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It was just 9 years ago the first iPhone hit the streets with lines of people lining up overnight to get their hands on one. The iPhone proceeded to turn the entire mobile phone market on its head, and we quietly stepped out into the age of smartphones.
Since then, we have watched iTunes take an axe to CD sales, seen telecom companies replace voice as the primary revenue source with vast streams of data delivered (if you're lucky) via fiber optic and 4G. And followed along as Netflix first plotted, and then pulled off, total domination of the world's DVD stores.
Entire industries wiped out or transformed by the internet (author looks fondly at antique Encarta CD on the windowsill), a trend that appears set to continue as the internet's baby brother, the aptly named ‘Internet of Things,' grows to maturity and more of the items we use daily become connected.
While suitcases have advanced in terms of the construction materials used and some design tweaks (adding wheels in the 70's was a BIG advancement), they haven't moved far from the floral patterned canvas suitcase our parents checked onto Douglas DC-8's back in the 60's.
That's beginning to change, however, with a host of start-ups recently starting to push the boundaries of what is achievable with a suitcase, and the tech getting cheap enough for dominant players like Samsonite to start jumping on board. RFID, Bluetooth, and GPS are not new by today's standards, but this suite of technologies is finally starting to play an active role in an industry that is ripe for disrupting. The humble suitcase.
The latest generation of smart luggage, baggage tags, and the apps used to track and control them, signal the beginnings of rapid change for the way we interact with our bags and the way airlines use technologies like RFID to handle and track luggage. Below are a few of the current standouts.
Latest Generation of Smart Luggage Products
Bluesmart Black Edition
Update 5/2/2018 – it looks like Bluesmart is out of business and has sold assets to Travelpro.
Topping the list is the Bluesmart Black Edition. The original Bluesmart One was a massive success on Indigogo last year, raising $2.2 million in pre-orders and bucking the crowdfunding trend by delivering on time. The Black Edition is a refined and enhanced version of the original Bluesmart One, with location tracking, Bluetooth lock, USB battery charge, Smart scale and trip data app, all encased within a sleek looking shell full of super handy features. Equipped with 3G Cellular Data and GPS, you can track Bluesmart bags almost anywhere in the world via the app. They also utilize Bluetooth connectivity for locking and security (proximity to phone), apps for both iOS and Android and a USB port for charging your devices. The Black Edition starts shipping August 2016 for $599.
Update 12/29/2017 – it looks like Trunkster might be out of business. Their online presence is gone and their Kickstarter page looks like it is full of folks complaining about lack of product delivery/poor product delivery. Shark Tank provided a similar update.
Trunkster is the most revolutionary bag on this list. Why? No zippers! That's right, the smart folks at Trunkster have developed a zipperless entry that is not only awesomely functional, it also looks slick. The sliding front is the first real innovation to the suitcase since wheels were added in the 70's and the corrugated panel really stands out. The suitcase doesn't shirk on hi-tech features either, with global tracking via GPS & GPRS as an optional extra, powered by LugLoc (reviewed down the page), an integrated luggage scale and a 10,400 mAh power bank with USB charging. You can buy the Trunkster via their website from $355 or using this discount code for a $30 discount. The optional tracking costs $30 per year.
The Space Case comes in both carry-on and check-in size. Another product initially funded by crowdfunding (this time at Kickstarter), the Space Case from Planet Traveler packs a lot of technology into a light and robust package that comes in an assortment of colors, textures, and patterns. The Space Case features a digital bio-lock (fingerprint), global tracking using GPS & GPRS, a digital self-scale, a 12,000 mAh power bank with 3 USB ports, Bluetooth speakerphone, an anti-theft proximity sensor, multi-function app and a 10-year warranty. Starting at $429 for the carry-on and $479 for the 29″ version, the Space Case 1 starts shipping next month; you can pre-order at the Planet Traveler website.
Latest Generation of Trackable Baggage Tags and Products
After showing you the completely trackable smart luggage options above, why would you possibly want to settle for a trackable baggage tag?
Putting it simply: Price.
