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Tomorrow's suitcases are full of tricks

For business and and tourism travelers alike, managing suitcases remains one of the major inconveniences of long distance travel. It implies organizational constraints that are often fastidious, and considerable loss of time that gets in the way of fully benefiting from the trip upon arrival. In order to remedy this situation, many technological innovations offer practical and original solutions to facilitate this stage of travel and allow professionals to improve the the travelers.

Increasingly connected baggage

During travel, baggage management is a stress factor for many travelers, both novices and seasoned. So it is natural to see initiatives develop to help ensure they arrive at their destination. BibeliB has invented protection for baggage that includes a traceability system. Not only does this case protect suitcases from damage and humidity, it is designed to washable and ecological – unlike the plastic wrap that may often be found on the airport conveyor belts. Its primary innovation nonetheless remains the "Lost & Found" concept made possible by the traceability system that comes with 500€ baggage insurance. Innovative and useful for any traveler, BibeliB's suitcase protector could be commercialized by dispensers in hotels.

Tile's Bluetooth system has the same purpose. Presented in the form of a small, easily transportable square, it may be attached to a suitcase, telephone or key chain. This compact gadget records the object's last location, even allowing it's owner to locate it remotely - for a relatively modest price of 25 dollars each. If the object it is on is misplaced the Tile can be programed and even send a message or make a very loud noise.

Many startups have developed similar initiatives: in addition to tracking, the connected suitcase by Bluesmart also makes it possible to record data and charge other devices thanks to an autonomous battery. The Trunkster prototype also has this type of battery and even incorporates a scale in order to  weigh the baggage directly, in addition it has an automated opening system with no zipper.

Samsung and Samsonite went even further by perfecting a piece of luggage that cannot only be located remotely, but also moves around autonomously. The security question remains however: to what extent is suitcase independence compatible with the security imperatives that are specific to airports?

With this multiplication of innovations and possibilities offered by technology, transportation professionals are also involved. Airbus thus developed the "Bag2Go" baggage concept, which is outfitted with an RFID microchip that makes it possible to check on the bag via mobile. This microchip, which is compatible with check-in systems at airports, offers travelers personalized advice to facilitate formalities while traveling. Thus, at the airport many changes ought to take place in the years to come: the boarding ticket and ID tag on baggage will be directly linked starting from check-in, while automation of the itinerary is already considerably reinforced in order to facilitate transfers.

Finally, many services, such as the British company, make it possible to ship luggage to most destinations worldwide, and schedule the reception date. They allow the traveler to travel with the strict minimum and avoid costly baggage supplements applied by airlines. This is particularly useful for students (during foreign study programs) and expatriates as it eliminates a number of frustrations related to long-term travel. It is particularly interesting for hotel guests traveling with bulky luggage, such as sports equipment (golf clubs, ski equipment, bicycles...), and musical instruments...

Automation of luggage services at hotels?

Hospitality professionals are also directly concerned by luggage management: many travelers find themselves helpless when their airport arrival and departure times do not coincide with those of hotel check-in and check-out. What alternatives are there to replace classic luggage arrangements?

The hotel chain Yotel made a sensation with its futurist baggage system that uses a mechanical arm to store a guest's luggage prior to check-in and after check-out. While this original initiative got a lot of attention and raised brand awareness, the practical interest of it is questionable as the guest still has to wait for the room to free up, and a human baggage check person is perfectly capable of doing the same job.

At the Henn-na Hotel, the first automated Japanese hotel, machines help guests carry guests' bags to their room upon arrival. The Henn-na Hotel also has a storage service using mechanical arms; unfortunately this is not-complementary to the previously mentioned service. Thus there are certain technical limits to this advanced automation pushed to the extreme, that is very often limited to an original offer rather than a veritable revolution in the hotel industry. In the same way, many travelers want personal and individual contact before or after a long trip - quite the opposite of the innovations offered by these hotels.

An even more significant advancement in development would be to find a means to transfer baggage from the hotel to the airport using some kind of certified delivery system that could also take care of baggage check-in. The traveler wouldn't need to do any more than go through the doors of the terminal at the airport, saving time by eliminating the need to pick up luggage at the hotel and go through check-in personally.

Much progress remains to be made to facilitate baggage management throughout travel, from front door to boarding at the airport and right to the hotel. Nonetheless, these initiatives show that ideas are taking shape among travel professionals and in the hotel industry in order to allow everyone to travel lighter... at least in spirit.

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