With Singapore embarking on our Smart Nation journey by harnessing technologies to improve urban living, we are starting to see how technologies are permeating through our everyday lives, from smart homes, contactless payment options, driverless taxis, to... $3500 smart trash bins.
Source: The Straits Times
The luggage industry, on the other hand, has not seen much innovation across the globe, with the last big breakthrough in 1970s when wheeled suitcases were introduced. However, in the past couple of years, crowdfunding platforms such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter enabled innovative startups to disrupt the otherwise stagnant luggage industry with a gadget that every modern traveller craves - Smart Luggage.
As fellow travel enthusiasts, we are as excited to lay our hands on one of these high-tech goodies. In this article, we compiled a list of 12 technology-enabled, non-conventional luggage (the most comprehensive list yet, let us know if you've come across any that's not on this list!). Before you decide on which smart luggage to buy, read till the end of this article to have a fuss-free departure from Singapore Changi International Airport.
According to a reply we've received from CAAS Dangerous Goods (the regulatory body for inbound/outbound flights for Singapore) safety inspector, here's their take on battery-equipped luggage:
"Smart luggage such as Bluesmart which has an built-in battery pack to provide functions such as tracking may cause interference with the avionics in the aircraft and is not allowed in both check-in and carry-on baggage." (Clarification: subsequent conversation with the staff clarified that Bluesmart could still be used as a carry-on baggage)
In the following list of luggage, you might want to keep the above point in mind before purchasing your next luggage (especially if you need a check-in size bag).
1. Bluesmart Black Edition (US$599, shipping fee US$50)
(Update 26/5/2018: Bluesmart has shut its operations)
Bluesmart Luggage, touted as the "world's first smart, connected carry-on luggage", ran a very successful Indiegogo campaign (highest crowdfunding project ever for a travel product at that time) that raised US$2.2M. The Bluesmart's mobile app was what caught our attention, with 'connected features' such as an integrated weighing scale, location tracking over GSM/GPS and automatic locking mechanism based on luggage proximity. The 10,000mAh built-in battery is also useful for charging our iPhones and iPads a few times over. Recently-crowned triple-treble Olympic champion Usain Bolt was even pictured using a Bluesmart luggage. The sleek outlook of the new Bluesmart Black Edition is a welcomed addition, but some reviews of Bluesmart luggage and CAAS' statement make us hesitate about its feasibility as a fuss-free travel companion.
2. Trunkster (US$295, shipping fee US$100)
Most zipper luggage in the market these days use zippers that can be easily slit open with a pen, so there have been an increased share of travellers who switched to the aluminium-frame, zipperless luggage camp. Trunkster, is a zipperless carry-on luggage that raised US$1.4M on Kickstarter. Its unique features include a zipperless sliding rolltop door (say yes to retrieving belongings from luggage in the tightest spaces), integrated weighing scale handle and a full-width handle. There is also an optional Trunkster Tracker module (additional US$40) that allows tracking of your luggage via a mobile app. The 10,000 mAh power bank is removable, probably a workaround for travelling between countries with stricter aviation rules.
3. Barracuda (US$349, shipping fee US$29)
Upon returning from a trip, chucking away the luggage into our home's storeroom (or bomb shelter) is sometimes a hassle, especially with the shrinking size of HDB flats in Singapore. Barracuda, touted as the "world's first fully-collapsible hardside carry-on" (even though it looks like a fabric suitcase to us), was launched on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo with much success. The fact that a luggage could be collapsed and packed under a bed is a novel and attractive idea, and we have seen brands such as Lipault and Giordano coming up with similar offerings. However, Barracuda carry-on luggage also has other novel aspects, such as an adjustable laptop tray (for people who work on-the-go), location tracking/proximity sensor, removable 10,000mAh battery pack and a 360 degree swivel handle.
4. Fugu Travel/Business (US$299, shipping fee US$45)
Fugu luggage - Another favourite for space-conscious Singaporeans - is a self-inflatable luggage (launched on Kickstarter) that can expand from a cabin size luggage to a check-in size luggage via an electric motor. The optional add-ons are similar to previous ones, such as power bank and luggage locator. We wonder how the expanded luggage can withstand the tough handling at the airports, but as this item is still under production, we shall wait for further customer reviews to surface.
5. ModoBag (US$995, shipping fee US$150)
With our nation's craze on everything with wheels such as kick scooters, unicycles, Airwheels, motorised bikes, this ModoBag (Indiegogo campaign launched just in end July 2016) would be another prized possession to add to the collection. Apart from the rideable aspect of this carry-on luggage, it also comes with battery pack for charging your devices, and a mobile app to track your luggage. However, the weight is a major no-no for now - 8.6kg (excluding batteries). With the carry-on weight limit of 7kg, we are not sure how useful this luggage can be for catching flights (apart from being really fun riding it!).
6. Raden (From US$295, shipping not available for Singapore)
(Update 26/5/2018: Raden has shut its operations)
A minimalist design with maximum capacity, Raden smart luggage is a 'discreetly-smart' luggage that looks like a typical luggage from the exterior. The availability of an outright check-in size luggage distinguishes itself from the previously-mentioned smart luggage range. For both cabin size and check-in variants, the luggage comes with a self-weighing handle, Bluetooth technology to communicate with the mobile app and a removable battery pack. The availability of the luggage in 8 different colours delights travellers who prefer their luggage to stand out on the luggage belt. The comprehensiveness of the mobile app functionalities (such as security check-in wait times, weather, traffic, flight details) places Raden amongst the top 'smart luggage' with Bluesmart. However, the location tracking feature is enabled by the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, which is useful for stranded luggage only if there are multiple Raden bags in the airport to create a crowdsourced GPS mesh network. The flat, glossy outlook of the luggage would also lead to visible scratches sustained during the check-in process.
