As worries over in-flight hacking increase, Kontron intros speedy, secure cabin access point

In-flight Wi-Fi may have gotten a boost with embedded computing technology company Kontron's Cab-n-Connect, an A100 cabin wireless access point (CWAP) that the company says improves bandwidth efficiency and security.

The offering is notable considering the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently outlined the threat of hackers gaining access to in-flight systems in its new report to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) titled "FAA Needs a More Comprehensive Approach to Address Cybersecurity As Agency Transitions to NextGen."

Kontron said its Cab-n-Connect operates on the 802.11ac standard as what it calls "an onboard Intranet" enabled by integrated, rather than external, antennas. In addition to its 802.11ac capability, the technology also uses 3X3 multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) performance, supporting three separate data streams via 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi radios.

The upgrade from 802.11n means the potential for drastically increased speeds, as well, the company said. While theoretical data rates put 802.11ac at more than double its predecessor's 600 Mbps speed, the new standard delivered in performance tests as well.

"Testing has shown that the 802.11ac CWAP supports 4-5 times as much data throughput on the 5GHz radio when using an 802.11ac tablet versus an 802.11n tablet. Test results shown are at 20MHz and 40MHz; better results can be achieved at 80MHz and by using a 3x3 client device (laptop), but there are practical channel limitations for aircraft installations and multiple CWAPs," Kontron explained in its application note.

The Cab-n-Connect A100 also claims to improve safety standards by adopting Motorola's WiNG 5 operating system. The operating system not only offers a "fortress" for the CWAP, but also has the capability to blacklist devices that it deems threatening due to MAC address spoofing or other security breach attempts. Kontron believes this may quiet fears over the potential for hackers or terrorists to use wireless in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems to tap into Wi-Fi-based NextGen air traffic control. In addition, Cab-n-Connect A100 includes security features like IP filtering, port-based access control and more as a means of what the company implies is an inevitable future of IFE usage.

"As wireless becomes the backbone on the plane, the discussion becomes less about whether passengers will use it, but what other ways will they use it," Kontron avionics business line manager Alan Manns told Runway Girl Network. "Security is going to come to the forefront; this is something we've been talking about [doing] for at least a year."

Kontron hopes Cab-n-Connect will be profitable in addition to being efficient and secure, as customers will be able to access online shopping, seat-to-seat chat and "advertorial" content.

Kontron competes with Aruba Networks and Aircell in providing IFE hardware and software to airlines around the world.

For more:
- see Kontron's release (reg. req.)
- see this Runway Girl Network article

Related articles:
Reports cite Wi-Fi as potential security threat to avionics
Gogo: Antenna is important component for in-flight communications
Qualcomm, Gogo, others continue to push for FCC's 14 GHz ATG spectrum auction despite moves to satellite services

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