As internet-connected technology continues to advance, more and more “smart” versions of everyday appliances and conveyances are becoming popular. Naturally, it was only a matter of time before these innovations made their way to the travel world. Within just the past year and a half, enterprising tech startups have created new categories of connected devices, with a focus on simplifying and streamlining the airline travel experience. Smart luggage has become an increasingly lucrative market since trailblazers like Bluesmart and Space Case first pioneered the idea of personal bags and suitcases with numerous integrated gadgets in 2015. They included a built-in digital scale for self-weighing, a SIM card or similar GPS tracking mechanism that pairs with a user’s smartphone to show the bag’s location, and its own power bank for charging phones and laptops. These first models were introduced to the traveling public via internet crowdfunding campaigns, and soon enough their success was enough to draw established players in both luggage and electronics to enter the fray, such as Samsonite and Samsung, while other small-scale vendors sought instead to distinguish their products with additional features or eye-catching designs. Raden offers bags that combine features similar to Bluesmart’s with a more full-featured mobile app (able to inform passengers ahead of time about weather or wait times at the terminal) and a sleek, modern aesthetic, Trakdot makes a small device that can be inserted into any “normal” bag to give it smart tracking features, while Modobag’s rather expensive offering even features motorized wheels and can be ridden around the terminal like a scooter.
The main benefit to all these features, of course, is less one of glamor and more one of convenience—the idea of being able to integrate all of one’s devices and appliances into a single experience, all connected by the World Wide Web. Whether the technology is developed enough at this time to do that is debatable, as some reviewers have found extra electronic features on their bags to be little more than a gimmick, or in some cases an outright hindrance—at least one reviewer on their way to the Consumer Electronics Show with a Bluesmart bag reported being accosted by TSA over the ominous-looking electronic components in their suitcase. But the fact that there is a drive to technologize basic travel gear means that research, trial, and error will continue. Have you had a chance to use a smart bag or similar device on any recent trips? And if so, was it helpful or not?