Category: Vertical Applications

Chromecast to find its way to your hotel room

Article

Chromecast is now getting built into hotel TV systems | PC World

From the horse’s mouth

Sonifi

Press Release

Product Page

My Comments

The Google Chromecast HDMI dongle is still seen as a way to throw video and audio content to your TV from your Android mobile device or Google Chrome browser with some support for it on an app level for iOS devices. Dedicated Apple users will see something similar going on when they use the Apple TV device and invoke AirPlay to run video content from their iOS device to their TV.

These devices can be used on a hotel room’s TV but there is a lot of difficulty getting them to work with a hotel’s Wi-Fi-based guest-access network. This is typically because most of these guest-access networks require a Web-based authentication routine for your device along with the proper design practice to isolate client devices from being discovered by each other.

Sonifi have answered this problem by developing the SoniCast technology which provides Google Cast (Chromecast streaming) services for a hotel guestroom TV. This requires the client laptop, tablet or smartphone to be connected to the hotel’s guest-access network as if to benefit from Internet access there. There is software in place that allows you to only discover and stream content to the TVs that are in your room or suite so you can’t stream to the TVs in neighbouring rooms.

Initially, a hotel could provision Netflix, Spotify, Hulu or the like by having support for these services on the guestroom TVs thanks to either a Smart TV or a set-top box. This required guests to enter their service credentials using the “pick-and-choose” method of typing in text on a TV – how long does that take to enter a typical email-address and password using that D-pad! These systems would “clear the slate” and log guests out when they check out of the hotel.

But this Chromecast-based solution allows you to keep your credentials for these services on your phone or tablet and the authentication for the services takes place at your device. As well, you are effectively working the online services like your Netflix queues or Spotify playlists using the apps installed on your mobile device.

A question I would like to raise is whether Sonifi will extend the SoniCast platform to work with Apple’s AirPlay streaming platform, Spotify Connect audio streaming or even the DLNA media-controller concept. With Apple, this may be seen as a difficult ask but DLNA and Spotify Connect could add extra value to the SoniCast “BYO media” platform.

At least I see this as a step in the right direction for tight integration between the hotel guestroom’s TV and a guest’s own computing devices.

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The electronic door lock becomes more than a door-security device

Article

Vingcard Elsafe Classic hotel room lock

These electronic door locks that hotels use are being seen now also as data-capture tools

Electronic locks as data-analysis tools | Hotel Management

My Comments

A trend that is becoming real is for electronic door locks to serve as sensors or peripherals for other computing applications as well as performing their gatekeeping duties and is going to make this device class become a very important part of the Internet Of Things.

This has been highlighted with the hotel environment because it is often the first place that people experiences these devices when they let themselves in to their hotel room while they stay at their favourite hotel.

An increasing number of these systems work in an “online” fashion where they use technologies like Zigbee to exchange data through the building in a real-time manner. But they also keep operational data like an access log local to the lockset itself.

The new expectations for this class of online-based locking system start with the ability to notify the hotel’s maintenance department if the lockset’s batteries are becoming weak and are able to report system diagnostic issues to this same department if there are other problems. There is also the activity monitoring functionality which can augment how Front Desk or Houskeeping perform their work as well as working alongside energy-management setups to determine occupancy. As well, these locking systems can be seen as a tool to help hoteliers with their job in assuring the safety, security and welfare of their guests such as being able to detect if one or more wrong cards are tried against one or more locks or if a guestroom door is left open.

Personally, I also see the app-based ecosystem place another requirement on these locks where they have to convey user preferences to the other technology in the room. For example, the heating could be set to a particular temperature and fan mode while the clock-radio is set to wake you at a time you have set and the TV lights up and switches to a channel you prefer the moment you tap your phone on the lock and open the door.

The article determined that the core gatekeeping functionality is being reduced to a secondary role and these devices are ending up either as sensors or peripherals for various computer-intelligence systems.

But this same concept could apply to the residential smart lock

But this same concept could apply to the residential smart lock

But could this same trend apply to the new smart locks that are being pitched for the home? In some ways, yes!

Smart locks that connect to the home network and the Internet, typically via a network bridge, will end up being required to support working with a Web-based or mobile-based management dashboard. In some cases, they may be required to notify users of situations like whether a door is left unlocked or not, if a certain person like your teenager has come home or of system-status events like weak batteries.

