Nearly three hours had passed before the realization finally hit me: I left my carry-on in the trunk of the taxi that drove me home from the airport. My laptop, my clothes and everything else I had stuffed into my little Tumi suitcase were no longer in my possession and I had no idea if my belongings would ever be returned to me. I can’t even imagine the look of panic that must have washed over my face.
Thankfully, I got lucky that time. I was the driver’s last fare of the evening and the cab company found my bag in the trunk of his car. But not everyone is so lucky. Baggage loss and theft have always been huge problems in airports, hotels and elsewhere. But as it turns out, there is a solution — and it’s sleeker and more stylish than you might imagine.
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OK seriously, where does it end?
It seems like anything and everything is connected these days, with “smart” features being added to everything from lamps and pencils to toasters and even gardening equipment. Of course, some product categories stand to benefit a bit more than others from smart features like connectivity and app control, and it turns out luggage is a category that benefits far more than I thought it would.
Yes, I was a bit skeptical when I first heard about Bluesmart and its crowdfunding campaign back in 2014, but today I’m a believer.
Bluesmart raised $2.2 million for its first connected carry-on, and it has since shipped more than 21,000 units in 40 different countries. It’s hard to argue that the bag has been anything but a success on all fronts, though the company’s first model — the $449 Bluesmart One — does have some shortcomings. To address those shortcomings, the company has launched a new limited-edition model called the Bluesmart Black Edition.
First things first — why does a carry-on need to be “smart”?
Bluesmart’s bags pack four main selling points, the first being location tracking. Using the accompanying Bluesmart app, One and Black Edition bag owners can pinpoint their bag’s location in a matter of minutes. The location tracking doesn’t just use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth proximity like all those little tag products you see everywhere, it uses cellular triangulation.
Each bag includes a SIM card and a 3G radio. Through a partnership with Telefonica that includes all of the carrier’s roaming agreements, the bags can be located just about anywhere. Best of all, the service is completely free. Bluesmart said that may change some day but if it does, it will only change for new purchases — anyone who already owns a Bluesmart bag will continue to enjoy free location tracking for life.
The second big selling point is a built-in 10,400 mAh battery and a USB port that lets you charge your smartphone, tablet, eBook reader or any other device by plugging it into your carry-on. Then there’s a built-in scale that lets you weigh your bag simply by picking it up and choosing the weight function in the app.
Finally, Bluesmart bags have a very cool remote locking feature.
When your carry-on is at your side, there’s often no reason to lock it. When it leaves your side it’s a different story though, and in the event of a theft there’s obviously no time to stop and lock your bag. With Bluesmart’s proximity locking enabled, your bag will lock itself automatically when it moves too far away from your phone. This prevents snooping and slows thieves down or stops them completely in the event someone steals your bag.
You can also lock and unlock the bag on command with one tap in the app.
As for the differences between the One model and the new Black Edition, it’s all about design and style. The Black Edition looks and feels much more high-end, though the One sports a nice design as well. The Black Edition is in a different league though, and it’s easily on par with Tumi bags.
The casing itself is “Class A Makrolon Polycarbonate,” which is a fancy way of saying that it’s the same firm and durable plastic found on comparable bags. The front of the case features a strong and stylish gray felt material that locks over the zippers so the bag cannot be opened by anyone unless they have your smartphone or a TSA key.
Bluesmart’s new Black Edition bag also features redesigned wheels that are nice and smooth.
Inside, we find the bag’s one shortcoming compared to many comparable carry-ons: it’s not very spacious. There are a few pockets and I had just enough room for a three-day trip this past weekend, but I only packed casual clothes and didn’t need a suit. The bag doesn’t have any expansion option either — no unzipping for more space.
If you can make do with 34 liters of packing volume along with a 15-inch laptop compartment, the Bluesmart Black Edition is as sleek and stylish as it gets. Add on the smart features and you’ve got a great product that addresses real needs and tackles true pain points surrounding travel. And no one will complain about the prospect of removing a few paint points from travel.
The Bluesmart Black Edition is available beginning this week for $549 and will be sold exclusively at the MoMA Design Store and Bluesmart’s website.