Most new residential apartment complexes include many amenities, including lounge areas, game rooms, conference rooms, sky decks, pool areas and, of course, a fitness center. Most fitness centers include at least some equipment with integrated screens. Over the past few years, the screens have increased in size and picture quality and have multiple features. In order to take full advantage of these features, the equipment needs both a live cable television feed as well as access to a high-speed Internet connection.
Once the fitness center design is complete and long before the fitness equipment order is placed, RealtyCom begins to conduct many conversations with our Clients and their vendors to create the best telecom solution for the fitness center plan. This telecom plan depends on the courtesy/complimentary accounts provided within the fully executed provider agreements, which features the Clients want activated and the equipment manufacturer they plan to use. A few things we focus on are:
- How many fitness machines with integrated screens?
- Do you want to show live cable television on these screens?
- What kind of fitness machines are you installing (brand/vendor)?
- Will the equipment have Wi-Fi capabilities?
- Will you be using an AV planner? Will that vendor be installing the video solution for the machines?
- Are you planning on an AV closet to house the associated video equipment for the fitness machines?
- If you want live cable television, are you planning on installing a mDTA/mini-mDTA? Or a Set Top Box solution?
The last point is the focus for this conversation. I would like to list some of the pros and cons for each option and final decisions are always left up to the Client. Each Client has opinions on which route is better and frankly, RealtyCom will provide guidance on either option chosen.
Two other things to consider are:
- Which providers are available to service your building and what are those provider’s capabilities to activate and service the fitness machines?
- Do the agreements have courtesy/complimentary accounts or will they need to be ordered through a business service account (which will result in additional fees).
The mDTA Option
An mDTA (or mini-mDTA) is a multiple digital transmit adapter or a digital converter box which will service multiple pieces of fitness equipment with integrated screens. It is typically installed in an AV room or IDF closet and the video signal runs over an RG6 coaxial cable from the AV Room/IDF closet to each fitness machine to operate the screen. This one piece of equipment will run multiple screens without the need for multiple set top boxes. The mDTA/mini-mDTA can be mounted on a wall or in an AV rack and connected to the cable wiring that is pulled back into the IDF or AV room where the equipment is mounted.
Pros: one device, can also be used to service TVs, small backboard footprint, hooks up directly, no additional parts needed, easy to maintain, one electrical outlet needed.
Cons: expensive, if device malfunctions all screens go down, only a specialized technician can work on device, if used for TVs the device is not able to provide a High Definition signal, could have monthly fees/cost per screen, some Providers do not have this option or might be discontinuing.
The Set Top Box (STB) Option
A STB is also a digital converter box; however, it requires one set-top box for each piece of fitness equipment with an integrated screen. The STB can be installed at the fitness machine location or in an AV Room/IDF Closet as well. The type of wire needed differs depending upon the fitness equipment manufacturer. Some of the manufacturers have developed an “IPTV solution” in which both a video and Internet signal can be delivered from the AV Room/IDF Closet to the fitness equipment over a single Cat6 cable. Others allow only the video signal to be delivered over the Cat6 cable requiring the use of Wi-Fi for Internet. And others utilize a CAB device which can have a number of differing wiring configurations depending on the outputs of the equipment — so to provide the widest range of options installation of a Cat6, a shielded Cat6 and a RG6 Coax is recommended. If the boxes are in an AV room/IDF Closet, the STB’s will need to be housed into an “AV Rack” or shelf (dependent upon the number of boxes needed) and connected to the machine.
Pros: very inexpensive, if a device malfunctions only one screen goes down, can easily be swapped out, any technician can work on, device supplies High Definition to any screen, can get multiple boxes as courtesy/complementary accounts.
Cons: multiple devices, take up a significant amount of space in AV room/closet, lots of moving parts, difficult to maintain (due to number of boxes that could malfunction), additional equipment needed (i.e. racks / shelves), multiple electrical outlets needed in closet as each box needs an outlet, some fitness machines are not able to connect to boxes (must be careful when ordering fitness equipment).
RealtyCom is here to help and further discuss the best options for your community fitness center.