back to article A black box for your SUITCASE: Now your lost luggage can phone home – quite literally

Trakdot is a little device you hide in your suitcase so that if an airline loses your luggage, you can, in theory, find it. Inside is a SIM card with a global roaming agreement, and the necessary electronics to connect to GSM mobile networks. As the aeroplane trundles down the runway, the gadget uses an accelerometer to detect …

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  1. MrT

    No coverage in Italy?

    I know it's an old story, but when Heathrow Terminal 5 was a baby, British Airways ended up with a huge amount of lost luggage; they sent the lot to Milan for sorting...

    1. LarsG

      Having been a victim

      Having been a victim of lost luggage on a short break to Greece, my luggage holidayed somewhere in Spain for 5 days before being returned to me the day before my break ended, it would have made no difference to me knowing where my bag was. I still didn't have the bag.

      On the plus side there was the compensation...... Paid for the holiday and a few new items of clothes.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No coverage in Italy?

      They will be banned... Eventually.

      Terrorists could adapt them and there is also the question of a live electrical device in the hold. Lithium Ion battery anyone?

      1. d3vy Silver badge

        Re: No coverage in Italy?

        Really?

        So we will be banning laptops too? and phones?

        The "Terrorists could adapt them" is ridiculous there are loads of things that a terrorist could adapt into a weapon.. including a 100ml tube of toothpaste (Allowed on board) to contain pretty much any flammable substance...

        Lets leave the attempts at panic building to the daily mail?

  2. stu 4
    WTF?

    Why?

    I'm struggling to see what possible benefit knowing where it is gives you ?

    If it ain't in the baggage hall, WTF difference does it make where it is ? Do you think informing ryanair that your internal gadget has detected that your case is in rome will make them take action any quicker to get it back to stansted ?

    They should have made it more useful - a timer starts after the first SMS is sent. You inform airline that it is out of your control - unless the timer is reset by your fingerprint in 24 hours, the case will explode. that would get it back quick enough...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why?

      I'm struggling to see what possible benefit knowing where it is gives you ?

      This is the next psy-ops game to make surveillance be acceptable. Do you want to know where your partner is really going? Drop one in the luggage. "Oh sorry, forgot to take it out". Tracking a car? Ditto - this seems small enough to be kept in place with a strong magnet, and by making it a volume product it becomes cheap enough to make loss acceptable.

      In addition, as this is specifically designed to be locatable, there will be a 3rd party involved to translate tower signals into geographic data. Tap that provider and presto - personally identifiable location data for all, just in case the buggers switch it off in their mobile phones.

      The battle for privacy is not just fought with technology, the other challenge remains to make it acceptable to record every facet of our lives and it's interesting that this sort of stuff always seems to originate from US companies (ditto this one)..

      1. phuzz Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Why?

        If you're tracking your spouse's car, firstly, maybe there's something wrong with your relationship? And secondly, there's much more accurate GPS trackers available for less than £100.

        As long as you're not expecting them to leave the country it's probably a better bet than the luggage tracker, just search for "GPS tracker".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why?

          Certainly are... I have a small Garmin device - cost about £100 then £50 a year after the first year and provides your location (determined via GPS) and sends it to their servers over a data connection. Nice feature is it works across the UK and Europe I believe with no extra charges.

          It's pretty tiny - about the size of two packs of chewing gum and the battery can last days / weeks (depending on how often you want it to beam the location).

    2. Steve Knox

      Re: Why?

      They should have made it more useful - a timer starts after the first SMS is sent. You inform airline that it is out of your control - unless the timer is reset by your fingerprint in 24 hours, the case will explode. that would get it back quick enough...

      No, that will get it blown up by a bomb squad at whatever airport it's in, and you twenty or more years in the nick.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why?

        that will get it blown up by a bomb squad at whatever airport it's in

        On the bright side, you will at least know at which airport your luggage was by the column of smoke :). You're right, though, adding a timer means it's now AND equipped with an SMS trigger AND a timer failsafe. Oh, and it has GPS, so you trigger it on geo fencing as well.

        Come to think of it, even if you leave the timer out it seems almost designed as an explosives trigger :(

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: Why? @ "ban it" AC

          You need to look at Bruce Schneier's blog - his latest annual "movie-plot threat" competition has just been announced. With your imagination, you stand a good chance of winning ...

  3. Paul 87

    Given the preference for the use of a mobile phone or similar as a cheap remote detonation device, this thing will only guarentee to get your baggage seached at every single search

    1. LaeMing Silver badge

      They need to cross-promote...

