What if you could track your luggage no matter where it was anywhere in the world? What if the next time an airline loses your bag, you’re able to tell the representatives exactly where your bag is? Or, say it’s lost among a heap of misplaced bags at the airport; what if you could pinpoint where your luggage is before anyone else? There’s no need to dream, you may soon be able to track your luggage right from any connected device, and AT&T showed us an early prototype recently. It’s amazing.
During a showcase in New York City, we were able to check out several ideas that AT&T’s engineers are working on behind the scenes. AT&T has an initiative for its employees called The Initiative Pipeline, or TIP for short, where employees can submit ideas and concepts. Other employees then vote on the suggestions and, eventually, the most promising ones are selected for development at one of AT&T’s five foundries. AT&T has several projects that it’s testing, some are more enterprise-focused while others, like the smart luggage, may one day end up in the hands of consumers.
So what exactly is AT&T’s vision for smart luggage?
We checked out two prototypes that were created by AT&T’s engineers. The luggage basically has built-in 3G and GPS radios that allow your suitcase to stay connected to the Internet no matter where it is, even in international countries where AT&T has global roaming agreements. You can keep track of your suitcase’s every move using a basic HTML5 website that AT&T built, too. If you land in Cincinatti and can’t find your luggage, for example, simply bring up the app. You might learn that it’s still on the tarmac, or you might see that your luggage didn’t make the transfer back in New York, and you can start to plan accordingly.
Since your luggage is always connected, you can also identify it easier among other bags. In the “heap” situation I mentioned in the introduction, you could turn on a strobe light from the smart luggage app, which then starts to flash a blue light on the bag. It might scare airport personnel, AT&T certainly has some roadblocks there, we imagine, but you’ll be able to find your bag faster than anyone else.
Speaking of roadblocks, AT&T admitted that there’s some work to be done. First, there’s no guarantee this will ever become a product that you and I can buy, but that’s certainly the goal. Second, AT&T will likely have to charge for the service, so you’ll need to pay a monthly bill for connected luggage, or add it to your mobile share plan. Can you imagine that?
Also, the luggage requires power, so you’ll have to plug in your suitcase. Sounds weird to us, but AT&T said it’s possible to make simple connected modules that you just toss in your bag instead. The prototype right now has about 3-4 days of battery life; that’s good, but not good enough just yet.
Another boundary: AT&T will need approval from the FAA to put connected bags inside of cargo holds of airplanes. The company said it’s already working with the right folks to get this started, and that other companies already offer connected devices that are approved for that sort of thing. Can you imagine a flight attendant asking to make sure your luggage is in airplane mode?
You can check out some pictures of the early application and the first prototype bags that AT&T has created in the gallery above. Again, there’s no definite plans to bring this to market, so we have no idea what connected luggage might cost in the end, but it’s amazing to see the kinds of things that can be connected to a network.