10 'smart luggage' options for tech-savvy travelers

It's still the early days of 'smart luggage' and connected baggage, but these 10 technologically enhanced travel tools suggest the future is bright for tech-savvy roadwarriors.

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The best 'smart luggage'

Luggage is long overdue for some serious innovation. The last big breakthrough — wheeled suitcases — rolled out in 1970. Crowdfunded startups and established luggage companies seem to have suddenly realized the market opportunity, and they are adding Wi-Fi hot spots, Bluetooth, SIM cards, GPS and built-in batteries to their products.

One of the most tantalizing promises of "smart luggage" is the potential to track bags throughout your journeys, in case a parcel goes AWOL. These new luggage tracking systems are generally designed to shut down when your bag is stored onboard a plane and then turn on again upon landing, to meet regulations that govern the use of wireless technology during flights.

It's too soon to tell if self-tracking luggage is just a gimmick or a true travel breakthrough, because few of these futuristic bags are publicly available. Still, it may be prudent to wait a few months before you buy your next bag … just in case.

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Stay connected with Bluesmart Carry-On

Bluesmart is a smart luggage startup that's generating a lot of buzz. The U.S. company raised more than $2 million from more than 10,000 funders on Indiegogo. The Bluesmart Carry-On, due in December 2015, is an "international-sized" suitcase (21.5 x 14 x 9 inches) that reportedly has a built-in, global 3G SIM card from Telefonica; GPS; and Bluetooth, so you can track its location using a mobile app if your bag is lost. Bluesmart's mobile app uses the bag's internal scale to tell you how much your packed bag weighs, to help avoid excess weight charges. There's also an exterior pocket for easy laptop access, as well as a built-in charger for gadgets. Pre-orders currently cost $339, but will rise to $450 at launch. [ Find it on Amazon *What’s this?* ]

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Trunkster: More tech, fewer zippers

Trunkster, another U.S. startup that already raised more than $1.3 million from 3,566 Kickstarter backers, offers bags with built-in digital scales, batteries for recharging two USB devices, and GPS tracking. The bags also have a unique and unconventional feature: a complete lack of zippers. Instead, Trunkster's bags feature "sliding doors," similar to the ones on old-fashioned roll top desks, to provide easy access to your stuff. Two Trunkster bags will be available this fall: a carry-on (pre-orders cost $325) and a larger "checked" bag ($350). Or you can buy them both for $650. Trunkster doesn't have cellular connectivity, however, and GPS costs an additional $40.

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Boost your travel intelligence with Andiamo iQ

Andiamo, a division of 24-7 International, unveiled its smart bag earlier this year at a travel goods show, though it won't be available until the fall. Called the iQ, the four-wheeled suitcase has its own Wi-Fi hotspot, a USB battery charger, removable power pack, built-in digital scale, and a remote lock or unlock feature, which works with a mobile app. You can also get text messages whenever the bag moves away from you (up to 98 feet) or comes toward you, such as when it's on a baggage carousel. iQ is expected to retail for $600.

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Delsey wants your input for Pluggage smart bags

Paris-based Delsey is currently seeking input on the features travelers want most in its upcoming "Pluggage" line of smart bags, which are due by mid-2016. Among the contenders: fingerprint ID, which locks and unlocks your suitcase; the ability to check your app at any time to ensure the bag is still locked; interior lighting, so the contents of your bag are easy to see in dark conditions; notifications when your bag is loaded onto a plane; and an internal speaker. The company hasn't released any official pricing details, though a 24-inch model may cost around $600, according to The New York Times.

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Space Case 1 is all-in-one smart bag, personal concierge

Planet Traveler USA's Space Case 1 has raised more $378,000 from 923 backers on Kickstarter. The smart bag will have many of the same features as other smart luggage, including cellular-enabled "global" tracking; a mobile app; biometric fingerprint ID for authentication; a built-in scale; and a power bank for recharging devices. It also has a Bluetooth speaker and microphone for "integrated hands-free calling," a security alarm to guard against "unexpected separation," and a 10-year warranty. And, perhaps best of all, you get access to a "personal concierge" via the associated app, which provides details on flight status, gate numbers, hotel reservations and more. The bag is expected to be available in multiple colors in November for between $600 and $800.

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Fugu bags offer low-tech adaptability

Fugu's upcoming expandable luggage promises to adapt to all of your travel needs. Compared to the other suitcases in this roundup, Fugu's is decidedly low-tech — it has no tracking features, for instance. What it lacks in gadgetry, it (potentially) makes up for in innovation. Fugu's suitcase can inflate via a built-in pump from carry-on to full-size bag. And it has "shelves" designed to make it easier to organize and access your belongings. Fugu's suitcase will come in multiple colors when it ships in December. Pre-order prices range from $225 to $399, and the bags are available with multiple accessories, including a laptop case.

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Thinkstock (Thinkstock)

Samsonite, Samsung collaborate on smart luggage lineup

Veteran luggage maker Samsonite is collaborating with Samsung to develop smart luggage that's "more than a gimmick," according to Samsonite CEO Ramesh Tainwala, who spoke to the U.K.'s Daily Mail. In addition to bag-tracking tech, Samsonite's smart bags will send owners alerts if they're are opened. Samsonite is working on "self-propelled" luggage that automatically trails its owner at a distance of six inches — no more pushing a heavy bag. The company is also building a bag that checks itself in at airports, as part of a partnership with the airlines Emirates, Lufthansa and KLM Air France. Finally, Samsonite's GeoTrackR line, due sometime this year, will feature a LugLoc tracking system.

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LugLoc's simple baggage tracking

(Editor's note: This slide has been updated to add a comment from LugLoc. Changes are marked in bold below.)

While the majority of smart luggage is still on the horizon, you can buy a LugLoc today for $70. Using a combination of GSM cellular network connectivity and Bluetooth LE, as well as a mobile app for Android and iOS, LugLoc slips into your bag and promises to help track your luggage. The first 15 days, or "traces," are free; after that, it's pay per use, with no subscription required. LugLoc has its skeptics, however. From a TripAdvisor user: "As we all know, it's very hard to get a good signal on either GPS or mobile/cellphone type devices when they are underground or surrounded by lots of concrete and steel. Oh, wait, I've just described the baggage sorting area of an airport terminal." That's just one review, but the writer has a point. However, LugLoc says its product does not require GPS, only a GSM network connection, which "exists on every underground tunnel from every airport around the world, since that system is used by airlines to communicate with their personnel," according to the company.

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Trakdot luggage tracker

Like LugLoc, Trakdot is a device you insert into your bag that uses GPS and accelerometer technologies, and a mobile app, to help you keep tabs on your checked luggage. Each Trakdot costs $50 and requires a $20 annual service fee. Amazon.com reviewers give Trakdot an average of 4.4 of 5 stars, though some people dinged it for poor instructions and for being difficult to use.

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Vision Air Podpal embraces your tablet

Though it doesn't pack any tech of its own, Vision Air's 22-inch, four-wheel Podpal carry-on has a curious tech amenity: a slot to hold your tablet, in either portrait or landscape modes. Gimmick? Could be; we weren't able to find any user reviews. If you have a long layover and a Bluetooth keyboard, the carry-on could substitute as a makeshift desk or entertainment center, coupled with Bluetooth headphones. The bag currently costs $130 on LuggageOnline, among other retailers. And Vision Air also makes a rolling suitcase with a built-in cup holder. The future is now!