7. Xiaomi 90 Points/Minutes Smart Suitcase (~US$300, shipping not available for Singapore)
Xiaomi, one of the most valuable technology start-ups in the past 5 years, launched this cabin size, fully aluminium-magnesium alloy smart suitcase on its crowdfunding platform earlier this year. Apart from a mobile app that can lock/unlock the suitcase, the rest of the luggage features seems to be unannounced on various websites we've come across. Even though we are quite confident that Xiaomi's engineers will come up with an intuitive mobile app (as compared to the other smart luggage apps with reported software glitches), we can't convince ourselves to get a 4.4kg 'extremely tough' luggage solely for carry-on purposes.
8. Néit (From US$295, shipping fee US$35)
Néit, available in both cabin and checked sizes, described as the "world's first collapsible and hangable hard-sided smart luggage", has several unique features that are unseen in other smart luggage. From a collapsible hard shelled design (down to 30% of its volume), to the multi-directional foldable luggage wheels, and the carabiner-style handle, we see multiple innovations that optimises the luggage for storage upon returning from a trip. The Néit travel app provides comprehensive features such as location tracking, travel information and accommodation booking. Shipping of the pre-orders starts from December 2016.
9. G-Ro (US$399, shipping fee US$40)
As a luggage wholesaler in Singapore with expertise, spare parts and experience to repair our products for the past few decades, we have often received phone/email enquiries on wheel repairs, not only for the mass-market luggage brands, but also for the upmarket, branded ones. We have also heard from our friends on how much the service centers for branded luggage charge for wheel repairs, sometimes as much, or even more than the price of our luggage! G-ro, a carry-on luggage bag with patented 'indestructible', axle-less wheel design, aims to be your 'companion bag' with spacious interior, better maneuverability in pulling the luggage on various types of terrain, greater balance due to the proximity between center of gravity and the rotation axis. They also have an optional electronic module (at US$99) which would provide the charging capability (even including laptops), location tracker, proximity detector and mobile app. We are convinced that the patented wheel design is useful in many aspects, but at US$399 (without the add-on electronic module), we think that it is quite pricey for a 2 wheeler, fabric luggage weighing 3.6kg.
10. TraxPack (US$278, shipping unavailable for Singapore)
TraxPack Luggage, the world's first stair climbing suitcase, has a novel patent-pending track system that will relieve travellers of carrying a fully-packed luggage up flights of stairs. The track system and tilting control handle allows travellers to roll on the steps, yet without damaging/scratching the surface of the luggage. With a Kickstarter campaign that lasted only 52 days, we thought that this campaign was pretty short, and it did not reach its stretch campaign ($100,000) of producing a check-in size luggage. It is useful for travelling countries with many flights of stairs (such as the underground subways in Hong Kong), but as it only comes in cabin size, we aren't sure how much load the bag can carry, to the extent that you need the track system to assist you.
11. Planet Traveler USA Space Case 1 (US$750, shipping fee US$191)
Planet Traveler USA Space Case 1, the "world's smartest suitcase" produced by US-based Planet Traveler company (not to be mistaken for Singapore's The Planet Traveller), raised nearly US$1M on Kickstarter for this smart luggage, which comes in both carry-on and check-in sizes. Apart from the previous smart luggage features such as mobile app, location tracking, power bank, proximity sensor, the digital self scale (with sensors at the wheel) is a new concept where travellers don't even need to lift the case to know the weight. The biometric lock provides a very secure way of locking up the luggage (if necessary), and the bluetooth speakerphone seems to be solving an unnecessary need).
Before we move on to cover the last item, let's think about a fundamental feature we look for in a luggage, and compare against the options above. Unless you're are on a business trip or on a short holiday (without any plans for shopping), we rarely travel with a cabin size luggage. A check-in size luggage provides more storage capacity for our shopping frenzy (shopping is much more affordable overseas!). This pretty much eliminates many of the solely-cabin size options (1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10) above.
12. Smart Luggage from Luggage Outlet Singapore (From $85 onwards, free shipping to Singapore addresses)
A hardside luggage equipped with a smart self-weighing handle, this new hard-case luggage range (in ready stock, without any risk of crowdfunding mishaps) comes in 6 colours and 3 sizes (20 inch cabin size and 24/28 inch check-in size). The 5 cm expansion comes in useful for overseas shopping sprees, the ABS+PC (Polycarbonate) case material makes it more durable than mass-market ABS luggage, the TSA-compliant lock allows a fuss-free entry through the U.S. and Canadian customs. Worry about zippers that can be easily slit open? These luggage come with double-teethed anti-theft zippers. The 4 big, smooth-rolling twin wheels provide easy maneuverability on the travels. What's more, we have also sought assurance from CAAS on checking in these luggage with handles that contain a CR2032 battery (the only electronic component of the luggage):
In conclusion, while the aviation authorities across the world are in the process of understanding the various 'game-changing' smart luggage features and approving/disapproving some, travelling can never stop. With our smart self-weighing luggage, you'll never have to worry about last minute packing at the airport again!