      ...with the "Bomb-shaped-travel-alarm-clock" guys.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yep

      And while it's open anything worth nicking will be swiped, especially if you are flying through Joburg airport.

      1. Andrew Moore

        Re: Yep

        not only will it not stop thieving luggage handling scrotes, it won't stop the abuse they give your suitcase either.

      2. tony2heads

        Re: Yep

        Avoid Joburg at all costs! Fly direct to Cape Town

  4. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Alert

    Kiev airport, ten years ago...

    Nice lady in big green hat approaches, with clipboard.

    "Mr Barnes? I have good news and bad news. The good news is that you don't need to wait here for your luggage any longer... the bad news is it will be here tomorrow."

    Oddly enough, that's the only time my luggage hasn't arrived at the same time as me in thirty years of wombling all around the world, including a lot of the less salubrious places at times of crisis with chaps throwing bullets around.

    1. Tazbert

      Re: Kiev airport, ten years ago...

      Having been through Kiev airport 3 times recently, Air France now have a 100% success rate at losing my bag. 3 out of 3. Good Job! Given that the second time it disappeared for a month, I would actually be very interested to know where the 4 1/2 it went! I have a sneaky suspicion it has a lot more air miles than me...

  5. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    BWI could use this

    I used to live in Fort Meade, near the Baltimore Washington International airport (code BWI) in the USA (no, I don't work for the NSA) and luggage and freight was forever being lost and ending up in the British West Indies.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    useless

    so you don't get your luggage on arrival, but you do get to find out it's's half the world away, in Bogota, or Bogna Regis. Then you

    a) go to customer service / lost luggage desk where you TRY to explain to them, that you tracked it, and they need to contact their counterparts in... At which point they nod understandingly and ask you in more or less broken English (or not) to complete that lost-luggage form and shut the fuck up because there's a line of 245 other passengers behind you with a similar problem.

    b) call the lost luggage desk where your luggage has been identify to be at the moment... If only their number were available on any database.

    c) promptly bin the 79 squid box muttering something about old fools learning new tricks, and resignedly shuffle back to that line, by now 324 strong.

    1. tony2heads

      Re: useless

      Or Bologna, Boulogne...

      Actually had a colleague going to Bologna & the secretary booked Boulogne (she assumed it was a typo and did not know Bologna)..

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: useless

      "At which point they nod understandingly and ask you in more or less broken English (or not) to complete that lost-luggage form and shut the fuck up because there's a line of 245 other passengers behind you with a similar problem."

      Not if they're Ryanair, because they'll be hiding in their office, refusing to come out and face passengers (even when the airport manager demands it). That's how it happens at Stansted anyway.

      1. Graham Marsden
        Alert

        @Alan Brown Re: useless

        > Not if they're Ryanair, because they'll be hiding in their office, refusing to come out and face passengers

        Ah, but that's because you didn't pay the £50 extra charge for actually being able to *talk* to someone...

  7. Andrew Moore

    A solution looking for a problem?

    Why is the onus on me to know where my luggage is? I sure the airlines will love this- "Now sir, if you can tell us where the last location your suitcase told you it was, we will get it picked up for you... What, you don't have a locator in your suitcase? Then I'm afraid there's not much we can do for you..."

    1. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: Why is the onus on me to know where my luggage is?

      Thank you! Finally someone with something relevant to add to the so-called discussion.

      Why aren't these things placed on the luggage in tag-form by the people responsible for moving the luggage and finding it when they moved it to the wrong bloody place? That's the internet of everything at work. As it stands this is just another geek product with little real use.

      When you think of what some airlines charge to check a bag these days you'd think a time- and money- saver (as in the airlines' time and compensatory money) like this would be an idea they would want to develop. For one thing it would allow them to know which airport's baggage crews are posing the most liability and get something done about it all.

  8. Velv Silver badge
    Terminator

    Loving the negative comments.

    Think bigger picture.

    This is a perfect example of the Internet of everything, and is a stepping stone to everything being connected.

    SkyNet is not far away from self-awareness.

    1. Ted Treen
      Black Helicopters

      Self-awareness?

      I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that...

  9. John Dickson

    Happens to me

    I've lost count of how many times my luggage has gone missing. Always during transfer at an international hub. Not having to hang around the carousel for an hour or two would be an improvement.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Happens to me

      Not having to hang around the carousel for an hour or two would be an improvement.

