One of the top priorities for business travelers—and an increasing over-the-top revenue generator for hotels—is the availability of meeting space. To explain what’s driving these innovative spaces, I reached out to Michael Kurcab, Global Market Manager, Hospitality and Matt Ryan, Technology and Services Engineer, Enterprise for HARMAN Professional Solutions. In our previous article, we looked at why having good meeting room technology matters to hoteliers in the first place, including how meeting spaces drive revenue and what types of meeting spaces hotels tend to provide. In today’s post, we’ll take a closer look at the technology in collaboration spaces, and next week, we’ll look at the technology behind ballrooms and other convention spaces in part three of this series.
When we refer to “collaboration spaces” in a hotel, we’re typically talking about spaces like boardrooms and huddle spaces. While these spaces can be defined by their size—they are much smaller than ballrooms and convention spaces—the key characteristic of these spaces is their purpose. Kurcab clarifies the use of huddle spaces in this example, saying:
“When you look at a hotel lobby, you see a lot of on-demand or collaborative meeting spaces that allow a few business travelers to huddle around a little table or a display, and it allows them to easily share ideas and information. In the corporate space, a lot of times, these spaces are called huddle spaces. Hotels are implementing this idea of huddle spaces to allow travelers to come together in a simple location, share information from their mobile devices and have an impromptu meeting anytime.”
The motivation for boardroom spaces is much the same. While the meetings are larger than those in huddle spaces and planned in advance, the goal in this space is typically to foster some sort of discussion.
Since hotel collaboration spaces are not part of a centralized corporate network (as is the case for a business application), the technology needed to foster discussions in hotels almost always requires support for “bring your own device” (BYOD). Kurcab explains:
“When travelling, BYOD is king. Every hotel is looking at how best to handle the bring your own device phenomenon to allow guests to connect. The biggest challenge is WiFi infrastructure to allow guests to get online as well as overall connectivity in the space.”
This need for connectivity is especially true in huddle spaces, which are built around the goal of quickly connecting a device to a display for an impromptu meeting between hotel guests. Ryan explained the goal of huddle spaces in hotels this way:
“Hotels can have multiple smaller huddle spaces, where you can have a quick meeting and do web conferencing if you need it. This allows for multiple smaller groups to come into the hotel and connect with the rest of the world via web conference. It maximizes the amount of space that is used, so it is especially common in smaller hotels, such as select service hotels that want to get the most bang for their buck.”
Because the spaces are built around BYOD, technology in the space must help guests make these connections as quickly and easily as possible. Ryan continued:
“The bring your own device concept is fundamental for a huddle space. These spaces are designed to have a small display and some means of getting the video and audio out to that display. This can come in the form of retractable cables that come out of a fixture in the table, such as an AMX HydraPort AV table box. For video, that typically means HDMI, although VGA is still quite common. For audio, we’re talking laptop audio, which might be included on the HDMI cable, but it could be a 1/8-inch analog audio connection as well. You can also have a hardwired internet connection and power connections. HydraPort is a modular system, so you can have whatever connections you need, and then upgrade them as those needs change.”
However, Ryan points out that the exact mix of technology you’ll find in huddle spaces varies depending on how sophisticated the hotel wants the space to be:
“In a basic huddle space setup, guests who want to do a web conference are going to use the microphones and cameras that are already built into their devices. However, those cameras and microphones have limited range and field of view, which might not be optimal. The next step up might be an installed USB web conferencing camera that has a wide field of view and beamforming microphones that can see and hear everyone in the meeting. Another step up from that would be an integrated soundbar, like the AMX Acendo Vibe, that has microphones, a camera and a speaker all in a single device. You can even go further and add a keypad or touch panel to control the space. So, you can go from very basic connectivity to a display all the way up to having all of the accompanying technology to facilitate web conferences and make them more effective.”
Of course, as the sophistication of the space scales, you eventually find yourself in the realm of a boardroom. As Ryan puts it:
“When you compare the technology in a boardroom to what you find in a huddle space, it’s the same thing, just more and on a larger scale. You still have network connectivity, HDMI, audio, USB and power. It’s just available at several points along the table.”
That said, Ryan is quick to point out that unlike a conference room or boardroom in a corporate space, hotel boardrooms are designed to be arranged in a variety of ways, and this affects the way the technology in the space is designed:
“The difference between a hotel boardroom and what you’d find in a corporate environment is that in hotel spaces, the furniture choices are very modular. That’s the primary capability requirement for these spaces. So, to do this, the connections need to come down from the table into a floor box, which is more permanent. The table will reside over the floor box, and the cables come down from the table to the floor box. This gives them the ultimate flexibility in the layout of the room. They may want a U shape, or they may want a solid table like a traditional boardroom. With the design this way, they can move the furniture wherever they want without affecting the system design.”
This need for modularity is something that we’ve spoken about previously when looking at flipped classrooms in higher education, where we noted that networked AV can help make this modularity easier. I asked Ryan about this capability, and he replied:
“Absolutely. There could be a networked AV encoder under the table. So, instead of a bunch of thick AV cables going down to the floor, you can have one network cable going down and connecting to the network. HDMI and VGA can both connect to the encoder, and the encoder can switch between them. So now, instead of a rack full of AV switching gear, you have a single network switch that takes this new networked AV source and distributes it wherever you need it to go. This would make the whole installation quick and easy to reconfigure (and would make for a much lighter cable).”
As you can see, it takes the right technology to make hotel collaboration spaces effective. However, with some intentional design and a focus on ease and flexibility, hotel collaboration spaces can be excellent revenue generators for the hotel—and a great meeting experience that keeps guests coming back.
Do you have insights into making hotel collaboration spaces effective? Share them in the comments.