A team of entrepreneurs and MIT students hope to reduce the stress of air travel with high-tech luggage called Bluesmart.
The actor Tom Conti once said, “I’m resigned to the fact that everything is out of my control and that air travel nowadays is barbaric.” Considering that 24.6 million people are expected to fly during Thanksgiving, Conti may have a point.
Airline commuters have a laundry list of things to complain about: abrasive airport security, mediocre food and trying to wedge into the increasingly cramped seats on more airlines. And when it comes to luggage, things just seem to keep getting worse.
With that in mind, how much would you pay to be able to reliably keep track of your airline luggage to help reduce the stress of air travel?
A small team of entrepreneurs and MIT students posed this question when they launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo hoping to raise $50,000 for a device they call Bluesmart. It began as a modest campaign aimed at adding a level of do-it-yourself reliability and convenience to the hectic world of flying. But it has quickly developed into a loud statement on how technology can tap into a groundswell of emotion about something as seemingly benign as airline travel.
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In just over two hours, donors exceeded the $50,000 funding goal set by Bluesmart’s developers. And with two weeks left in their campaign, more than 3,400 investors have contributed more than $800,000.
“Two hours and one minute, and we reached our funding goal!” read an update on the Bluesmart team’s Indiegogo funding page. “Together, we are going to change the way that people travel.”
The developers have even received some high-profile endorsements. Manu Ginobli, an All-Star member of the 2014 NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs, tweeted to this to his 2.7 million followers:
It used to be that you could check your luggage for free, so long as you didn’t have more than two suitcases and that your gear didn’t exceed a reasonably weight of around 50 pounds. Today, the rules are constantly changing and never for the better. Most airlines do not even allow passengers to check a single bag without paying a fee. And there’s still the unavoidable uncertainty that your luggage will be waiting for you when you arrive at your final destination.
So, what exactly is Bluesmart promising to change with their product?
Digital Scale: One of the more interesting items is a built-in digital scale that sends the suitcase’s weight to the owner’s smart phone. This feature eliminates the anxiety and doubt over whether your luggage will meet an airline’s weight requirements and could save you costly fees for going over weight limits.
GPS Tracking: The 2014 baggage report from SITA found that 25 million pieces of luggage were mishandled last year alone. The suitcase comes equipped with a GPS tracking device. In the event that the luggage is lost, its owner will have an easier time tracking down exactly where their luggage disappeared instead of solely relying on the airline. The GPS will also alert the owner if they accidentally leave their luggage behind at the airport.
Built-In Charger: This may be the coolest feature of the Bluesmart carry on luggage. It comes with a built-in charger that will let you charge your smartphone up to six times and can be used on other devices like laptops and tablets. Instead of frantically searching for an outlet at the airport, you can sit where you want and charge what you want.
Digital Lock: Each time you step a few feet away from the carry on, it automatically locks. It can also be locked and unlocked remotely from the owner’s smartphone. Most importantly, the Bluesmart developers say the digital lock is FAA approved.
Slip Pouch: This feature is less about technology and more about design. How many times have you juggled your luggage through airport security while trying to take out your laptop? The Bluesmart has a convenient slip pouch for laptops and tablets that expedites this process. It’s a commonsense feature that we’re surprised hasn’t become standard on most pieces of luggage.
Digital Reminders: This is another feature that isn’t essential but is still cool. You can sync the Bluesmart with weather and travel apps to get real-time information sent to your phone. For example, if the forecast changes in your destination city, the Bluesmart app can then send you a reminder to pack a raincoat for your trip.
There’s nothing like a cool piece of new technology with the promise to change the world around us. Though sometimes we’d settle for an innovation that just makes the journey a little less hectic. The Bluesmart designers say they hope to begin selling their product to the public at large by July 2015, just in time for next year’s summer travels.
Learn more about the Bluesmart on their Indiegogo page and watch a demo below.