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

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 them on the streets. The bags have become a hit with consumers, thanks in part to 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

Raden

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 × 9 × 14 inches, the A22 carry-on should fit restrictions for all major airlines, and it comes with a built-in scale to ensure you don’t exceed an airlines weight requirements.

Read more here. 

Buy now from:
Raden: $295

TraxPack

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 and 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.” 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 when the bag is out of sight.

Read more here.

Buy now from:
Neit: $245-$475

Airbolt

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 company’s Kickstarter campaign estimated delivery for August of this year, while its Indiegogo campaign promised December. Unfortunately delivery is a little behind, but the company has kept buyers updated and are diligently working toward sending out a finished — and polished — product. it also says it’s working with the Transportation Security Administration to make it TSA-approved.

Read more here.

Buy now from:
Airbolt: $100

Modobag

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, so 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 January 2017.

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 scanable barcode, and even the green E.U. stripe (for travel in the E.U., naturally). The advantage to E-ink is its heartiness 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. Further, 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:
Rimowa

Shelfpack

The Shelfpack might be the perfect bag for travelers that want their clothes to stay neat while on the go. It sounds exactly like what it is: a suitcase with built-in shelves that pop up into an open chest of drawers of sorts – a clothing shelf system.  No sifting through the bag or fussing with internal garment bags to find clothes after a long and draining trip. The 26-inch Shelfpack has four internal shelves, three external compartments, and a total storage capacity of 6,700 cubic inches. This bag is already shipping for $349 — a little pricey considering it doesn’t have smart features built in — but it’s basically the only portable closet that meets airport regulations.

Read more here.

Buy now from:
Shelfpack: $349

Bobby

Another cleverly designed backpack, the water-repellent Bobby is good for short trips or the daily commute. It’s designed to be anti-theft, with a recessed zipper impossible for thieves to find and unzip quickly. Made of a material that can’t be easily cut, the Bobby has an integrated USB charging port, rear reflectors, and a transit card pocket in the front strap to make the daily grind easier and safer.

Read more here.

Buy now from:
Amazon: $98

ProGo

progo

It sounds like a bag designed to carry GoPro cameras, and it is — with a few features that fit any smart traveler. A removable shelf that hangs in the closet while travelers are in their hotel (or at home) and a shoe compartment are just two of the ProGo’s specialized compartments. Of course, there are separate pockets for GoPro cameras, with six-piece modular pads held in place with Velcro. There’s even a secret pocket that’s inaccessible to others while the bag is worn. A Bluetooth device tracker lets travelers monitor their bag if they go missing — though some backers have pointed out that it’s no different than other trackers on the market.

Read more here.

Buy now from:
ProGo: $400

Fugu Luggage

Fugu luggage focuses on form-factor instead of connectivity features, and the unique way it tackles this caught our eye. It uses the same tech you’d find in an inflatable paddle board to transition from small to large, allowing you to double the amount of storage space. The built-in pump used to inflate the luggage also works to suck the air out of vacuum storage bags (an optional accessory). Other components, like pull-out shelves, removable laptop case, and GPS module, round out the suite of add-on features.

Read more here.

Buy it now from:
Brookstone: $299 Jet: $299

Planet Traveler Space Case 1

Planet Traveler’s Space Case Kickstarter campaign raised nearly a million dollars, claiming to be the world’s smartest luggage in the process. We were impressed, too, back in 2015. The Space Case 1’s hard polycarbonate carry-on, along with the check-in accordion spinner uprights, link to an app where you can see the bag’s location and weight via a built-in digital scale. The scale is a nice touch, as is the biometric lock designed to complement the TSA lock for screenings. A 12,000mAh battery with two external USB charging ports and one internal complete the suite of features.

The Space Case 1 comes in more colors than some of the other bags here, too, given it’s available in silver, gray, pink, and two crazy art prints instead of just black. The lowest pre-order price for the bag is $330, with the check-in coming in at $380. The problem is that Space Case has met with a series of delays – delivery was initially promised November 2015. Planet Traveler updated backers periodically on their Kickstarter page, and claimed that it was beginning production at the end of December 2016, but some backers are still angry enough to think about suing.

Read more here.

Preorder it from:
Jet: $329 – $869 Planet Traveler: $329 – $869

Trakdot Luggage Tracker

Trakdot is not an actual bag, but a tracker that helps you find your bag anywhere with a GSM signal. It runs on a pair of AA batteries and automatically turns off when out of range, to adhere to flight regulations. It’s perfect if you have a suitcase that you already love — or, in theory, anything else you want to track that’s large enough to hold the tracker. You also don’t need a dedicated app to use it, but there is one available. Trakdot works with all SMS-capable devices, so you can get notifications via text or email as long as you’re within GSM coverage.

If you do decide to use the accompanying app, it can help alleviate worries about when you’ll actually see your bag again. Aside from providing you with your bag’s general location (like city and airport), the app will tell you when your bag is about to hit the carousel. And, if you have a black suitcase that tends to blend in, Trakdot will even show you where on the carousel your luggage is sitting. The Trakdot retails for $70 on Amazon, but keep in mind that there’s $9 activation fee and $13 annual subscription fee. Nonetheless, it’s still considerably less expensive than a new bag (or replacing lost items).

Read more here.

Buy it now from:
Amazon: $70

LugLoc Luggage Locator

Another GSM add-on for traditional luggage, LugLoc uses GSM for distance tracking, which allows your bag to pop up on the map when you ping it with the LugLoc app. Bluetooth within the module can also help you find your luggage on the carousel, while the embedded patented triaxial accelerometer ensures the device will turn off when in motion.

The pay structure is a little different than Trakdot, however. Each time you search for your bag it essentially counts as a trace. LugLoc comes with 15 free days of unlimited traces, rendering it perfect for a vacation, but you’ll have to buy more through the app after that. You can purchase five traces for $7, 10 for $10, or unlimited traces for $30 – all of which are good for a year after purchase.

Buy it now from:
Amazon: $70


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