The Long Beach Convention Center on day one of Apex 2012.

On the face of it, Apex is an industry event divided in two: Airlines and the vendors that sell to them. But if you delve a little deeper, you’ll find it’s more than just an industry event, it’s the nexus of a technological shift that stands to change the game for the hardware, software and content specialists that bring this transportation industry to life for its passengers.

Day one at Apex was all about exposing its members to those game changing technologies. The show floor was closed but the classroom doors were wide open and hundreds of Apex attendees scouted out the day’s educational sessions. There is no denying that this year’s theme remains (as it has for the last two years) internet in the air.

First up were  experts from Intel, Philips, CISCO and Ericsson to present a unified picture of the inflight ecosystem and the direction it’s headed. Philips’ head designer Michael Held started things off by steering the conversation away from wireless and inflight connectivity and back to emerging technologies that are changing how we do things on the ground.

For Held, it’s all about combining hardware innovations with web applications to make life easier. Held used Belkin’s Wemo system to show how devices as simple as motion sensors can become exponentially more useful when combined with web-based apps. For Held, these simple innovations can make a world of difference, and technologies companies need to take an entrepreneurial attitude to get them off the ground quickly and effectively.

The morning sessions focused on how connectivity is changing the aviation industry.

Ulmont Smith, VP and General Manager of Worldwide Sales at Intel made a compelling case for hardware efficiency and the readiness of computing hardware for the connected inflight entertainment experience, reminding us that Moore’s Law remains in effect. And while energy costs remain a burden, he argued that the hardware technology is ready to support wireless on board.

The secret to success, he argues, is keeping everything open: “It’s impossible to put something on a plane today that won’t be outdated in five years,” he explained, “so we need open architecture and platforms” to allow these technologies to mature and stay relevant in the future.

Cisco’s Ted Nugent, a self-described engineering geek, provided an in-depth analysis of the kinds of networks systems that will be required to support BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), which he says will soon be “hitting the industry like a freight train,” if it hasn’t already.

But the large crowd of attendees were more responsive to Nugent’s colleague, Director of Media Group Service Provider Practice, Leszek Izdebski, who used plenty of graphics and data to tell a simple story: the devices people use are multiplying and they will expect to use them in the air just like they do on the ground. The simple consequence? distributors and service providers will have to recalibrate their business models to fit this new (and inevitable) reality.

The morning sessions ended with a presentation by Geoff Hollingworth, Head of Business Innovation for Ericsson. He explained how a “networked society” can transform industries, meaning they will require new approaches to performance, security and transparency. Like the others, he reiterated the point that technology is ready and waiting for IFE systems, or as he put it, “connectivity will be embedded inside airlines’ DNA.”

After a quick lunch under the California sun, the crowd returned to the Convention Center for a round of afternoon “breakout sessions.” These smaller workshops addressed various industry questions, from casual gaming to a wireless inflight entertainment Q&A with a representativ from Paramount, to food science and tasting sessions.

The afternoon breakout session, "Wireless IFE Solutions - The Facts" with Roger Grange from Inflight Productions and Bob Kisor from Paramount was packed.

The day ended with the annual Apex Awards Ceremony, hosted by travel journalist Joel Connable. Major winners included Virgin America, which took home four awards and Kingfisher Airlines, which won for Best Ground Experience and Best Inflight Video.

Today the action turns to the showroom. We’ll be tweeting live from the event via @sparkshet_apex.