Another expectation that is being drummed up is for these locks to cause heating and lighting to come on at user-preferred settings courtesy of a home-automation system or turn off the heating when everyone leaves the house. Yale even underscored the idea of one user creating multiple entry codes on their Real Living Connected Deadbolt to support “situation-specific” presets like the possibility of a particular user code that you use when it’s date night. This is because the deadbolt can be linked in to a home-automation system courtesy of an optional Zigbee or Z-Wave module.

Further expectations that would be placed on electronic door-locking devices would include integration with personnel-welfare systems such as ageing at home or independent living for people with mental disorders. Such a system could observe patterns of activity to learn the user’s normal activity pattern such as identifying that the door is opened and closed at particular times, then signal the relatives or a caregiver if activity goes against the grain, such as if there is no activity or a door is left open for too long.

It shows that in some cases, your favourite hotel can be where you find yourself experience a technology that you could end up using at home.

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Hotel guestroom phones expected to integrate with our devices

Article

Hotel guestroom telephone

There is an effort to see these in-room phones earn their keep further

How guestroom phones have become multipurpose tools | Hotel Management

My Comments

This article has highlighted how the phone in a hotel room has earnt its keep. Primarily, this was seen by a hotel or motel as a revenue-generating device because of the local, long-distance and international calls placed by guests. It is even though guests who wanted to save money used services that allowed calls to be charged against prepaid cards, one’s own telephone account or credit cards; or made a brief call and asked the respondent to call them at the hotel.

This was taken further with guests carrying their own smartphones where they (or their employer / business) picked up the tab for the calls, along with VoIP services of the Skype or Viber ilk that offered voice or video calls for free.

But these phones still earn their place in the hotel room. Commonly they are used to contact hotel services like Housekeeping, the Front Desk or the restaurant to facilitate dinner bookings or in-room dining. For some older people or those at risk of strokes, diabetic comas or seizures, the phone can be used as part of an “are-you-OK” arrangement, something that has been of benefit for me. This also leads to these phones serving as a “preferred emergency contact point” because of it relating to the room you are calling from.

Increasingly hotels are deploying smartphone apps to allow you to facilitate these services in a more “express” manner and these work alongside the apps that run on the in-room iPads. Young people do use these apps but the in-room phone still serves as a fallback if you need to ask further questions or convey further details. this fallback applies if your smartphone’s battery dies or you want to use it for another activity.

But the phone suppliers are realising now that these phones can do more than just be a telephone extension. Traditionally, they offered a phone that has a built-in AM/FM clock radio but they are taking it further by integrating USB charging ports for your gadgets and / or Bluetooth speakers for music playback and speakerphone functionality.

What can be done to improve on these phones?

One way to improve on them in the hotel context is to have a site-configured Bluetooth device identity that reflects the hotel name and your room number. This would make it easier to identify what you are pairing your smartphone to.

Similarly, there will be an expectation for increased synergy amongst all of the technology within a hotel room including the devices a guest brings along with them and this synergy will be primarily room-focused. For example, it could be desired to pair your smartphone to the hotel room’s phone then have your music that you have on your phone play through the TV’s speakers for better and louder sound.

To some extent, USB connectivity can also be about adding functionality to these phones such as serving as an audio device or USB hub for computing devices.

Conclusion

What really is happening is that although it becomes so easy to write off certain technology due to other technology supplanting it, such technology can still serve a complementary role. This is important if we look at the devices beyond what they current do and look at what they can do.

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Bluetooth beacons find an application in point-to-point racing

Article

VW Golf 3rd Generation rally car in Saxony rally by André Karwath aka Aka (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Bluetooth beacon technology is relevant with rally racing and similar sports

Hill climb cars to include beacons | NFC World

From the horse’s mouth

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

Press Release

My Comments

This year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Coloradio Springs, Colorado, USA has become an interesting race when it comes to enriching the spectator’s experience.

It has been facilitated by the use of Bluetooth Beacons or iBeacons along with an iOS 8+ iPhone app which provides detailed up-to-date information about the competitors and where the place during the race. This includes the ability for users to favourite a competitor and be notified when they hit the finish. The Bluetooth Beacon technology is pitched as being Internet-independent because there isn’t the need to have the vehicles equipped with GPS-capable devices and spectators’ smartphones can pick up these beacon signals easily.

