Smart Luggage: Are these high-tech carry-on options really worth it?

Smart luggage features include charging capabilities
Smart luggage designs may seem fancy at first, but are they really worth it?

The battle for technological supremacy has now taken to the skies. Established travel brands like Tumi are now competing side by side with IT start-ups to create the perfect carry-on for today’s plugged-in traveller. But do these smart luggage designs really decrease travel hassles, and are they worth their hefty price tags?

At first glance, ‘smart’ features seem wonderfully convenient and helpful. Built-in battery packs to charge your devices? Great. Remote lock activation? Fantastic. GPS tracking in case you misplace your suitcase? Sign me up.

Modobag smart luggage lets travellers ride to their destination
Modobag’s motorised carry-on that lets travellers to breeze through airports

Some companies have gone even further. Modobag has created a motorised carry-on capable of carrying passengers at up to 8.5mph. Travelmate recently introduced an autonomous suitcase robot which follows you around by tracking your phone’s GPS. It can even navigate its way through a crowd thanks to its in-built sensors.

There’s clearly enough tech here to send any gadget lover into fits of euphoria. But for the rest of us, smart luggage products raise some practical concerns. What happens if the battery runs out? What if the electronics break down mid-trip? What if you can’t hook onto a network and therefore can’t connect to the app?

Travelmate's robot suitcase follows you wherever you go
Travelmate’s autonomous robot suitcase follows you wherever you go

This last question is indicative of a larger problem. Any high-tech suitcase relies heavily on network connectivity and readily available electricity outlets. Sadly, this rules out its use in all but the most advanced (and even-surfaced) cities and airports.

However, if your travels veer more towards well-connected destinations, these issues become less pertinent. At that point, using smart luggage may well be the most convenient and trendy option. At the very least, you’ll be the envy of any mere mortal dragging or carrying their luggage the old-fashioned way.

Pay attention to which one you buy though. Starting 15 January 2018, several major airlines including Qantas, Delta and American Airlines have banned all built-in lithium ion batteries (such as the one in Bluesmart’s carry-on). No word yet if Cathay Pacific or other Asian carriers will join the bandwagon. But just in case, save yourself any future headaches and pick a smart luggage product with removable batteries.

Text: Tenzing Thondup
Images: Modobag, Travelmate