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March 14, 2018

Bags with brains: Smart luggage and gadgets are making travel smoother

by John_A

Traveling can be a joy or a pain, and the luggage you use to tote your stuff affects that outcome. While manufacturers have made advancements in materials and design, suitcases really haven’t changed much. But luggage is finally getting smarter, and the options for connected suitcases and related gadgets – from startups like Bluesmart, Raden, and Away, to market leaders like Samsonite, Rimowa, and Delsey – are beginning to take hold.

From built-in scales to GPS tracking and mobile apps, these innovations won’t make luggage any lighter, but they could make the traveling experience less harrowing. Below are some of our current and forthcoming favorites.

Bluesmart Smart Carry-On Luggage

We first looked at Bluesmart when it was still an Indiegogo campaign back in 2014. Bluesmart is the first of the smart suitcases to actually make it from crowdfunding to delivery. The suitcase’s features set the standard for the next generation of travel gear: The companion iOS or Android app lets you control the Transportation Security Administration-approved lock and its proximity option, which can automatically unlock when you and your phone move into range. The app also displays the bag’s weight thanks to a built-in scale, and it will even tell you if it’s overweight for the specific airline you’re flying — a helpful feature ta take advantage of before you head to the airport. One potential drawback is that you can’t easily loan the luggage to someone, since it’s tied to your account (you will have to contact customer service to re-register it).

Inside, the Bluesmart case hides a 10,000mAh battery with two USB charging ports — one behind the top handle and one in a pocket. That’s enough to charge most new phones more than five times. The pockets also hide a series of dividers designed for conveniently stowing a laptop or tablet. It’s also the perfect size for a weekend trip: 22 inches tall and 14 inches wide. And with the GPS, you’ll know where to find your bag even if the airline manages to lose it.

Before you purchase, you should know that Bluesmart is essentially phasing out this model for a new version, called the Cabin 22. With a new design, it improves upon the original. It has a GPS/cellular tracker that lets you keep tabs of it from anywhere, not just within the 30 feet of Bluetooth — making it more useful. It has an enhanced TSA-approved lock, and we found it to be extremely well-made. The new series of Bluesmart bags aren’t available for purchase yet, but you can read about them in our hands-on.

Read more here.

Buy it now from:
Amazon: $449

Away Carry-On

You’ve probably seen ads for Away’s hard-shell smart luggage in your Instagram feed or subway ads, but you’ll also see quite a few of the bags on the streets. They have become a hit with consumers, thanks in part to an array of color options and celebrity fans. But popularity aside, the Away luggage is well-made, and it all comes with a lifetime warranty. We also like that you can try it out for 100 days before committing — a great way to experience whether you truly need a smart bag. Available in five options, including one just for kids and two carry-on options, the bags are stylish yet simple, regardless of which size you opt for. And, to comply with regulations, Away has created an ingenious method for easily ejecting and removing the battery.

Read more here. 

Buy now from:
Away: $225


Digital Trends gave a nod to Raden when the company first shared its bags with the public in March 2016. Raden’s carry-on and checked hard case bags look like sleek — but dumb — travel gear. Raden founder Josh Udakin told DT, “Everything about the bag is supposed to be stealth.” The bags hide a 7,800mAh battery, and two 2.1A USB ports make charging devices easy. Raden also included location sensors that link to the phone app, so you’ll know when your bag comes around on the carousel or if someone tries to grab it. The bag’s flexible but tough polycarbonate shell comes in seven colors instead of just the ubiquitous black. At 22 by 9 by 14 inches, the A22 carry-on should comply with restrictions for all major airlines, and it comes with a built-in scale to ensure you don’t exceed an airline’s weight requirements.

Read more here. 

Buy now from:
Raden: $295


Digital Trends called TraxPack the “smart tank of luggage.” On one side it has a track system that makes it easy to drag up and down stairs. Of course, it comes with some built-in tech, like a GPS tracker, a scale in the handle, and a combination lock with TSA access. Another Kickstarter success story, the carry-ons with the GPS system are now available through the TraxPack website. And the bags come in interesting color combinations to stand out from the black luggage making its way around the carousel.

Read more here.

Buy now from:
TraxPack: $200

Néit Collapsible Suitcase

Not every case has to have a bunch of built-in electronic tech to be smart – or rather, clever. People aren’t in a perpetual state of travel, and the suitcase has to go somewhere when not stuffed with necessities. Néit’s suitcase folds flat for easy storage when it’s empty. The polycarbonate/aircraft-grade aluminum shell folds down to three inches, and even has a carabiner clip so it can hang in a closet. The 360-degree removable wheels are yet another easy-stash feature, so the Néit can fit where other suitcases are a “no-go.” There are both checked and carry-on options, though the most dramatic change in size is the checked bag – it shrinks by 70 percent to three inches flat. And of course, it has a GPS tracker to keep track of it using the Néit travel app.

Read more here.

Buy now from:
Neit: $245-$475


Want to add some security to a bag you already love? That question inspired Airbolt, a Bluetooth-enabled lock that works with almost any bag. Controlled from a smartphone, AirBolt offers a slew of security features, like a proximity alarm that can ring when your luggage gets too far away. Like some other location devices, AirBolt relies on a crowdsourced GPS network, pinging bags based on the last location within range. However, the success of such systems depends on how many people are using it – the more users, the more effective the system. The Airbolt is available now.

Read more here.

Buy now from:
Airbolt: $100


Why carry your luggage when your luggage can carry you? It can when the luggage is Modobag, a suitcase that doubles as a motor scooter and has a sweet set of features that makes it fit right in at Digital Trends. It has a built-in seat and footrests for travelers who would rather sit as they make their way through a giant airport complex or the long lines at the Panda Express. The scooter maxes out at a speed of eight miles per hour, and can go about six miles on a charge. Steer with the handle, or pull it up and pull the suitcase on its wheels like a normal bag. Whether ridden or not, it has two USB ports to keep devices charged, and an optional GPS system to keep track of the Modobag itself. The only problem with the Modobag is its weight: 10 pounds empty. At least it has brakes to avoid ramming fellow commuters. It’s set to ship to backers of its Indiegogo campaign in the first quarter of 2018.

Read more here.

Buy now from:
Modobag: $56

Rimowa E-ink Case

Following the development of E-ink luggage tags a few years ago, Rimowa added an E Ink Mobius display to a standard hard shell suitcase. Users send info from their phone to the bag via Bluetooth, and the tag shows everything the airline needs: Departure and arrival points, a scannable bar code, and even the green European Union stripe (for travel in the EU, naturally). The advantage to E-ink is its hardiness and longevity. It doesn’t require a lot of power, so users won’t be stuck with yet another power-hungry device while traveling. The displays use a coin cell battery that’s easy to replace, but the screen only uses power when it changes the display and should last for thousands of changes. The display is also shock, moisture, and temperature resistant. Paper tags just aren’t as tough. The Rimowa Electronic tag doubles as a digital boarding pass, letting some passengers check in on the road or from home, via a partnership with Lufthansa. United, EVA Air, Condor, and Thomas Cook are in the process of testing the tags.

Read more here.

Buy now from:

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