Computer in a cable gives hotel TVs some smarts
Thanks to set-top boxes, dongles and so-called smart televisions, big screen entertainment for today's frequent traveler can be served up over the internet, rather than via cable or satellite. Looking for a way to offer smart TV functionality without having to buy into a closed smart TV system, Sweden's InnSpire has developed a teeny Android-powered set-top box that's essentially crammed into an Ethernet cable, which means that hotels can turn standard room TVs into smart TVs just by plugging them into the wall socket.
The InnCable has an Ethernet connector at one end and HDMI at the other, with a raised section inbetween that houses the fanless Android brains – though there are no details on what's at the heart of the InnCable, only that it has a "blazingly fast processor." The bump is also home to two USB ports to connect peripherals, and an RJ-12 serial port for supported devices.
There's built-in Wi-Fi, too, for streaming from the hotel's wireless network, though experience tells us that such a connection would likely be slow and possibly unstable given the already high device demands from hotel guests. And InnSpire has also cooked in some Dolby (AC3) audio support.
The InnCable can be powered over USB from a TV if it has an appropriate port, or via a dedicated adapter, but the slickest solution is power-over-Ethernet where it's juiced up straight from the wall port that's feeding the cable with data. The slim form factor also means that room TVs can be installed flush with the wall, and InnCable software features can be added or removed to suit hotel needs.
Once the TV has been InnCabled up and given its Android smarts, the gogglebox is controlled using an InnSpire remote.
The InnCable has been developed primarily for the hotel trade, but the technology could make its way to the consumer in the future. "The relevance of InnCable for wider audiences is obvious – this technology is perfectly adapted for residential use," InnSpire's Martin Chevalley revealed. "We will start selling to hotels, but we are already talking with B2C companies about launching a version for consumers."
The InnCable is making its debut at the HITEC conference in Toronto, Canada, this week. The promo video below has more on the device.