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The Latest in Smart Luggage and Smart Carry-Ons

While we believe traveling should be mandatory for anyone who drones on about how rough they have it in the U.S., being a traveler comes with a certain set of challenges. There are so many things that can go wrong before you even arrive to “an exotic country like Africa.” A flight delay, a cancelled flight, a missed connection, your toddler throws a tantrum, someone else’s toddler throws a tantrum, or for those of you who turn left when you board the plane, they run out of Veuve Clicquot before you’ve even left the runway. Worse yet, your gadgets could drain their batteries before you can update Instagram with that stupid cliché picture of a champagne glass next to a first-class ticket stub (millennials, amirite guise?). Unfortunately, all these problems pale in comparison to the greatest catastrophe that could happen: the airline losing your baggage.

When we look at use cases for smart luggage, the ability to see where your bag is at probably tops the chart. If you’re a sophisticated traveler, you’ll learn how to never check in a bag, but most people can’t achieve this no matter how much an adorable Japanese woman lectures them about the importance of minimalism. While most baggage is eventually found, some turn out to be “officially lost” after 30 days of not being found. And if you think you’re getting compensated right away for this, here’s some more bad news for you: the Department of Transportation says that refunds can take up to 1 to 3 months and the absolute maximum you can get for your lost baggage is $3,400. For the record, here’s how the airlines fared in terms of losing luggage.

Envoy Air led the number of mishandled luggage as of October 2018. Credit: Department of Transportation

Enter smart luggage. While these come in different shapes and sizes, smart luggage usually contains any combination of the following features:

  • GPS tracking
  • Gadget charging
  • Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Remote or app-assisted controls
  • Electronic locks and scales

Most of these features simply solve first-world problems, and the most useful is probably the GPS tracking feature, at least for those of you who check bags in. Still, there is no shortage of people who want their luggage to follow them around the airport while charging their 37 different electronic devices. There’s just one problem with smart luggage, and it’s summed up by the acronym TSA. The need to keep the skies safe also means that many smart luggage startups have gone bust. Here are just some of the obituaries from this year’s news:

It was a bad year for some smart luggage startups.

Curious to see who has survived, we curated this list – which is not exhaustive by any means – by consulting Crunchbase, closely checking company websites, and reaching out to some of our contacts in the Department of Homeland Security. Our efforts raked in the names we have below. If your business is included in the below list of startups, show your gratitude by sharing this article with everyone you know. If your company isn’t on this list, email us complaining about how we “missed” your sacred cow and we’ll remind you again that this isn’t an exhaustive list.

Click for company websiteFounded in 2015, Shanghai startup Cowarobot has taken in roughly $20 million in funding so far to develop the Rover S., something that is just what every Chinese mainlander tourist needs right after the obligatory sun visor and jogging pants. Capable of human action recognition and auto-follow, all you have to do is stand in front of this multi-terrain smart suitcase and it’ll start to follow you around even without a remote control.

Look like a complete tool with the Rover S which frees your hands so you can do everything but look where you're going.

Look like a complete tool with the Rover S which frees your hands so that you can do everything but watch where you’re walking. Credit: Cowarobot

To ensure that it doesn’t get lost as you navigate the airport or the streets, you’ll have a bracelet that will alert you when the luggage is at least 3 meters away from you. As with most smart luggage, it can power up your gadgets with its 6400mAH detachable lithium battery. They’re being sold on Amazon for just over $1,200. It might be cheaper in the long run just to hire a servant.

Click for company websiteFounded in 2016, Beijing startup ForwardX Robotics has taken in $11 million in funding so far to develop Ovis, which they claim to be “an all airlines friendly” smart luggage. Similar to the Rover S, this intuitive-designed bag follows its user around as well as sends a “distress signal” if you reach more than 2 meters distance from it – which will consequently draw the attention of TSA as everyone around you starts panicking.

The Ovis app lets you track your luggage and provides you with other info.

The Ovis app lets you track your luggage and provides you with other info. Credit: ForwardX Robotics

Should you fail to notice the vibrating alert the Ovis bracelet sends you, there’s no need to panic yet as the smart luggage also has a built-in GPS along with a 3G cellular technology to help you track its location. The suitcase uses facial recognition to identify its owner, and the company that builds it does a whole lot more than just build suitcases. We can’t find this smart luggage offering on Amazon yet, so it must not be available for sale yet. Last July, an Indiegogo campaign for the suitcase raised over $1.4 million showing demand for expensive travel products that nobody really needs.

