Travel is becoming increasingly tense these days: And if you are taking flights to holiday destinations, it is doubly so at this time of the year. Security can be stressful and airlines don’t make things any easier, as they tighten weight limits on the check-in and carry-on luggage. But help is at hand – from an unlikely source: the luggage itself! A new breed of travel goods makers, many of them startups, has created what can best be called Smart Luggage: backpacks and suitcases which come pre-fitted with accessories that buy you some piece of mind.
One of the biggest worries while travelling is a mobile phone that dies on you because the battery has drained. New-age luggage can help here. Bags come with an external USB charging port with an inbuilt charging cable that you can connect to a power bank. Remember this will only work with bags that are cabin sized – since you can’t check in a power bank.
Another common problem is identifying your checked in the bag as it comes on a belt with others of the same make and colour. Some smart bags come equipped with a tracker that links to your mobile phone via Bluetooth and beeps to alert you when the bag emerges. The same app can also alert you if the bag moves from your immediate vicinity -- if some tries to steal it, while you are dozing in the departure hall.
Bag makers, have also addressed another common hassle: How much does my bag weigh? Airlines place rigid limits on checked-in bags: exceed the free allowance and every extra kilo can cost you Rs 300 – 600. Bags, where the handle reads out the weight on an LED panel, have made their appearance in India ( see box).
You can go on and on looking for ways in which technology can make travel smarter, safer, hassle-free. Targus has created a mobile VIP+ backpack, with a Qi wireless charging dock hidden on the side with a zip-up pocket. It has also incorporated an RFID-blocking pocket, which would prevent credit cards from being skimmed remotely.
The international Rolls Royce of luggage is a brand called BlueSmart where the cost could be close to the equivalent of half a lakh of rupees. It has a built-in SIM and you can track the bag worldwide anywhere, any time and lock-unlock the bag remotely from an app. Globally but not in India, Samsonite has similar tracking technology in its $ 400 web-connected GeoTrakR bags
More affordable in India, you can find a range of ‘Atlantis’ 17 inch – 22-inch smart bags from 3G on most e-biz sites for around Rs 3000 – Rs 5000, all with USB ports.
And this month, William Penn, the lifestyle accessory company has launched a solar-powered backpack called Kingsons Beam Pack, which holds up to 9 watts power with a peak output of 1.7 amps. It costs Rs 18,000.
Carriall bag: Carefree travel
In 2018, an Indian startup, Carriall Bags, launched India’s first Smart backpack. Since then its catalogue has grown to include a range of smart bags in 20-24 inch size that offer a sensible mix of the most useful technologies while remaining affordable in the range of Rs 11,000 – Rs 14,000.
All Carriall bags have that very useful appendage, a weighing scale, built into the handle – the only such bag selling in India today. I am trying out the 22-inch “Hive” hard luggage which also offers a Bluetooth tracker via mobile phone and a USB external charging point.
All their bags in this series have what is called TSA locks – certified by the US Travel Security Administration which means security personnel can open the case without damaging the lock. Four independent shock absorber wheels mean you can roll the bag instead or pulling it. Free accessories a toiletries bag, shoe bag and a laundry bag.
The Hive costs Rs 12,999 but I saw it online for Rs 2000 less. Money well spent on the scales and the Bluetooth alone.