Connected suitcase brands are disrupting the global luggage industry, by giving the old school suitcase a much-needed tech upgrade.
As anyone who has ever inherited their parents’ old suitcases knows, luggage hasn’t undergone much change over the years. Aside from the addition of wheels at one point and a collapsible towing handle at another, you could depend on a suitcase’s general functionality to stay the same.
The lack of advancement in luggage wasn’t lost on Josh Udashkin, founder and CEO of smart baggage brand Raden. After all, the former lawyer and wholesale developer for Aldo lived out of his suitcase regularly as he traveled for business. “During these experiences, I was constantly thinking about and, frankly, astounded by the lack of innovation in design and technology,” Udashkin tells The Venture.
So in 2014, Udashkin left his job at Aldo and spent the next two years building Raden, a company redefining travel with stylish, connected luggage, using embedded technology to streamline the airport experience.
Making Travel Easy
Developed with today’s plugged-in passenger in mind, the company’s smart suitcase and companion app offers services that make travel smooth sailing. Constructed from lightweight and durable Makrolon polycarbonate, the bags are currently available in seven colors and two sizes—a 22-inch carry-on and a 28-inch check-in model, which retails for US $295 and $395, respectively.
Among the smart features: an integrated scale that tells you the weight of your luggage—and how much you’ll be charged in overage fees—just by picking it up; a removable, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) compliant battery pack and exterior ports that charge your devices on the go; and built-in proximity sensors that alert you when your bag is coming down the carousel at baggage claim.
“I purposely hand-picked a team of industrial designers that have a background in consumer electronics. They were able to give a fresh, modern-day perspective,” Udashkin explains of how he determined which bells and whistles to incorporate into the final product.
The app can also give users current weather conditions, TSA wait times, traffic alerts and real-time flight details, as well as customer service support through a live chat feature.
The Future of Travel
Raden is the newest entry in what appears to be a travel-gear revolution in recent years. The company, which closed a US $3.5 million seed round in June 2015, joins other smart luggage brands on the market, including Away, Bluesmart and Trunkster. The latter two launched their products with support from hugely successful and popular crowdfunding campaigns.
For those seeking a bag-tracking option that doesn’t require buying entirely new luggage sets, there’s Trakdot. Just pack the 3-inch-wide locator device along with the rest of your things and you’ll be notified of your bag’s location via the mobile app shortly after landing at your destination.
“There are only a couple of companies that make up the $40 billion luggage industry,” Udashkin says. “These big brands are feeling too comfortable with their place in the industry with so little competition. I wanted to upend that idea.”
It seems Raden and other tech-savvy startups have successfully motivated the baggage industry’s old guard to keep pace with the evolving state of travel. In 2015, luggage veteran Samsonite debuted its line of GeoTrakR suitcases with cellular-enabled tracking. Last year, French luggage maker Delsey also released a prototype of its connected suitcase and corresponding app, called Pluggage.
Delivering Peace of Mind
As for Raden, Udashkin plans to keep refining the app, especially the social components, which he says will generate even more accurate location awareness and timely travel updates as the network of Raden users grows. “It’ll be travelers helping travelers,” he explains.
They’re also working on “game-ifying” the travel experience, letting customers unlock location-based badges and stickers they can apply to their cases, “like stamps on a passport,” he adds.
With the world becoming increasingly connected, it makes sense that travelers will want their gear connected as well. This new wave of travel tech maximizes convenience and eases the hassles associated with long journeys. “The typical hassles associated with travel like long lines, delays, and lost luggage will hopefully become obsolete,” Udashkin explains. But what else is on the horizon? “We’ll be able to handle everything right from the convenience of our phones.”
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