Ban on Built-In Lithium Spells Trouble for Smart Luggage Makers
Bluesmart Inc., one of the world’s first smart luggage makers, has gone out of business following an airline-wide ban on suitcases with built-in lithium batteries. The ban should not have come as a surprise to manufacturers – lithium batteries were at fault in the Samsung Note 7 explosions of 2016-2017. Airline officials feared the batteries might ignite in cargo compartments where it is difficult to detect fires until too late.
The bags designed by New York-based Bluesmart Inc. used built-in lithium batteries to power GPS connectivity that let owners track their bags anywhere by using cellphone reception. The Bluesmart bags also included a digital device charger, an auto-locking mechanism, as well as a scale to weigh bags pre-flight. Consumers loved the idea of a smart suitcase to make travel easier. The campaign received more than $2 million in funding from a crowdfunding campaign. Unfortunately, Bluesmart is offering little in the way of customer service following their sale of intellectual rights to the company Travelpro. The company has said it will not be honouring its warrant and will not respond to customers seeking to return or replace Bluesmart products.
Bluesmart Will Not Honour Its Warranty
“After exploring all the possible options for pivoting and moving forward, the company was finally forced to wind down its operations and explore disposition options, unable to continue operation as an independent entity,” the company said on its website.
Delta is just one of a slew of airlines to reign in the smart luggage trend. American Airlines, Delta, Southwest, United, JetBlue, Air Canada, LATAM, Lufthansa, British Airways, KLM, and Air France require passengers to remove the battery from smart luggage before checking them. Delta is currently the only airline that requires the batteries to be removed when they’re brought aboard as carry-on luggage as well.
Business As Usual For Other Smart Bag Manufacturers
Other luggage makers have been able to adapt to the new airline regulations. Bluesmart’s erred in making its battery so difficult to remove. To remove the battery from Bluesmart bags, you need to remove four screws and unplug three wires – a hassle even in ideal conditions. Other smart-luggage makers are still in business because their lithium batteries are easily removed. However, these other luggage makers such as Raden, Samsara, Away, and Rimona find themselves marketing a product with limited functionality. Without batteries, many of the bag’s features, such as GPS tracking, do not work.
The goal of smart luggage is to provide real time tracking and proximity detection which allows owners to find lost or stolen luggage and enables a security self-locking mechanism. Smart suitcases and carry-on bags work in conjunction with a mobile phone. If the luggage and phone move outside of a certain range, the locking mechanism will enable and alerts will be sent to a users cell phone.
While removing the battery before check-in is certainly a deterrent to would-be smart bag owners, there are a host of travel scenarios in which the smart features of the luggage still shine. In between the house and check-in, and post-landing and a hotel, smart luggage offers consumers peace of mind.