How Lufthansa Got Into the Clouds with CloudStream
This is not the first article involving air travel and cloud computing. However, while the earlier article compared industries (See: The Similarities between Airplane Travel and Cloud Computing), this involves a specific airline and a specific cloud-based service.
2011 saw the introduction of an innovative new service for air travelers – Internet access on international flights. While Internet in the air had been around for some time, access was largely restricted to domestic travelers because the signal is provided by land-based mobile phone towers. Therefore, international travelers were restricted to their own laptops or in-flight entertainment for passing the time. This was the state of affairs until airlines started offering Internet access via satellite communications earlier this year.
Lufthansa, one of the pioneers of this technology, did this and something more. It developed CloudStream (http://www.cloud-stream.com), a cloud-based service the airline describes as the passenger’s “digital carry-on”. CloudStream allows passengers to pick out assorted content prior to departure, cache interesting links into a virtual folder and browse the content while onboard. With CloudStream, Lufthansa went into the clouds, both literally and figuratively.
The following official video explains the functioning: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPXn5sR9y48
At the time of launch, Nicola Lange, Director Marketing and Consumer Relations at Lufthansa had stated,
“Airline travel remains one of the few places where an individual has quiet, undisturbed time to enjoy personal interests. CloudStream makes it easy to discover and consume thought provoking, interesting content when you have downtime, and with Lufthansa’s FlyNet Internet onboard, that can now include precious travel time.”
Now, cloud computing is one of the ways to achieve virtualization (See: Virtualization: The Virtual Way to Real-World Benefits), and Lufthansa achieves this by using the private cloud methodology, largely because of security concerns (See: Which is the Safer Cloud – Public or Private?). Cloud computing also makes an appearance in the IT Outlook section of the airline’s 2010 annual report, where it’s mentioned that it will be one of the areas of focus for future developments (See: http://reports.lufthansa.com/2010/ar/groupmanagementreport/businesssegmentperformance/itservices/outlook.html).
While CloudStream targets Lufthansa fliers, travelers on other airlines can also use the service. This helps getting the message across of Lufthansa being at the forefront of technology. With time, we may see many more airlines jumping on to the bandwagon. While many airlines already use cloud computing for reservation systems (See: Navitaire: Cloud Computing for Airlines ) as do travel companies (See: Cloud Computing and the Travel Agent: Thomas Cook Signs 10-Year Deal with Accenture), this may be the first instance of an onboard service based on the cloud.
By Sourya Biswas