Flying is already stressful enough before factoring in the possibility that your checked luggage might end up at the wrong destination or just disappear without a trace. That’s why I generally prefer to cram as much as possible into a carry-on bag and skip the process entirely, but one new Kickstarter project may finally convince me to check my luggage the next time I get on a plane.
Smart Unit is a GSM-connected gadget that can give you peace of mind the next time you travel. Just sync up with the app on your smartphone, stick it in your luggage and you’re good to go. The slim cellular brick will let you keep tabs on your bag, and even let you know when it arrives at baggage claim. Oh, and it looks pretty too.
The first question I had after coming across Smart Unit was how it could be legal. After all, we’re still required to switch our smartphones to airplane mode, so how is it alright to travel with GSM-connected luggage? Luckily, the company has a solution thanks to some clever patented technology that automatically turns off the SIM card between takeoff and landing.
Ok fine, but what about battery life? Smart Unit lasts a full week on a single charge. That should be plenty of time to track your bag down if it gets lost. Just don’t forget to juice up the night before your flight.
As for the SIM card, it comes free with the device and includes a year of service at no charge. Afterwards, you’ll need to pay $2 per month, though this only covers 18 location requests per year. After that you’ll be charged 50 cents each time you search for your bag using the Smart Unit app.
That app, by the way, does way more than just tell you where your luggage went. If you’re at the airport and someone tries to walk away with your bag you’ll get a notification on your smartphone. You’ll also get an alert if someone even opens your bag. You can also share Smart Unit with a friend by simply creating a new “sub user” on your smartphone. and loaning them the device. For now, the app is available on Android or iOS, with a Windows Phone version in the works.
If you’re interested you can pre-order Smart Unit for as little as $59 through the early bird special, which comes in blue, orange or red and ships in March; there’s also a special edition Kickstarter green model, priced at $139. If want more than one you can grab two units for $149 or 10 for $500, though they won’t ship until June.
As far as we can see, there doesn’t seem to be any real risk here, though unexpected delays are always a possibility. Still, research and development are done, the app is ready, and the first units should be complete by the end of the month. For now this looks like the best way to get some peace of mind the next time you check your bags at the airport, at least until AT&T’s smart luggage finally hits the market.