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Luggage That Can Check Itself In?

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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.

READ MORE: 5 AI Innovations You Need To Be Aware Of

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.

READ MORE: How Tech Can Close The Gap In Africa

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

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Apple Is Donating 9 Million Masks To Combat The Coronavirus

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Topline: Apple will donate 9 million N95 protective masks to combat the coronavirus, Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday, making Apple one of several California tech companies pitching in as hospitals across the country report a shortage of protective gear.

  • Pence thanked Apple for agreeing to donate 9 million N95 respirator masks to healthcare facilities across the country during a press briefing on Tuesday.
  • Pence’s remarks come after Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted over the weekend the company was “working to help source supplies for healthcare providers fighting COVID-19” and “donating millions of masks for health professionals in the US and Europe,” but did not offer more specifics.
  • N95 respirators are masks that form a protective seal around a wearer’s mouth, filtering  out at least 95% of particles in the air, according to the Centers for Disease Control, which makes them necessary to protect healthcare workers from being exposed to the disease from patients.
  • Facebook has also said it is donating its stockpile of 720,000 masks purchased during the California wildfires last year, which degraded the air quality in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes asking if all of the donated masks were stockpiled because of the wildfires or if the company got them from somewhere else.

Chief critic: Teddy Schleifer, a reporter at Recode, wrote that health systems shouldn’t rely on the generosity of big tech companies to make up for the failures of the federal government. 

“But there is a risk in relying on corporate philanthropy—rather than the government—in solving this problem. For starters, it depends on the voluntary generosity of these companies to deal with an unprecedented emergency, an altruism that could vanish at any time,” he wrote.

Crucial quote: “And I spoke today, and the president spoke last week, with Tim Cook of Apple. And at this moment in time Apple went to their store houses and is donating 9 million N95 masks to healthcare facilities all across the country and to the national stockpile,” Pence said.

Key background: Apple is one of several California tech companies to give away N95 masks. In addition to Facebook, Salesforce, Tesla and IBM have also announced mask donations.

News peg: Doctors and nurses are sounding the alarm that they don’t have enough masks to protect healthcare workers. Not only does inadequate protective gear put important frontline health workers at risk, public health experts say, any situation endangering medical personnel may only further depletes the U.S. health system which already doesn’t have enough capacity to handle a surge in cases. State officials in New York and Illinois have criticized President Donald Trump for not stepping in to force companies to manufacture masks or allocate masks from private companies to ensure that states don’t outbid each other for the same supplies.

Rachel Sandler, Forbes Staff, Breaking News

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Video Games Are Being Played At Record Levels As The Coronavirus Keeps People Indoors

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Topline: With school closures, mandatory work-from-home policies and lockdowns taking place in the U.S. as a result of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, gaming has seen higher engagement, especially over this past weekend.

  • Steam, the most popular digital PC gaming marketplace, reached new heights Sunday, drawing a record 20,313,451 concurrent users to the 16-year-old service, according to third-party database SteamDB.
  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, released by Steam-owner Valve in 2012, seems to be the top beneficiary of the increased engagement, breaking it’s all-time peak on Sunday with 1,023,2290 concurrent players, topping its previous peak last month by a million, which itself beat the record set in April 2016.
  • Like other esports, CS:GO has had to cancel events due to the virus, particularly the Intel Extreme Masters in Katowice earlier this month, though its peak viewership reached over a million, making it one of the most watched tournaments in the esports’ history.
  • Activision Blizzard’s new free-to-play battle royale spinoff Call of Duty: Warzone, launched March 10 on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, is also likely benefiting, drawing in a staggering 15 million in three days, besting the record 10 million in three days by last year’s battle royale sensation Apex Legends.
  • These new heights follows similar effects of the virus on China and Italy: Telecom Italia’s CEO told Bloomberg it saw a 70% increase in traffic over its landline network, with Fortnite playing a significant part, while Chinese live-streaming service Douyu experienced increased viewership of the country’s most popular games, according to market analyst Niko Partners.
  • While gaming was considered “recession proof” during the 2008 market crash, stocks aren’t immune to the current historic drops: software developers like Activision Blizzard are facing a 9% decrease in price year-to-date, while hardware companies that rely on Chinese manufacturing like Nintendo are seeing bigger drops of 24%.

What To Watch For: If these records keep rising as the closings and lockdowns continue. Arriving this week is Nintendo’s long-awaited Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the Switch console, a relaxing “life-simulator” that’s set to have a big day with many fans not-so-jokingly asking Nintendo to launch early.

Surprising Fact: Plague Inc., a game that tasks players in creating a virus that wipes out humanity, surged in popularity late January, becoming the top-paid game on the Chinese app store at one point, but the game has now been removed in China at the direction of the government.

Further Reading: So You’re Suddenly Working From Home And Want To Try Gaming? Here’s How To Get Started.

Matt Perez, Forbes Staff, Innovation


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Amazon Hoping To Hire 100,000 New Employees To Deal With Coronavirus Demand

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Topline: Amazon announced Monday that it would be opening 100,000 new full-time and part-time positions to deal with increased buying demand as people practice social distancing during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

  • The company will also increase pay by $2 in the U.S. from its current $15 an hour, £2 in the UK and €2 in Europe for those working in fulfillment centers, transportation services, stores or people making deliveries, amounting to a total of $350 million.
  • Amazon last Friday shared that the increase in online commerce has unsurprisingly resulted in shortages for household essentials and delays in shipment times.
  • Monday’s statement also noted that “We continue to consult with medical and health experts, and take all recommended precautions in our buildings and stores to keep people healthy. We’ve taken measures to promote social distancing in the workplace and taken on enhanced and frequent cleaning, to name just a few.”
  • Last week, Amazon told all of its employees to consider working from home if they could, according to CNBC; for its fulfillment centers and delivery services, it also launched a $25 million relief fund that lets workers diagnosed with the coronavirus apply for  grants equal to two weeks pay, as well as unlimited unpaid time off for all hourly employees until the end of March.
  • Amazon currently employs 250,000 people at 110 fulfillment centers.

News Peg: According to Johns Hopkins, 181,200 people have been infected with the coronavirus, with 7,115 deaths reported. School closures, lockdowns and curfews have been put in place to promote social distancing, with the White House today recommending to avoid groups of more than 10 people.

Matt Perez, Forbes Staff, Games

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