A Digital Revolution

Goodbye, analog. Hello, digital. All TVs — including those made for hotels — will soon enter the all-digital world. Last fall, the Federal Communications Commission accelerated the timing of its mandate requiring that all TV sets include digital tuners. Under the new rule, by March 1, all TVs 25 inches and larger must conform to the DTV standard. One year later, the rule extends to all TVs, no matter the size.

Furthermore, last month Congress passed legislation that forces broadcasters to end analog transmissions and send their signals digitally by February 2009. After that date, analog sets won't work without some means of converting to a digital signal.

While these various new rules and laws have changed the electronics landscape, hotels and manufacturers of TVs for hotels have been in the forefront of the digital revolution. Nearly every lodging brand from the middle of the market up has mandated flat-screen TVs for new construction and renovation projects. The manufacturers have responded with an array of products to serve the changing demands of hoteliers and their guests.

At the International Hotel/Motel Show in New York in November, several TV manufacturers debuted their latest TV technology for the lodging industry:

For example, at the show LG Electronics demonstrated a number of integrated flat-screen high-definition TVs powered by Pro:Idiom, its new digital rights management system. The offerings include a 42-inch plasma model, three 32-inch liquid crystal display sets and a 30-inch cathode ray tube model.

Pro:Idiom, which LG developed in conjunction with LodgeNet Entertainment as an industry standard, is a digital rights management tool that assures secure delivery of video on demand high-def programming.

A new range of widescreen LCD and plasma flat panel TVs from Philips Electronics includes models from 32 to 42 inches. The sets include ATSC tuners to enhance high-def viewing. Clone programming capability built into the line gives hoteliers the ability to copy all commercial settings from one set into additional sets.

Philips' SmartPlug technology is an addressable interface that enables two-way communications with external control devices. Hotels can use SmartPlug to send guests information, such as public messages, via the TV units.

A prime feature of RCA's new 32-inch in-room TV is its TruFlat Picture Tube, which the company says reduces peripheral screen reflections and glare by more than 60 percent and provides a wider effective viewing angle.

The model also offers a high-performance video display with S-Video capability, broadcast stereo sound, one-button channel guide and eight-character channel labeling. Its Digital Serial Communications Interface jack allows access to pay-per-view systems, while frontside A/V jacks make it convenient to connect to external audio or video components.

Sharp recently introduced its largest professional LCD monitor, the 45-inch model PN-455P. The unit has a number of features the company says makes it well suited for use in high-traffic areas, such as hotel lobbies, f&b outlets or other public spaces. In particular, its anti-glare, low-reflective protective overlay enables the set to be placed in brighter areas where other monitors might appear washed out.

Other features include a streamlined black bezel, rugged metal enclosure and dual cooling fans for extended-use applications.

The line of plasma TVs for the hotel market from Panasonic is available in sizes from 37 to 65 inches and in black and silver. The company says the sets feature high brightness, high dark/bright contrast and 8.6 billion colors.

Panasonic says the units also have scratch-resistant screens and come with a 60,000-hour service life. Other features include interchangeable multi-function slots and a wide range of terminal boards for customization.

Sony Electronics recently introduced new updates to its line of LocationFree TV, a wireless specialty entertainment product that allows a user to watch TV or movies up to 100 feet away from a base station. The new offerings include a 12-inch model with expanded wireless range and a LocationFree PlayerPak for PC users.

The base station connects to a variety of audio-visual devices, including a set-top TV tuner, DVD player, PlayStation or personal video recorder.

At the Hotel Show, computer giant Dell entered the hotel TV market with the introduction of two wide-screen high-def LCD displays. Dell says the 32- and 37-inch models include configuration options that allow customized use in a variety of settings, including both hotel rooms and f&b outlets.

Connections on both units allow control-by-wire, a feature that eliminates the need for remote control for each display in a multi-unit deployment (such as a lounge) because they are controlled from a single point. The company says remote controls and speakers are optional with the units, so customers don't need to pay for features they don't require.

LG Electronics, circle 125; Philips Electronics, circle 126; RCA, circle 127; Sharp, circle 128; Sony Electronics, circle 129; Dell, circle 130; Panasonic, circle 131

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