"When we designed ALTO Cadence™ switch panels, we targeted replacing obsolete controls in a wide range of aircraft with varying ages. Our main objective was to minimize the need to rework the wood in these aircraft to keep the budget reasonable compared to the value of the aircraft."
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I think our readers would also like to know what mix of customers you have; that is to say, between completion centers, OEMs and others. Can you please explain your primary markets and how your product ranges might differ among these groups?
DH Our main customers span a wide range of major OEMs (including Gulfstream, Dassault, Textron, and others), MROs (including Gulfstream, Duncan, WestStar, and many others), and industry partners (including Collins Aerospace, Honeywell, Astronics CCC, among other industry leaders), with the mix being almost even.
The development and implementation schedules differ among these customers, but we provide the same level of support to all. The customized products and solutions we provide to OEMs and industry partners are premium audio products, while MROs are both audio and Cabin Management System solutions. We are already working on expanding our product portfolio with OEMs to serve eVTOL, supersonic, hypersonic, and space transportation aircraft. Our R&D department and engineering divisions are on top of the technology to ensure we continue serving the next generation of aircraft. We are excited about the progress in aviation and enjoy leading the path in cabin audio and cabin control solutions to serve the next generation of aircraft.
As a designer, I know how important aesthetics are in the button suites and passenger controls that are actually visible to passengers. It looks like you've done a quite beautiful job of keeping aesthetics a high priority. Can you tell us what you go through in designing these components – and if owner retained designers ever have a hand in the design of these control suites?
SS When we designed ALTO Cadence™ switch panels, we targeted replacing obsolete controls in a wide range of aircraft with varying ages. Our main objective was to minimize the need to rework the wood in these aircraft to keep the budget reasonable compared to the value of the aircraft. This approach makes our switches seamlessly blend with the existing aircraft design and allows the designer to allocate more of the budget to areas with a bigger visual impact than control switches.
We carefully matched the basic design of the controls while allowing the graphics, inner trim panels, and bezel plating to be customized by the designer. When the cabin interior is getting a completely new design, with over thirty different bezel styles in our portfolio and our ability to match textures and materials, designers have even greater flexibility in choosing a switch style that compliments their overall design theme. This is also true of the Touchscreen and app design to make sure the look and feel of the Graphical User Interface are pleasing, customized, and intuitive.
In looking at your accessories, I see that you offer articulating tablet holders. It has been my impression (perhaps wrongly) that these mechanically articulating arms were largely getting replaced by less cumbersome solutions and that owners no longer want these arms taking up space in side-ledge cavities. Can you please speak to the current popularity of these devices and other possible solutions you might be developing?
DH For the most part, the articulating arms that you mention getting replaced or eliminated are the personal monitors that were popular in the past. These built-in small monitors' function has mostly been replaced with passengers' personal devices such as phones or tablets. Many older aircraft have removable personal monitors, and these holders plug right into the existing monitor bases with no rework to make the personal devices hands-free.
We are already working on expanding our product portfolio with OEMs to serve eVTOL, supersonic, hypersonic, and space transportation aircraft.
Your Cadence System Master Controller looks quite impressive – and as though it is extremely comprehensive in terms of the cabin systems it is capable of controlling in a single hand-held unit. Can you please explain more about this device and what drivers fostered its development?
SS We recognized a strong need in the industry to provide high-performing and cost-efficient solutions to replace and upgrade aging and obsolete cabin management components. Our customer-centric philosophy keeps simplicity and performance in mind. ALTO Cadence™ System Master Controller is all about interfacing; it not only facilitates the communication between ALTO components but also is programmed to speak many interface languages enabling connection of the latest technology equipment, including ALTO audio, High-Def video, USB, Bluetooth, Touchscreens, and app control, together to the legacy cabin systems such as lighting, climate, shades, and numerous galley functions that were installed years ago.
I also see that you offer Touch-Screen solutions as well, and it looks as though you may have cooperative agreements with other industry partners in this context. Can you please explain how this works and how many of your customers prefer touch-screen interfaces vs. the more traditional button suites?
SS ALTO has many exceptionally good cooperations with our partners in the aviation industry. To always offer customers the best possible products, we either design and qualify our own components, or in some cases, we integrate select high-quality components from our trusted partners into our cabin offering.
For cabin control, we have found that most customers really like the simplicity and ease of use of a dedicated switch panel at each seat, but also sometimes like the option of a touch panel at a couple of VIP seats in the cabin. A single, larger touch screen is increasingly popular in the galley area, given the more complex control needs in that position.
I know that customers are always the ultimate drivers when it comes to the products you offer and the directions you take them in. Can you tell us about your approach to customer relations and perhaps collaborative involvements they might have in your development cycles?
DH We have seen some suppliers in the industry approach customers with their list of parts and ask the customer to determine what they need. Our approach is to team up with each customer to specify a system solution that gives the end user what they desire in their aircraft. The appropriate system will depend on the owner's use case. A corporate shuttle will be used very differently from an aircraft primarily used for family travel.
Whether it is an OEM or an MRO with a single retrofit aircraft, we work closely with them through the entire process to help define the appropriate system. For some aircraft, the system we end up selling to our customers is much smaller in scope and less expensive than they originally thought, but it is right for that application.
Other times we commit to designing a new product or modifying an existing one to meet a specific aircraft's requirements. Of course, all of this must be done while balancing strict industry certification requirements, minimizing risk for our customers, planning for part availability and obsolescence, and ensuring that we do our part for the industry by increasing sustainability in our products and processes.