Losing your luggage is a major headache. Finding (and fighting over) power outlets in the airport terminal isn't fun, either. The good news is you can now squash both problems with one purchase, thanks to a number of "smart luggage" startups that popped up in 2015. Today, another company called Raden joins the fray with the announcement (and release) of what is the most slickly-designed smart suitcase yet.
The "A Series" suitcase comes in two sizes (one for carry-on and one for checking), and is available for purchase online or at Raden's pop-up shop in Manhattan's SoHo district. There's a 22-inch-tall version that should fit in most carry-on bins, weighs 7.5 pounds, and costs $295. There's also a 28-inch model, which is the kind of luggage you'll have to check — it weighs 11.2 pounds when empty, and costs $395. (Raden is also selling them together for $595 — cheaper than some of the single options available last year.) Both come in a variety of colors and have a TSA-approved lock, a telescoping handle, and four double-spinner wheels.
Of course, you can find dozens of neatly-designed suitcases at these sizes for the same price or much cheaper. The draw here is the set of smart features, which Raden founder Josh Udashkin thinks will his company (and others like it) disrupt the luggage industry.
"The truth is, and I don’t want to say this arrogantly, luggage is such a fucked category," Udashkin says. "Samsonite makes such a shitty product that it’s not even that difficult to think smarter than them. There’s no innovation."
Raden's innovations aren't revolutionary, but the connected features do make a lot of sense. To start, there's a weight sensor in the suitcase's handle that lets you weigh your luggage. You just lift up and look at the companion app for the measurement; the app can even tell you if you're nearing the limit for whatever airline you're flying. Then there are two USB ports for charging your devices. Those are powered by a removable battery that's integrated into the interior of the suitcase. (That way you can charge up your devices without the luggage, and it also means you don't have to plug the suitcase into the wall.) Finally, a Bluetooth radio in the suitcase connects to the Raden app and tells you when you've left your luggage behind, or — in some circumstances — where the suitcase is if you've lost it.
Raden's not event the first company to go this far with the idea of smart luggage — Away and Indiegogo success Bluesmart began selling their own versions earlier this year. Both of those companies offer products similar to what Udashkin has created, and so the Raden luggage falls somewhere in the middle ground of this new category.
The A Series' 7,800 mAh battery isn't as big as the 10,000 mAh behemoth found in the suitcases being sold by Away or BlueSmart. At $225, Away's carry-on sized suitcase is the cheapest, but its only notable feature are its USB charging ports. Bluesmart's luggage is about $100 more expensive than Raden's, but it takes the idea of smart luggage a few steps further. For instance, you can lock and unlock your luggage with the Bluesmart app, and Apple Watch compatibility is supposedly on the way. Bluesmart suitcases even have built-in 3G and GPS radios to keep track of your luggage at all times, and the company struck a deal with Telefonica so that customers won't have to pay for that data connection.
Raden, on the other hand, relies on a mesh network to tell you where your luggage is. If your suitcase is not in Bluetooth range, the Raden app can still give you an idea of where it is — but only if there are other people around you using Raden's app or luggage. That means you shouldn't expect to never lose a Raden suitcase — even the company admits that a sort of critical mass is required before the feature is entirely useful.
Beyond the features, Udashkin believes his company's advantage will be the overall experience. He thinks of Raden not as a "gadget business" — like the ones you'd find peddling one-off products in SkyMall, Brookstone, or even on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, he says — but a hardware company that sticks around for a while. "Our ambition is to be among those great hardware companies," he says. "Your Apples, your Fitbits, your Dysons. Companies that make really amazing appliances and electronics that really have amazing customer experiences."
The suitcase, the app, and the experience have all been carefully designed
To that end, the Raden app also offers a few features that frequent travelers will enjoy. The app can tell you how long it will take you to get to the airport, how long the TSA line will be when you get there, and what the weather is like at your destination. You can even call an Uber right from the app. Eventually, when Raden is generating enough user data, the app will grow a social component, with users unlocking location-based badges and stickers.
Udashkin says he wants Raden to "be everything transit," essentially taking care of all that's involved on both the hardware and software side of how customers get from point A to point B. To do that, the company will need to attract an entire customer base. That's no easy task — most of us already have go-to apps for travel, and the most enticing problem that Raden is trying to solve — lost luggage — is a problem that Bluesmart's suitcase might be more immediately equipped to handle.
Raden's suitcases are attractive, and the handful of smart features available at launch are sure to attract both weary travelers and early adopters. If all goes well, the company's connected luggage should be able to make traveling become just a little less of a chore. But whether or not Raden succeeds, it won't be the last connected suitcase we see.