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Luggage with high-tech gadgets that would make even James Bond proud

May 22, 2016
Digital luggage

One of the things travelers worry about most is their luggage. It gets lost. It gets stolen. It gets damaged.

Lost or stolen luggage is a tremendous headache. Nothing gets a trip off to a bad start like arriving at our destination only to realize that we don’t have a change of clothing or toiletries for our morning and evening ablutions.

Luggage manufacturers have not exactly been leading innovators. As CIO magazine puts it: “Luggage is long overdue for some serious innovation. The last big breakthrough — wheeled suitcases — rolled out in 1970.”

Things are finally changing on that front. Crowdfunded startup companies and traditional brand-name luggage companies seem to have suddenly realized the market opportunity, and they are adding wi-fi hot spots, Bluetooth, SIM cards, GPS and built-in batteries to their latest line of products.

One of the most useful built-in technologies of so-called smart luggage is the ability to track specific pieces of luggage throughout your travels. Luggage tracking systems are generally designed to shut down when your bag is stored onboard a plane (to meet regulations that govern the use of wireless technology during flights) and then turn on again upon landing.

In the quest to make luggage more versatile and useful, luggage titan Samsonite is collaborating with technology giant Samsung to create a new line of technologically advanced bags for travel. In addition to bag-tracking technology, Samsonite’s smart bags will send alerts to owners when their luggage has been opened. Samsonite is working on “self-propelled” luggage that automatically trails its owner at a distance of six inches, eliminating the need to push or drag heavy bags. The company is also building a bag that checks itself in at airports, as part of a partnership with the airlines Emirates, Lufthansa and KLM Air France.

Planet Traveler fancies itself “the true next generation of luggage.” Its bags include features such as:

  • Digital bio-lock, which allows owners to unlock their bags with the touch of a fingerprint
  • Global tracking that gives travelers knowledge of the location of their luggage at all times through its “global tracker” application
  • Digital self-scale, which displays your bag’s weight to ensure you do not exceed the airlines weight limit and incur extra charges
  • A power bank with two external USB charging ports capable of re-charging your devices and keeping them operative during a long trip
  • Bluetooth speaker phone to give travelers the option of talking with friends in the privacy of their hotel room on a hands-free speakerphone, or listening to their favorite music through a high-quality speaker system.
  • Proximity sensor anti-theft technology, which sends a text message when luggage arrives at the carrousel
  • A personal concierge that lets owners know if their flight is on time, the gate number, as well as the status of rental car and hotel reservations
  • Ten-year cloud protection, meaning that if the luggage is damaged the owner can simply take a photo of the damage and, using a Planet Traveler app, submit it to the company’s claim center. Within 24 hours the new part is shipped anywhere in the world.  The company says its products’ parts can be easily replaced with just a screwdriver

There are other players in the smart luggage category, such as Away, Raden and Rimowa.

Raden makes suitcases of both carry-on and check-in sizes and is equipped with much of the technologies mentioned above, in addition to an app that provides relevant information about the scheduled trip, such as best routes to the airport, TSA wait times, and weather conditions at the traveler’s destination.

Away’s luggage include a “compression pad” that let’s travelers pack more contents.

Rimowa suitcases offer a digital display screen near the handle to replace an airline’s standard bar-code paper tag, which can easily tear off and is one of the chief reasons why luggage goes lost.

Suffice it to say, this isn’t your grandad’s luggage. Travel and its accoutrements are getting more sophisticated, meaning simpler and more enjoyable journeys for the traveling public.

Written by Mike Consol