Click for company websiteFounded in 2010, New York startup G-RO has taken in $2 million in funding so far to manufacture a smart luggage carry on. Unlike Ovis and Rover S, G-RO’s smart luggage does not follow you around. What it does offer is a Bluetooth luggage locator system to show where your bag is real time. (If it’s a carry on, then why the heck would you need to know where it’s at?)

No way TSA will think this thing is a bomb Credit: G-RO

G-RO also calls its luggage design as “smart-optional” which is actually just their fancy way of saying that the 10,000 mAh power bank is detachable in order to comply with FAA’s regulations. You can pick one up on Amazon today for just $499.

Click for company websiteFounded in 1999, Los Angeles-based Incipio is a leading designer and manufacturer of award-winning mobile device accessories and technology. In 2015, they acquired San Francisco startup Incase. Last year, Incase released the ProConnected 4 Wheel Hubless Roller as the first in the smart luggage series under the Incipio brand. This smart luggage offers higher capacity charging capabilities with a 20,100mAh battery that can handle charging a USB-C powered laptop along with two more devices simultaneously. It even offers wireless charging. Similar to the other products listed above, the ProConnected 4 can also be tracked via Bluetooth paired with your smartphone.

Click for company websiteFounded in 2016, Greater New York Area startup Arlo Skye has taken in $542,500 in funding so far to create smart luggage that’s not only functional but stylish as well. Since Louis Vuitton and Tumi alums founded the company, it’s hardly surprising that their designs (and prices) are influenced by these two powerhouses. So aside from offering a charging port (with detachable lithium-ion batteries, of course) and “whisper quiet wheels,” this bag also got rid of those unfashionable luggage zippers that threaten to ruin your clothes and instead replaced them with a one-touch locking system (otherwise known as hinges).

Arlo Skye product offerings

Arlo Skye product offerings – Source: Arlo Skye

For an extra $45, they’ll engrave your initials on your luggage so you can leave no doubt in people’s minds as to what a pretentious prick you really are.

Click for company websiteFounded in 2015, New Yawk startup Away has taken in $107.5 million in funding so far to offer “first-class luggage at a coach price.” Like the previously mentioned bags, this smart luggage also offers a charging port with a detachable lithium-ion battery. For added convenience, Away’s carry on has an external pocket for your passport and other documents. While the company partnered with tracker creator Tile, you’ll have to shell out an extra $30 for Bluetooth location tracking on your smart luggage. “As luggage startups drop like flies, Away beefs up with 249 jobs,” was the title of an article in Fast Company in mid-2018, and the company shows no sign of slowing down after taking in a $50 million round in June of last year.

Click for company websiteFounded in 2015, Berlin startup Horizn Studios has raised a total of $50 million in funding to develop their smart luggage line which they describe as “a paragon of sophistication and functionality.” Their products offer basically the same features as the others, like detachable lithium-ion batteries, but now you get the added comfort of knowing that your bag was designed by zee Germans, whose engineering prowess is known the world round. Similar to Away, you can add GPS tracking and proximity alerts to your smart baggage for a fee. They’re also selling “the first luggage with its own personal travel assistant,” and it’s at this point that we decide we’ve had enough of hearing about all these first world problems that are being solved and that it’s time to wrap this piece up.

Conclusions

Whether you’re traveling for a business conference in New York, a family vacation in Hawaii, your honeymoon in the Maldives, or looking for your future ex-wife in some of Bangkok’s seedier suburbs, one thing holds true: a piece of luggage is a necessity. We’d suggest that you skip the whole smart luggage thing and instead, pick up a 5.11 RUSH72 Tactical Backpack and learn how to pack lightly. We’ve taken this bag from the Darian Gap to the rocky shores of Antarctica, and it’s by far the best quality and most functional bag you’re ever going to find. Pack lighter and enjoy some peace of mind by never checking anything in again ever. If you still need to have a carry on, there are over 1,000 GPS trackers on Amazon you can choose from, each of which will be cheaper than any of these smart luggage options.

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