The baggage tags and tracking devices offer a much more affordable option, although, the most versatile options typically require an ongoing annual fee.
Using GSM-GPRS technology to locate your luggage around the globe and Bluetooth for proximity alerts, the LugLoc luggage locator is a small device that gets inserted into your bags after pairing with the smartphone app. It can track your luggage almost anywhere in the world. Available from the LugLoc website from $69.99 for the device and then $4.99/$19.99/$29.99 for 1/6/12 months respectively for global tracking.
The Trackdot uses a GSM chip and triangulation, allowing it to transmit its location anywhere there is a cellular signal, and runs off two alkaline AA batteries (supplied). The device can sense when it is traveling more than 100 knots and power down to comply with TSA safety protocol and conserve batteries, and will boot back up when speeds fall back under the 100-knot mark. Trakdot is simple to operate, with only one button to switch it on/off. Available from Trakdot's Amazon store for $39.98 + $24.99 per year for GSM tracking functionality.
Taking a different approach to the above technology-heavy options, ReboundTAG uses radio frequency identification microchips, NFC, barcode and printed number, along with integration into global baggage handling systems. It is designed to compliment, and make use of, existing baggage handling systems as well as embracing RFID, a technology Delta is investing $50 million in as its solution to lost bags. ReboundTAG also paired up with Lufthansa to showcase the tags to the IATA conference and has exclusive information sharing agreements with baggage handling companies around the world. Available from the ReboundTAG website for $31.99 with a $4.99 annual fee for tracking, ReboundTAG is also available with custom branding for volume/commercial orders.
Functioning similar to the ReboundTAG above, Trace Me works in tandem with the computer systems at thousands of airports and hundreds of airlines all over the world. Integrated with SITA and supported by IATA, Trace Me integrates with existing systems to track your back even if it loses its carrier bag tag. Trace Me is so confident your bag will not get lost they have a Bag Loss Guarantee of $500 (on top of what the airline gives you) if your bag goes missing with the tag in place. Available from the Trace Me Luggage Tracker website for £10.42 (US$13.60).
There are a few other products which deserve a mention here. In the case of Samsonite and Delsey, these are products which have been announced but have yet to be brought to market. With Samsonite getting involved, the whole luggage tracking industry will really start to take off, becoming less of a frontier sport for those of us that like gadgets.
Pairing up with Google using the new Eddystone Ephemeral Identifiers Google unveiled last year, Samsonite is expecting to have the first of its Track&Go™ suitcases to market by the end of 2016, with the aim to make the technology more affordable and expand the solution out into the mainstream. The Bluetooth beacon from Accent Systems will be built into the Track&Go™ suitcase and registered to the Travlr by Samsonite app released in 2015. Price TBC.
While the Pluggage won't be winning many fans with its name (our guess is it took an entire marketing department to come up with that one), the design and the technology both have potential. Featuring fingerprint ID, Auto-Weight, an inside lighting system, an inside speaker and accompanying app. The bag has Onboard Detection, but can't be tracked outside of Bluetooth range at this stage. Delsey is actively engaged in soliciting feedback from potential buyers at this point, so if you have an opinion, head on over to the Delsey website and let them know what you think.
Delta gets an honorable mention here as much for being proactive as for the quality of the product. Introduced almost 5 years ago, the Fly Delta app allows you to scan you baggage receipt using the barcode reader in-app, and Delta will notify you what stages your bag has been scanned through. While it can't track your bag when the system breaks down, and the bag does not get scanned, it does provide some peace of mind if you are inside the Delta ecosystem.
The tracking and handling of bags are up for radical changes over the next four or five years, and while some of the products above are trying too hard to be ‘all things to all travelers,' they are out at the forefront pushing new technology and encouraging early adoption. As we see the big players such as Samsonite get involved, the costs will start to come down, and we should see more affordable options enter the market.
As a gear head, I love that Trunkster has attempted something much more radical than just adding a few buttons with a whole rethink of how the suitcase functions. No zippers!
Are you looking to buy Smart Luggage in the near future? Let us know in the comments.
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