Tour De France in London - Flickr Creative Commons image by John Pennell

.. like bike races of the Tour De France calibre

But I do see more potential for this in rallies, hill-climb races, road-based cycle races, marathons and similar point-to-point races. This is where competitors are required to race from one point to another and following a known route or series of waypoints. Here, spectators would typically be spread across the (typically long) course and would want to know when their favoured competitors are coming past them as well as knowing how they are placed in the competition.

The same technology can work with other computer systems to accurately determine who has won the race without requiring the use of proprietary transponder technology. As well, there isn’t a requirement for competitors to carry and use GPS devices that need continual mobile-broadband links for uploading real-time position data, something that would be difficult with events held in country areas where such service isn’t all that reliable. The other bonus is that the Bluetooth beacons are very lightweight which adds very little weight to the competitor or competing vehicle where any extra weight carried can slow the competitor down.

But the hillclimb allowed spectators with suitably-equipped mobile devices that supported beacon detection to detect these beacons themselves when it comes to when “their” competitors are near. As well, computing devices with Bluetooth Smart functionality and Wi-Fi / mobile-broadband Internet access can be located at key points in the course to report the competitors’ positions for real-time updates for broadcast and online use.

It does show that the idea of using the Bluetooth Beacon technology for tracking the competition in point-to-point races has been proven thus allowing for systems that are more affordable for providing real-time competition updates for the spectators. It could be that as you watch that car rally you could have you phone notify you when that rally legend is near and about to perform that 3-point turn in the WRX. Similarly, your phone would notify you as the Tour De France péléton is about to arrive in your street so you can flip open those shutters and windows on the front of your house to have a look as it comes past.

For it to work effectively, the Bluetooth Beacon technology needs to be able to work on the client side with iOS, Android and Windows platforms with the necessary client apps written to work on each of those platforms.

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Hyatt offers free Wi-Fi at all of its hotels

ArticleHyatt House - press photo courtesy of Hyatt

Wi-Fi officially free at Hyatt-branded hotels | Hotel Management

From the horse’s mouth

Hyatt

Press Release

Product Page

My Comments

Increasingly hotel users are demanding access to Wi-Fi Internet service but a lot of big-name American hotel chains favoured by business travellers weren’t providing this for free. This was typically provided by independent operators or some European, Australian or other hotel chains. If you did want Wi-Fi without paying extra, you had to “look further” such as booking directly with whoever you were staying with.

Hyatt House suite living room - press photo courtesy of Hyatt

Home away from home – Internet acces free at Hyatt

This same amenity may be provided by some hotels as part of a frequent-lodger program usually if you were at one of the “elite” tiers in that program. Or it may be integrated in to one or more business-focused “bed-and-breakfast” or “half-board” package deals or available to people who rent a club or concierge-level room. Increasingly hotels are offering free Wi-Fi “across the board” to guests who stay there but this has been limited to one device per room which doesn’t cater for the reality that most of us will maintain two or three devices such as a laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Hyatt have become the first of the big-name American hotel chains to offer free Wi-Fi service to an unlimited number of devices per room on an “across-the-board” basis. This is available in the Hyatt and Andaz brands along with the various Hyatt-derivative brands like Park Hyatt and Grand Hyatt; and is to be available around the world from February 14 2015.

They are offering it independently of the booking path you use to book your room there or whether you participate in their Gold Passport frequent-lodger program. For those of you who are on this plan and are at either the Diamond or Platinum elite levels, Hyatt are replacing the free Internet access that was the “elite advantage” with access to the premium-grade Internet service. Regular users will still be able to purchase that same premium-grade Internet service which will most likely offer a higher bandwidth.

Guests can use this Wi-Fi internet service “upstairs” and “downstairs” i.e. their rooms or the social spaces like the lounges, bars and lobbies. This has been driven by guest demand for Internet service not to be treated as a luxury but to be like what the are used to at home or work.

Personally, I would like to see the premium Wi-Fi service more in the form of something that can play nicely with devices of the Chromecast  Apple TV, and Sonos ilk. where there is the feasibility to operate them in your room as if you are running the equivalent of a home network with a room-specific ESSID. This could play in with the basic-tier offering public-access Wi-Fi “around the place” using a facility-wide ESSID and, preferably, Wi-Fi Passpoint authentication. The premium Wi-Fi service could be offered as “standard faire” for long-term stays or to those of us who rent certain suites.

