Technology is transforming travel like any other industry. Airbnb, Wi-Fi on board, GPS and various review websites are making traveling simpler and more accessible. Another of the technological advancements that is transforming travel for the better is smart luggage. There are numerous features of a smart suitcase that are already common and make traveling more seamless. And there are other more revolutionary features that are still in the development process.
- USB Ports: Now you can charge your phone or laptop directly from your suitcase. The battery of most smart suitcases has enough capacity to fully charge an iPhone 5-6 times. USB ports are located in the front compartment of the suitcase so you can charge your device while storing it in the suitcase and still have it easily accessible. If I think how many times I wandered around an airport looking for an outlet or ended up sitting on the floor in a random corner just because it was the only outlet I found, that is a pretty useful feature.
- GPS Tracking with SIM coverage in 100+ countries: Have you ever sit in a plane wondering if your luggage made it on board after a short layover? Well, you won’t have to worry about it with a GPS tracking. Now you can know exactly where your bag is. For example, you can check if your bag is on the plane before boarding and notify an airline representative if it is not. Airline representative can then still try to make sure your suitcase makes it on board on time.
- Bluetooth proximity sensor: Never worry about leaving your bag behind. This sensor alerts you when you get too far away from your bag. Similarly, the sensor will alert you when your bag is loaded on the luggage carousel so you can start looking out for it.
- A built-in scale: many smart suitcases can now tell you their weight. Again knowing the weight of your suitcase before arriving to the airport can save a lot of trouble. This past winter break I was in Vietnam with my family and we decided last minute to fly a low-cost airline instead of waiting for our delayed flight. The problem was that low cost carriers are very strict about luggage weight so we suddenly had to rearrange our suitcases. And trust me doing that in the middle of the airport running back and forth to the scale is not fun. That moment I would love to have a suitcase that tells me its weight.
- App-controlled digital lock/fingerprint lock: These locks allow you to have your belongings secure without worrying about remembering number combinations or losing a key to your lock. Additionally, both of these technologies are TSA approved now so you can be sure airport security will not damage your lock if they are trying to open it for additional scanning.
The features mentioned above are typical for a smart suitcase and are offered in most of the models. Smart suitcases are available in both carry-on and full size versions. A cost of such a model from brands like Bluesmart and Away is around $200-$600 depending on the included features. However, there are other more advanced features that are only offered in the upscale models. For example, some suitcases come with Bluetooth speakers so you will not bored if your flight is delayed.
Rimowa suitcases come with electronic ink tag that allows you to check your bag from home. The app sends your data to the partnering airline and an electronic ink tag appears via Bluetooth on the display built into the suitcase. After that, you only need to drop off your bag at the airport. However, very few airlines are currently processing e-ink tags.
Modobag created a carry-on that you can ride to get to your gate faster. Can be convenient since airports are huge now, but the price of the convenience is large – $1500.
Additionally, during a Consumer Electronics Show in January 2018 suitcases that feature Segway technology have been premiered. The bag just follows you around the airport using a remote control. This technology is still in the development process. If it becomes adopted by many people I imagine that airports would get quite chaotic with thousands of people walking around and suitcases trying to follow their owners.
It seems that overall features like USB ports and built-in scales are becoming more mainstream. As technology develops, the price of such suitcases will go down and at some point traditional suitcases may become obsolete. However, the smart suitcase industry does have some challenges. In January 2018 Federal Aviation Administration prohibited lithium batteries in checked bags. The batteries are still allowed for carry-ons and on board, but they cannot be connected to the suitcase. This presents challenges for the industry. It is true that you can still remove the battery from your suitcase and bring it with you, but removing the battery makes all the features useless and transforms the smart suitcase into a plain bag. For many people a smart case suitcase became suddenly not so smart of a purchase. It will be interesting to see how smart suitcases producers will adopt to this new law and if they will be able to find another battery type that is not subject to these regulations.