Lost Luggage? Here's a Smart Idea...

For us mere mortals, ‘smart devices’ still feel like they would be more at home in The Jetsons’ futuristic utopia. Fridges we can have two way conversations with, robotic printers that deliver your papers right to you…glasses that make you look like a cyborg.

Every aspect of modern inconvenience now seems to be capable of connecting to every other aspect of modern inconvenience. Are these devices clever and innovative? Absolutely. Are they useful parts of everyday life that you couldn’t currently live without? Not so much. At least, not for me.

Then came news of the ‘Bluesmart’ suitcase. This is a carry on suitcase that integrates with a mobile app to provide you with GPS tracking information (including the ability to automatically lock itself when you walk away – good news for the scatter-brained ones among us), built in scales that can tell you how heavy the suitcase is when you lift the handle, and can recharge up to six devices you’re carrying about.

If you enter your flight details into the app it can also give you updates on its current status, and it’s been described by one of the inventors as your ‘personal travelling assistant’. This video shows you the Bluesmart in action:

It’s not the first ‘smart’ suitcase. Airbus have been working on one called ‘Bag2Go’ which can integrate with airlines’ IT systems and you’ll get a text alert if your suitcase isn’t where it’s supposed to be. But this is the first smart device (other than my smartphone) I’ve come across that I can truly see the benefit of investing in.

Like most people, I have some horror stories about lost luggage. Most recently, my son and I went to the World Cup in Brazil and his luggage only turned up two weeks after we’d landed back in Newcastle.

We’d travelled about quite a bit in Brazil, attending various games. We would always tell the airline (American Airlines) where we would be going just in case there was any hope of the suitcase turning up at our next location. Which wasn’t the easiest thing to do, given they demanded all requests to be submitted in writing, and email wasn’t acceptable.

The whole thing seemed quite bizarre – no one knew where the suitcase was for over a month. You can check in online and board an airplane with a simple QR code on your phone, but locating a large piece of luggage can sometimes be beyond the realms of expectation.  

So, the GPS tracker would certainly be a key benefit. It’s not so much an issue with hand luggage but hopefully there are plans for the range to be extended. The scales will be handy, as would the charger points (although my first thought was how you would get this through airport security if it’s part of the luggage? Surely they need to be careful with anything electronic).

However, the one thing they’ll have to get right is the actual suitcase part. You can have the most technologically advanced suitcase in the world, but if it’s a pain to carry around then there’s absolutely no point.

It’s like anything else. You can have fantastically superior Cloud applications that allow you to get work done from anywhere. But if your internet connection is weak, you’ll struggle to do anything. You should always take a rounded view when it comes to technology – essentially, it has to be fit for purpose. 

Another issue will be security – always a concern for any device that is connected to the internet. Hacking a smart suitcase will bring a whole new definition to ‘stolen luggage’ as it won’t be just your shirts and shaving foam that you’ll be missing.

Owners of the Bluesmart will be able to enter all sorts of personal information into the app such as which airports you visit on a regular basis, and the amount of time you spend in each country. Would you want this information shared, particularly with someone sinister enough to want to steal your luggage?

With the trend towards smart devices, I suspect most of us won’t be jumping on the bandwagon just because they might have a gimmicky feature – often like the various prototypes that have been conceptualised in the latest series of ‘The Apprentice’.

Smart devices have to make our lives easier, or become so entrenched that we’d find it difficult to be without them. To do that, the technology has to go hand in hand with functionality. Or that talking fridge will find itself having a very one sided conversation.