At least Hyatt is breaking the mould associated with American hotel chains where they nickel-and-dime their guests for essential public Internet access or place onerous limitations on this service for most of us who carry along two or three gadgets. It could be a chance for the rest of them to answer Hyatt by offering similar-standard baseline Internet access.

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Netflix to conquer the hotel scene–what questions could this raise

Articles

Netflix official logo - courtesy of Netflix

Netflix – the sign of on-demand video’s progress

Marriott Has Told Bloomberg That It’s Trialling Streaming Services | Gizmodo

Netflix Weighs Expansion in Hotels With Marriott Testing Service | San Diego Source (Bloomberg)

Marriott plans to bring Netflix to your hotel room TV | Engadget

My Comments

Rydges Melbourne Delux Queen hotel room

Netflix and similar services will be coming soon to the hotel room’s TV

Marriott are trialling online content services like Netflix, Hulu & co in eight of their US hotels to see how provisioning such services would work in the hotel environment. It is even though guests would use the public Internet access to stream these services to their own computer equipment and connect this equipment to the hotel-room TV to have it on the large screen. But this is more about providing access to these services on the TV screen without dependence on user-supplied equipment.

There have been issues raised regarding US hotels seeing these services as a way to overcharge their guests by offering them as part of premium Internet packages. It is although most of us would be subscribing to these services to enjoy them personally and these questions relate to us paying Netflix directly for our personal service but also paying the hotel via our room accounts which leads to “double-dipping” when we are at these places.

But there is another question regarding the provision of Netflix or Spotify in the hotel environment. These services work best for end-users when they log in to the services with their own credentials. Here, Netflix could give one access to their personal movie queue or recommendation list or Spotify could show up the playlists that one is following. Hotel-based setups should support the ability to gain access to one’s own account with these services so that we gain access to our own customisations.

If there is concern about the “double-dipping” issue, Netflix could take things further by providing a “cut” of the subscription fee to the hotel for each guest who logs in to this service through their equipment. As well, Netflix and co could work on concepts like favourites lists that represent what is liked by guests staying at that hotel or recommended-content lists for that particular location, thus integrating these services with the hotel’s community.

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OpenKey to create a level playing field for smartphone-based locking systems

Article

OpenKey launches mobile application that opens hotel rooms smartphone | Hotel Management

From the horse’s mouth

OpenKey

Product Page

My Comments

Starwood has hit the news recently with a smartphone-driven electronic locking system for their hotel rooms. This is where a “token” is sent to your Bluetooth Smart or NIFC-capable smartphone after you check in and your room is ready. then you touch the smartphone against your hotel room’s lock to let yourself in. Here, this “token” effectively works in the same way as the traditional keycard, “claiming” your room and unlocking that door. It has been pitched as a way to allow guests to bypass the Front Desk and head straight to their rooms.

But a problem has shown up with this “cutting-edge” technology where multiple hoteliers could jump on the bandwagon, what with multiple locking-system vendors offering these systems to the hotel trade. What is likely to happen is that the client software for one system may not play nicely with another competing system and a lot of the client software will be wrapped in a “customer-service” app that is branded to a particular hotel chain.

Then you may stay at multiple different hotels and they supply their own app in order to allow you to use their “touch-and-go” electronic locking technology. This can lead to a cluttered smartphone and operator bedlam caused by multiple apps competing to answer that “touch-and-go” lock or other NFC or Bluetooth device when you use your smartphone to interact with these devices.

This situation has been answered by the HOFTEL group who are a group of hotel-property investors and they wanted to see a level playing field for “touch-and-go” electronic locking. They see a reality that not all of us will be exclusively loyal to particular hotel brands for reasons like “shopping around”, a hotel chain not having presence at our destination amongst other things.

They have established the “OpenKey” system for the lodging industry that can work across multiple locking systems and properties. It is based around a single app on your NFC-capable or Bluetooth-Smart-capable smartphone which interacts with differing locks at differing properties. The data in this app is focused towards the hotel so it can work in a manner that is even agnostic of third-party booking agencies.

