The Internet of Things (IoT) has shown us how almost every item in a household can be connected to offer smart features, from appliances to toothbrushes, to light bulbs and speakers. If you’re not sold on it yet – sometimes in Africa we don’t always have a choice – one of the more useful IoT cases is smart luggage.
For the frequent traveler, smart luggage is genius; and is set to revolutionize the way we travel. What makes luggage ‘smart’ are core features like GPS tracking, built-in batteries with USB charging ports, app or fingerprint locking, and weight scales.
The all-important GPS tracking feature will let you track your bags through a smartphone app. It’s the most accurate way to confirm your luggage was loaded onto the plane, and arrived at your final destination; more efficient than an airline attempting to provide you with the same information.
According to 2017’s The Baggage Report, published by SITA, the global IT and telecoms company that services the air transport industry, approximately six bags per 1,000 passengers were mishandled in 2016, down 12.5% from the previous year; and 47% of all delayed bags occurred during transfers.
The company expects these figures to drop further in 2018, due to the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Resolution 753 that will come into effect in June this year. Cross-industry luggage tracking between airports, airlines and ground handlers are expected to be in place, which aims to reduce lost or delayed baggage from drop-off to pick-up.
Smart luggage has already empowered travelers to keep track of their luggage instead of waiting for airlines to improve; and have now gone a step further with next-generation features showcased at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas in January 2018.
If you don’t want to be ‘that’ adult riding their suitcase across the airport to reach the boarding gate even faster (Modobag came up with the ‘world’s first motorized, rideable luggage), you can now get smart luggage that follows you around, like a dog.
Chinese company 90Fun worked with Segway to create a prototype called the Puppy 1, a suitcase that follows you around the airport using a remote control. It makes use of Segway’s self-balancing technology so the suitcase won’t fall over while navigating, and is bi-directional. A demonstration at CES showed that the suitcase can drive around by itself, or be controlled by a person. There’s no word when it will hit production or what it will cost.
In the meantime, you can pick something up from the world’s largest suitcase manufacturer, Samsonite, who came up with what they call the first “web connected” travel bag. The company says that each year, over 30 million lost luggage claims are filed, and their partnership with LugLoc provides users the technology to track their bags. Each bag is fitted with a GeoTrakR, which lasts 15 days when fully charged, and can be accessed via a smartphone app. A Bluetooth proximity sensor will let your app know once bags have reached the carousel. It won’t interfere with aviation rules as the device shuts off when the plane takes off, and powers back on upon landing.
Rival Delsey also has a smart range called Pluggage. The French luggage manufacturer crowd-sourced the top six features that travelers wanted most via an online campaign. The most sought-after features were a dedicated mobile app; fingerprint opening; international tracking; digital scale; device charger; and carousel alert mode. They are available in small, medium and large, all within airline specifications.
However, there are numerous brands with smart features out there, some of which you may not have heard of but appeared on crowd-sourcing platforms; all trying to outdo each other with design, battery capacity, built-in chat support, or notifications when your luggage has been opened out of sight. Ultimately, it boils down to buying a trusted brand versus a new one with nifty tech features.
The downside to buying smart luggage with built-in batteries is that, at the time of writing this article, three airlines in the United States have banned smart luggage that don’t have removable batteries, namely American, Delta, and Alaskan Airlines. American Airlines says “smart bags contain lithium battery power banks, which pose a risk when they are placed in the cargo hold of an aircraft”.
Subsequent to this announcement, smart luggage manufacturers are reportedly trying to comply with the new rules. Until then, we suggest purchasing smart luggage with removable batteries only. Two brands worth looking at that sell airline compliant bags are Away and Raden.
Meanwhile, Qatar Airways is the first airline to comply with Resolution 753 a year ahead of schedule by allowing passengers to track their luggage in real-time via its Track My Bags feature on the web and its mobile app. It also provides real-time notifications relating to checked-in luggage for all passengers.
Similarly, Delta has introduced RFID-embedded luggage tags that go onto all bags, a $50 million investment covering 344 airports, and 4,600 scanners. With sensors in place at various stages of handling, passengers are able to track their luggage via the free Delta app, available on Android, and iOS.
In a hyper-connected world, it is completely normal to check the status of your car, electricity at home, appliances, coffee-machine or luggage from a smartphone app. The only time you should be truly concerned is if you can’t adapt to your steadily-changing surroundings, or you run out of power. – Written by Nafisa Akabor