The regulations for equipment in train carriages aren’t as strict as they are for planes, after all trains don’t have a habit of falling from the sky. But getting data from the media server through the carriages without degradation of signal quality is a bit more difficult than it is in a single metal tube. Still it’s easily overcome with signal boosters in each carriage.

The only real problem with entertainment systems on the back of seats is that train companies want to recoup their costs by selling the media real estate as prime advertising space, rather than using it for entertainment purposes. As this article from the Economist shows, passengers don’t want to be bombarded with commercials and will actively try and stop them being shown.

In that instance, it’s the greed of the railway operator that’s putting people off using the entertainment system after all most passengers on that train line only use the train for commuting purposes and to provide them with airline style seats from which they can control their programs would be a much greater expense (individual remote controls would just be pilfered). However, in sleeper carriages, where a captive audience pays a premium for a private compartment, remote controls can be provided to use systems such as the ones provided by AeroVision Avionics. The system works in much the same way as any other. At one end of the sleeper carriage there is the Head End Server with a swappable SSD which is used to store movies and music and in the compartments there are 15” LCD displays connected to a set top box and a bespoke control keypad for passengers to make their selection.

So, if rail travel does become more popular for long journeys, we may yet see the introduction of more airplane style entertainment systems. Although, since most people have a smartphone or a tablet, are they really necessary? Failing that, books are an ideal fallback solution and we could use these journeys as a rest bite from technology.

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