It is intended to support existing and newer locking systems that implement RFID, NFC and / or Bluetooth Smart technologies. As well, certain realities are integrated in to the software. Firstly, there is support for “secure share” which is similar to what is being offered for residential smart locks. This is where you can share a copy of your key to someone else on a “one-shot” basis or for the duration of your stay. The feature would play in to the hands of couples and families who share a room or setups where a group of travellers have a particular room like a suite occupied by a member serving as a common lounge for that group. Another security option is to allow users or hoteliers to use a passcode to increase security on these systems 

Of course, there isn’t a need to “reinvent the wheel” which can play in to the hands of a larger group of people such as independent or small-time operators, assisted-living facilities and traditional apartment blocks. This last user group can benefit from an easily-changeable single-electronic-key smart lock setup that can be implemented around the whole of an apartment development.  Even hoteliers who face situations where a person is renting a room on the “inn/hotel” single-payment-covers-all model and having that as their residence can benefit from the OpenKey model rather than shoehorn their electronic locking system to cater for the needs of these users. 

If the OpenKey platform can achieve a level playing field for hotel locking systems, why can’t this be achieved for the up-and-coming smart-lock systems that are being heavily promoted as part of the “Internet Of Things”. This is with the goal of not having your smartphone crowded out with many apps for different vendors.

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More action to link guests’ own content to the hotel-room TV

Article

Guestroom TVs invite new content streaming options for guests | HotelManagement.net

My Comments

In-room AV connection panel

In-room AV connection panel at Rydges Hotel Melbourne – HDMI connection

The hotel industry is having to face a strong reality with guests “bringing their own content” on their own devices when they use their room as a “home away from home”. This is not just due to content stored on a smartphone, tablet or laptop but access to audio-on-demand and video-on-demand streaming services like Spotify or Netflix.

Some further action is taking place to bridge the guests’ own content to the hotel-room TV. Initially this was achieved through us connecting our smartphones, tablets or laptop computers to these TVs via an AV connection panel or box or, in some cases, directly to the TV. This has been because these connections have been seen as more “surefire” and likely to work.

But another firm have implemented a smartphone dock that links the TV to the mobile device and its content collection.through the use of a Bluetooth signal, but may be implementing MHL as its device connection for the phone. There is an increased likelihood that this would work with the “open-frame” mobile devices that operate on Android or Windows Phone 8. As well, they are trying to push the smart TV concept beyond the home TV towards the hotel room which I would see as a logical extension for this class of product.

Personally, I would like to see the hotel industry court technologies that are based on established wireless-link standards like Bluetooth A2DP for audio content or Miracast / Wi-Fi Direct for audio-video content. Even ideas like using AirPlay and DLNA with a room-specific Wi-Fi local network could be implemented in a similar vein to what has worked for a lot of the wireless speakers.

I would like to see companies involved in hotel guestroom AV technology look at what is going on at the Consumer Electronics Show or Internationaler Funkaustellung to see the trends that are affecting consumer audio-visual technology so they know how they can make the hotel room or serviced apartment that “home away from home”.

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Hotels are now being rated for Wi-Fi service according to a new league table

Articles

Ranking Hotels by Whether the Wi-Fi Actually Works | Mashable

Hotel WiFi Test Ranks Hotels By Wi-Fi Speed And Quality | Lifehacker

HotelWiFiTest Site Begins Predicting WiFi Speeds At Most Major Hotels | ISPReview.co.uk

Web Site

Hotel WiFi Test

My Comments

Rydges Melbourne Delux Queen hotel room

Now it is easier to know how the hotel Wi-Fi network performs

I had touched on the issue of the Wi-Fi public-access Internet service that is offered by hotels and similar accommodation businesses. This covered the issue of how you can be sure of complementary Internet access when you book by doing some extra research as well as the issue of these networks having to satisfy the expectations of the connected traveler who streams or downloads multimedia content.

Now a Website is running a “league table” of how well different the Wi-Fi setups at the different hotels work. This shows whether the service is a paid-access one as well as performance based on maximum, expected and minimum throughputs. The maximum speed would be achievable at night or, more likely, when the property isn’t being occupied fully. The expected speed is based on what you would achieve at a random time of the day while the minimum is based on the lowest speed the hotel’s Wi-Fi has achieved.

