MediaHubs/Connectivity Panels – The Who, What, When, Where and How

We are living in a society obsessed and reliant on its gadgets.  These gadgets keep us both connected and entertained.  You only need to catch a train to witness how dependent we have become on gadgets for entertainment.  It’s not unusual to see somebody on a train watching a movie or the latest instalment of their favourite TV series on a mobile device. Hotel guests are bringing such devices with them and are watching their own movies and programs in the comfort of their room.  Why do they want to use their devices?  Because they have spent time and money loading their ‘life’ onto their devices and they know how they work. I believe that increasingly, in-room technology in hotels is less about what Hotels provide (IPTV, Pay for View Movies & Foxtel) and more about accommodating what guests are bringing with them.  Guests arrive at a hotel with their own devices and their own content and they want to use these devices during their stay, just as they do at home and at the office.  The key for Hotels is to provide them with the infrastructure to achieve this quickly and easily.  A MediaHub is a major part of that infrastructure.

Are guests really wanting to connect their device to my TV?

Yes, in all my discussions with general managers of both small and large properties they are telling me that more and more guests are getting behind their TVs to plug in their own devices.  Unfortunately they are also reporting that guests are often damaging their TVs in the process.  I’m also been told by general managers and hotel engineer that guests are leaving cables plugged into TVs when they check-out.  I am also regularly told by hotel engineers that they’re spending more and more of their time assisting guests connect devices up to the TV, which is normally locked and even once it’s unlocked they may need assistance to go to the appropriate input for their device (I’ll explain a little bit more about that later)

Can’t I just make my TV accessible to guests rather than install a Connectivity Panel?

Yes, you may be able to do that if you have a TV that can be easily accessed (not wall mounted) isn’t locked (hotel TV’s normally have the ports locked) and you have a remote control that allows the guest to switch the TV to the appropriate port/source once they have connected their device.

What are the challenges a guest faces when trying to connect their own device to the TV in a hotel?

There are three challenges a guest has to overcome to connect and play their own content on the in-room TV.

  1. Getting Access to the Ports – Many hotels are wall mounting their TVs both to save space and because TV’s are getting larger it is safer to wall mount them.  This however makes it very difficult for the guest to get to the ports on the TV which are normally at the back and generally towards the centre.
  2. Lock Ports – If the guest can get to the ports, Hotel TVs are normally “locked” meaning that the ports that are not being used are inactive.  So even if the guest does manage to plug their device into the port it won’t work anyway.
  3. Switching the TV to the right port – If the guest does manage to connect to the port and a the port is unlocked, the third challenge they face is getting the TV to the right AV input or source.  A lot of hotels have a movie system, and it is the movie providers remote control that is in the room rather than the remote that comes with the TV.  The issue is that the movie providers remote control doesn’t normally have an AV or source button to allow the guest to change the TV to the input their device is connected to.

A MediaHub can take away all of these challenges and allow the guest to easily connect their devices and enjoy their content.

What is a MediaHub?

MediaHubA MediaHub is a panel which is permanently connected to the TV and is generally mounted into the furniture.  A MediaHub allows guest to quickly and easily plug their device into the in room TV so that they can watch their own movies or play their own games or music on the in-room TV.  The MediaHub provides connectivity for laptops, iPad, iPhones, digital/video cameras, Blu-ray™ or DVD players and gaming consoles.  There is also a USB port to charge portable electronics. The guest doesn’t need to fiddle behind the TV or to remove any cables to connect their device which could impact the next guest or cause damage the TV.

A MediaHub can offer plug and play compatibility meaning that when the guest plugs in their device, the MediaHub auto detects this and switches the TV to play the content automatically without the need for the guest to pick up the remote control or do anything further.  Likewise once the guest has finished playing their content they simply remove the cable and the MediaHub returns the TV to where it was before it took control of the TV.  This plug and play compatibility is achieved by the use of a protocol referred to as HDMI-CEC.  It is generally supported by all new TVs on the market.  This means that the MediaHub can therefore work with an extremely wide range of TV brands and models.

What are the benefits of a MediaHub?

  1. A MediaHub enhances the guest stay by making it simple for them to connect and play their own content
  2. A MediaHub prevents the need for the guest to fiddle behind the TV or remove any cables from the TV.  Hotels are finding that TVs are getting damaged because of guests fiddling behind them.  They often pull out cables to connect their cable and never reconnect them when finished which means that the TV doesn’t work for the next guest in the room.
  3. Hotel staff and very often engineering staff are spending time unlocking TV’s for guests and helping them connect their own devices.  This takes them away from their real role and at the same time guests get frustrated because they can’t do it themselves and need to wait for a hotel staff member to assist them, when they just want to get on and enjoying the content or the game.

Can the guest not watch the content on their own screen that they brought with them?

Yes they could, but they would prefer to watch it on the in-room TV rather than their 8 or 10 inch screen particularly if there is more than one of them.  When I travel with my family we certainly prefer to use the in room TV to watch a movie from our iPad than try and huddle around a 10 inch screen. TV’s in homes are getting bigger and bigger, as are smart phones screens.  There is also the popularity of devices such as Apple TV which allow you to stream content from your iDevice to the TV (sales have surpassed 13 million units).  All of this suggests where a bigger screen is available then the guest will use it.

Some believe that MediaHubs are really only applicable in corporate hotels

I don’t believe this is the case for two reasons.  Firstly, there is a very fine line between work and leisure these days.  So when it comes to in-room technology and evaluating the requirements of the business traveller versus the leisure traveller– it’s difficult to find the differences.  How can you define a business traveller when so many vacationers do business while travelling?  Secondly, on vacation you have the time and are even more likely to want watch your own content.  I have even been told by resort hotels that it is common for guests to bringing their own gaming device with them which they connect up to the in-room TV.