By Brendon Granger, Technology 4 Hotels

In the not-too-distant past, hotel guests could invariably expect to find their hotel room came with a cumbersome 21 inch TV offering a limited array of channels. Not especially exciting, and certainly not a selling point.

Today, rapid technological advancement has changed everything.

Giant flat-screens, HD, 3D, and now 4K TV have dramatically improved the quality of the viewing experience. But this technological progress in screen quality represents the tip of the iceberg in terms of where things are heading.

In the coming years, advances in the hotel TV will revolve more around delivering great content and connectivity. Future developments could ultimately lead to it becoming a multi-functional device that serves as a central hub for all entertainment and communication.

With that in mind, here are just three ways this exciting potential may be realised.

1. Entertainment On-Demand

More and more people are taking their own entertainment with them when they travel. The desire to pay for on-demand content just isn’t there anymore. Responding to this trend, Marriott began offering Netflix at eight of its properties in 2015. Since then, exclusive TED talks have also been added to expand in-room entertainment options further.

Last year, a deal with hospitality tech provider Enseo will see Netflix distributed to a new wave of global hotels, heralding the possibility that on-demand entertainment will start to become mainstream.

Elsewhere, further industry innovation could move things along even more quickly. Powered by Google Chromecast, RoomCast (a mobile streaming service for the hospitality industry from TeleAdapt) allows guests to watch their own content on the hotel TV from thousands of Cast-enabled apps, including Netflix, YouTube, HBO, Spotify and Hulu.

Using RoomCast, guests join a private secure network that lets them stream their own movies, music, games and entertainment – controlling everything with their phone or tablet. Privacy is also maintained by virtue of the fact personal details aren’t required, and the password used to join the in-room network is reset after a person checks out.

Aloft has already started using RoomCast, and Wyndham’s Wingate by Wyndham brand piloted a casting service last year using Sonicast – also powered by Google Chromecast.

As traditional viewing habits continue to shift towards internet-based streaming platforms, hotels are realising the future of in-room entertainment is all about offering flexibility and putting unlimited choice into the hands of the consumer.

2. Social Connectivity

Social media has turned travel into a highly shareable experience. When a guest heads back to their room after a day of sightseeing, it’s often a time used to post updates, share photos or upload video on their Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook feed.

Currently, these social moments typically happen on smartphones and tablets. But soon, the TV may become the primary device that facilities this online communication.

Social platforms are already making it possible to view content beyond handheld devices. Last year, Facebook started giving users the ability to stream Facebook video on a TV. When users start streaming a Facebook Live video, they’re able to see and respond to real-time reactions and comments that appear on the screen.

Personally flicking through a day’s worth of photos and videos will also happen less on devices. With wireless connectivity, anything captured on a smartphone or tablet will mean the latest travel experience can be showcased far more impressively on the big screen.

The TV may also become a primary way of communicating. For instance, Google Hangout video calls can be started on a mobile device then mirrored to the screen. It’s easy to see how this would be valuable to all, but especially business travellers making client calls or wanting to chat more easily to family during extended periods away.

3. Artificial Intelligence

While it’s early days, artificial intelligence will almost certainly become a prevalent feature in the hotel room of the future. Recently, Wynn Las Vegas announced it will be introducing Amazon Echo in all of its 4,748 rooms, while Clarion Hotel Amaranten in Stockholm has also started piloting their own in-room assistant based on Amazon Echo.

Currently, AI assistants answer requests and communicate through voice-based response. But as things progress, it’s possible that interactions will be delivered visually. For instance, when connected to the TV, you might be able to ask an AI device things like “Show me the room service menu”, or “Bring up an image gallery of the hotel gym.”

When asking an AI assistant for recommendations on great local restaurants, the hotel TV could automatically display an area map showing where the restaurant is, directions on how to get there, and even feature TripAdvisor reviews and photos to help a guest make their decision.

In essence, the TV would become the face of in-room artificial intelligence. By acting as the central display, everything from nearby attractions to weather forecasts to news updates could be accompanied with a visual guide. This would enhance the way AI delivers content, making it far easier for information to be interpreted and acted upon.

The Changing Role of the Hotel TV

While screen technology has slimmed down and picture quality has ramped up, the most important developments in the hotel TV are arguably yet to come.

Soon enough, its role will likely expand to fulfil a range of other functions such as facilitating communication and streaming personal on-demand content. While more speculative, the potential of AI integrations represents an exciting way things may evolve further down the line.

The past decade has been defined by screens becoming bigger and better, promising to create evermore immersive viewing experiences. But this type of technological advance can only go so far. In the coming years, the in-room hotel TV will progress in new ways, perhaps changing more than it ever has before.