The data is based on crowdsourced measurements with algorithms to verify that you are measuring the hotel’s Wi-Fi network and are staying there. As well, a good practice is to take the multiple measurements over a long time to factor in equipment upgrades, capital works or different occupancy levels.

This can be of benefit to both the guests and the hoteliers including the big chains. Potential guests can use Wi-Fi as a decider for whether they book a room at a particular place or not, or know whether the Wi-Fi network at where they are staying is really “cutting it or not” for their tasks. The hotelier can also use this data to justify the value of improving their Wi-Fi guest-access network or is able to know if that network is working below market expectation. This could subsequently attract more custom with a network that hits the mark.

There is even the ability to assess aggregate data for a particular city or country and they even use the press releases to show whether different hotel chains are performing against each other.

At least this is a way for the accommodation industry to be encouraged to cater to the connected traveler who is likely to “bring their own content” from Websites or make heavy use of cloud-based storage and computing services.

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The AV connection panels in hotel rooms–a very useful amenity for the connected user

In-room AV connection panel

In-room AV connection panel at Rydges Hotel Melbourne

A feature that is starting to appear in an increasing number of hotel rooms is the AV connection panel. Sometimes known as a “jack pack”, ”media panel”,  “aux panel” or something similar, these are wall-mounted connection panels or connection boxes located near the TV which provide a simplified way to allow you to connect your portable computing equipment to the TV and make use of it as a display and amplified speakers.

Here, these panels are a way to provide a “walk-up” method for guests to connect their technology to the TVs while the TVs remain anchored in place on the wall or in the cabinet. It also avoids the need for guests to grope around the back of the set to find the appropriate connections and risk unplugging existing equipment or plugging something in the wrong hole, which can cause an unnecessary maintenance request. This is in response to guests “bringing their own content” with them and wanting to view it from their gadgets on the large-screen TV in the room rather than watching regular TV or pay-per-view movies.

I have used one of these when staying overnight at Rydges Melbourne to connect my Galaxy Note II smartphone to the TV’s speakers to play music that is held on the smartphone. Here, this is a wall-mount panel that is equipped with RCA and S-Video sockets for stereo audio and analogue video, a VGA input and a 3.5mm audio input for computers alongside an HDMI input for most of the recent crop of laptops and other video equipment. There is also a USB “plug ’n’ charge” socket where you can connect your smartphone or other gadget to charge it. As I had previously mentioned, you can use the 3.5mm audio-in jack to connect your smartphone or other personal-audio device to amplify it through the TV’s speakers.

This particular setup has you selecting the different inputs as though they are “virtual channels” where you enter a particular channel number to select that input, similar to how some TVs and video recorders had you select a particular channel number to use the video inputs. Here, these “virtual channels” are listed on a reference card that is usually kept on the desk near the media panel.

If you are playing an audio device, you will find that the TV will show the blue screen and a reference to that channel as a way of showing that the selected input is working.

Who would benefit from these setups?

Laptop / notebook computer users

HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook at Intercontinental Melbourne On Rialto

An Ultrabook that can easily benefit from these AV connection panels

Connecting your laptop or notebook computer to the TV via the media panel’s HDMI input or, for older laptops, the VGA input for display and 3.5mm audio input for the sound, can open up increased functionality for these computers.

If you use the Internet service provided by the hotel, you can take this further by playing online media services like “catch-up TV” / video-on-demand services through the big screen. You also have the same benefit when you play video files that exist on your computer’s hard disk or use an integrated or USB-connected optical drive to play DVDs and Blu-Ray discs.

Those of you who like to play games on the laptop as a form of relaxation can benefit from the hotel room’s TV serving as a large screen for that game. It would be something that could impress business associates who do like to see these games as a way to rest between delivering those presentations.

Speaking of which, the large screen can come in handy for reviewing that presentation you have to give so you can be sure the graphics are in the right place and that each slide doesn’t look too overcrowded or dull. You are also at a better position for seeing the presentation from how your audience would see it. It is also a good chance to “dry-run” that multimedia presentation that you are running on your laptop so you are sure it is going to go to plan without things going wrong.

Similarly, the large screen will earn its keep with videoconferencing applications like Skype and Lync. Here, you can see your correspondent’s face on the large screen and hear your correspondent’s voice through the better-sounding speakers which may make their voice easier to understand.

