The Rise of the Smart Suitcase
8 December 2016
Author: Vesta Zemaite
We live in the most connected generation yet; with world travel more accessible than ever and our whole lives organised with a touch of a smartphone. So with consumers spending more than ever on experiences and placing increased importance on technology, the luxury luggage market is about to take off.
Not just beautifully crafted and stylish, a new generation of travel companions are redefining the category and bringing it into the digital age. The most exciting industry innovation since the wheeled suitcase rolled into our lives in the 1970’s, these intelligent travel solutions will streamline each journey with features like self check in, integrated scales, GPS tracking and even charging facilities; adding value for today’s tech-savvy, well travelled consumer.
Both established companies and startups have sparked an investment injection as they pursue the potential within this sector where opportunities outweigh opposition. Having recently purchased a $640 million, 80% share in iconic luggage brand Rimowa, luxury heavyweight LVMH isn't just interested in the brand’s heritage to secure their market share. They’re looking to the future with Rimowa’s patented electronic baggage tag technology. Having partnered with Lufthansa Airlines to launch this feature, a successful rollout could mean other airlines following suit, electronic tagging becoming the norm and a very lucrative investment for LVMH.
And following Samsonite’s $1.8 billion acquisition of Tumi earlier this year, the luggage giant has teamed with Samsung. Together they will create an entirely new line of smart cases that will help to maintain dominance in this sector. Forget that all too familiar anxiety at the baggage carousel, these cases will include GPS tracking and even alerts when a case leaves the plane, or is opened unexpectedly.
But some of the most exciting advances are coming from the smaller players. Without the restraints of bigger brands, they may have the potential to bring new innovation to the market more quickly. One such example is Dutch brand Fireflies. Their Power Suitcase has a built in USB charger to ensure no traveller is ever stranded with a flat phone battery. Powered by the rotation of the suitcase’s wheels this is not just a move toward convenience, but sustainability too.
So is this all just a short-lived marketing gimmick to drive sales, or the dawn of a new era in cases and indeed travel? With brands like LVMH, Samsonite and Samsung all investing in this technology, early signs point to the smart suitcase being here to stay. However a positive perception is key to its longevity; these cases will carry a luxury price tag and must therefore add real value for the traveller. Brands need to be mindful of not racing to market too quickly with a less than exceptional product. Equally important is a well thought out product development plan to ensure the smart case remains exciting and relevant as technology progresses.
And just like catwalk trends filter through to high street mannequins, elements of the smart suitcase may well become standard. Greater research and wider adoption will surely pave the way to more cost effective technology and accessibility; we could be looking any the iPhone of the luggage world.