by James A. Martin

3 ways to transform a carry-on bag into smart luggage

Feb 28, 2017
Consumer ElectronicsMobileMobile Apps

Smart luggage is cool, but it often costs $300 and up — and why buy it if you love your current bag? Instead, add some tracking smarts to your bag with one of these three products.

Do you have smart luggage envy? If so, buy a Bluesmart ($449 to $599) or Raden ($295 to $395). But if you still love your Briggs & Riley or other “dumb” suitcase, worry not. There are at least three ways to give your existing bag some smarts, at least when it comes to tracking it.

1. Get a GPS tracker

Smart luggage typically offers electronic tracking, helping you locate a missing or stolen bag on a map. Usually, tracking is done via Bluetooth, because GPS can be a battery hog. By comparison, Bluetooth tracking sips battery power but enables you to locate a bag only within Bluetooth range, which is usually 330 feet or less.

Even so, there are GPS trackers worth considering, including Trackimo, which currently retails for $100 on Amazon. The device, which has received positive reviews from the likes of Tom’s Guide, is small and transmits location info over GSM cellular networks, which means you can track the device’s location just about anywhere on the globe.

Tom’s Guide’s reviewer got nearly a week of standby time from Trackimo, though another product, Spytec GL300, lasted longer. (I’ve not tested either Trackimo or Spytec.)  Though Spytec’s device is only $70, its monthly service is $25/month, compared to Trackimo’s $5/month  — after one free year of service.

FYI: Trackimo also sells a 3G GPS tracker, $140 on Amazon. 

2. Add a Bluetooth tracker

I’ve tested multiple Bluetooth trackers, and my favorite remains Tile, which offers the best combination of easy-to-use app, relatively large user base (which can passively help you locate missing items beyond Bluetooth range), and reliable products. For a bag or suitcase, I’d go with Tile Mate, as it’s the louder of Tile’s current trackers. (Neither are as loud as Chipolo Plus, but Tile’s user community is larger, which might come in handy).

3. Add a ‘smart’ identification tag

Some travelers don’t like the idea of having their contact info clearly visible on a luggage tag. If you identify with that unease, eBags’ Connected Tag is for you.

ebags eBags

The plastic tags have a QR code on the back. Using eBags’ mobile app, add your contact details, take a photo of your bag (optional), and scan the QR code. If your bag goes AWOL, a good Samaritan can scan the QR code to discover your contact info. Or they can type the tag’s URL into a web browser. Either way, the Connected Tags are easy to set up, and they only cost $5.