Tablet and smartphone users

Toshiba AT300 10" Android tablet computer

Toshiba AT300 10″ Android tablet computer – can benefit from the large screen when you are watching online video

If your tablet or smartphone has an HDMI or composite video output, you can benefit from the TV being a large screen for these devices when it comes to gaming or playing online or stored video content. Here these devices will most likely use an MHL jack which works with these panels if you use an MHL-HDMI active patch cable. Older smartphones may also use the 3.5mm headset connector as a video / audio output and you would need to use a 3.5mm – 3xRCA breakout cable to play composite video from these smartphones.

As well the TV can simply serve as amplified speakers for these devices simply by you connecting the 3.5mm audio-input jack on the panel to your smartphone’s or tablet’s headphone jack using one of those 3.5mm plug-3.5mm plug cables..

Digital still and video cameras

You can preview your still images or footage you have taken on that large screen if your camera or camcorder has an HDMI or composite video output. Most of the recent digital cameras will implement a “mini HDMI” connector and/or composite video output via a 3.5mm multi-conductor jack due to their low-profile design.

The benefit you have with this is that it makes it easier to have “many eyes” looking for imperfections in the images and footage you have taken or have the benefit of a large screen to review those images or footage more easily. Even the speakers built in to these TV sets would do rings around the cameras’ integrated monitor speakers

Other personal audio and video players

Those of you who use portable DVD players or portable media players can have these devices play through that large screen in your room as an alternative to what is available on the pay-per-view movie service.

Similarly, your iPod Classic, MP3 payer, Discman or other legacy-media personal player (think cassette or MiniDisc) can benefit from being able to be played through the TV’s speakers with a louder sound. If you are using a handheld “note-taker” recorder, whether tape-based or digital, the TV speakers may allow you to hear the recording of that meeting that you made more clearly compared to the small integrated speakers that these recorders have. This could allow you to hear the muffled or soft voices, the voices with hard-to-understand accents or the distinctly-important background sounds more clearly.

Tips to get the most out of these connection panels

  • Keeping a supply of cables handy
    A good practice to gain advantage from these media panels is to keep a supply of cables with you when you travel. These should allow you to connect your gadgets either to 3.5mm stereo jacks or RCA jacks for audio or HDMI, S—Video or RCA composite video for video applications. A good starting point when it comes to smartphones is my article on “essential smartphone accessories” where I mentioned about making sure you are equipped with a 3.5mm-2.5mm stereo patch cord along with a 3.5mm – 2xRCA patch cord for your smartphone’s audio needs.
  • What sound playback device is this
    The HDMI input's audio function serves as its own soundcard

    The HDMI input’s audio function serves as its own soundcard

    Laptop users who use the HDMI connections on these media panels will find that the HDMI audio connection is enumerated as a separate sound device. Here, they may have to use the Sound Devices option in their operating system or application to direct the sound through the TV’s speakers with this connection.

  • Avoiding distorted sound through the TV speakers
    To avoid distorted sound from these setups especially if using the RCA or 3.5mm connections, adjust the sound volume at your device to 75%-90% volume level and turn off any equalisation or sound-processing on the device if the device or software has this kind of adjustment. Here, you could get by with turning your device up to maximum volume and backing the device’s volume adjustment off slightly to set the input volume. Then you adjust the sound volume to your taste or programme content using the TV’s remote control. Some mobile devices implement a “Line-out” mode which bypasses all tone controls and sets the device’s output level to a nominal level so it works with external amplification.
  • Setting up effective wireless operation
    Pure Jongo A2 network media adaptor

    A Bluetooth audio adaptor can allow you to wirelessly play the music on your smartphone or tablet from your bed or armchair

    You can set up a level of wireless operation with these media panels using an A2DP-compliant Bluetooth audio adaptor for music from your Bluetooth-capable laptop, smartphone or tablet; or a Wi-Fi-Direct-based Miracast adaptor for audio and video with Miracast-compliant laptops and Android devices.

  • What are the channels to select for your equipment when you stay at that hotel?
    If you are a regular guest at a particular hotel, it is a good idea to make note of the “virtual channels” used for particular device connections in your travel notes. This is more so as you bring particular gadgets, especially newer gadgets, on to the scene when you travel.
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