      Ah, yes, that's the one bit that slows me down. I have only ever lost one suitcase, and that was addressed a day later, but it pisses me off that I can hammer through passport control at a personal best of 27 seconds (using biometrics, provided they weren't busy rebooting the damn thing), and then still have to wait 30 minutes for my luggage to show up :)

      1. browntomatoes

        Re: Happens to me

        27 seconds? I've done it in 5 seconds when IRIS used to work (I miss IRIS!). My personal best is probably less than one second though, in the days when all you had to do was flash the photo page and they waved you through.

        1. MrXavia

          Re: Happens to me

          Is IRIS gone? since having kids I had to stop using that...

          I miss using IRIS, it is was the way forward I think...

          1. browntomatoes

            Re: Happens to me

            Yep, sadly they shut it down last year due to costs apparently. It would have made much more sense to keep it open while charging say £100/year for the privilege. The best thing about it, really, was the fact that so few people were registered (and all of those were frequent travelers so could use the system very quickly/efficiently) which meant that there was almost never a queue for it. It was also much, much quicker than the new epassport readers (the human border agents are significantly quicker than those I find).

    2. dotdavid

      Re: Happens to me

      I can see your point; waiting around luggage carousels for luggage that never arrives does waste time. But this gadget might not even solve that problem if it is on the wrong flight and still in the air (and not transmitting) when you've landed.

    3. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Happens to me

      Only been separated from my luggage once in transit, and that was due to excellent service on the part of AirFrance (I know, not many people say that!). My flight from Manchester to Paris Charles de Gaulle* was delayed on the runway due to a technical problem on another plane (can't remember what it was). AF delayed the connection at CDG as long as they could, and there was a nice AF staff-member waiting for me (I was the only one catching the connection from Manchester) who took me through VIP gates etc to get on the flight. Unsurprisingly, my luggage didn't make it, but it was with me in Portofino before dinner. Horrible feeling, but good ending.

      * This was when I first started travelling for work. I have since learned a) don't *ever* let university travel agencies book your travel, b) there are few reasons to use connecting flights within Europe, c) if possible, don't put anything in the hold.

  10. alexbird
    Holmes

    But 3G does work

    I'd imagine that as my k800i, launched in 2006, worked perfectly in Japan, they could manage to include that technology in this device, 8 years later?

    1. hardboiledphil

      Re: But 3G does work

      They never said it doesn't - they don't have an agreement there with a provider for roaming in that country or Italy

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: But 3G does work

        The article specifically mentions Japan has no GSM coverage. By that, I think they mean GPRS/EDGE. It would make sense for the device to go low-tech to save battery (higher gen=higher drain) while it would make sense for Japan to drop old tech frequencies to make room for newer ones.

        Ergo, the thing uses tech too old for Japan.

      2. alexbird

        Re: But 3G does work

        The article stated there was no GSM in Japan. Seems like a crap excuse.

  11. Simon Harris Silver badge

    Wrong end!

    Surely what is needed is something that can tell when your luggage is about to be put on the wrong plane, rather than taken off it.

    How about a bluetooth (or wifi or similar) device that you can program with your flight number before you go, and a local transmitter fitted in each plane that does nothing but periodically broadcast its flight number while on the ground. If the two don't match then the device in the bag can sent out an alert and get the bag back on the right plane before it's too late.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Wrong end!

      The same thing will happen here that happens with those paper loops: they'll affix the wrong one to your suitcase and everyone will claim it went to Madrid because it was TAGGED for Madrid.

  12. Cucumber C Face
    Coat

    But is it waterproof ...

    .... to a depth of 5+ km?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But is it waterproof ...

      And a little further to the nearest cell tower....

  13. Longrod_von_Hugendong
    Angel

    Too the all the why questions...

    Go and watch 'baggage battles' then you will see why.

    1. browntomatoes

      Re: Too the all the why questions...

      Yes. Go and watch Baggage Battles. And then learn from the experience and buy something which actually mitigates this potential loss, which the product under discussion will not - insurance coverage (and also learn not to put anything which you want to retain for non-financial reasons in your checked luggage).

  14. Martin Summers Silver badge

    You activate it...

    How about you activate the device when you know it is lost and it emits and ear piercing tone or a little voice from within the suitcase stating "I am lost". Granted it will probably be ripped open so they can make it STFU but it could work!

  15. phil dude
    Paris Hilton

    an anecdote...

    I've not had my coffee yet, so here's an anecdote on "How bags get lost".

    You may think in this day and age that the barcodes that they stick on the bag, should guarantee it can get found should it get misplaced?

    This is true, however:

    1) labels can get destroyed when bags get slid around.

    2) Bags can disintegrate

    Let me explain.

    I was in an airport in the very south of Europe, where the handlers were hoisting bags around. Eye-watering enough. But one handler picked a bag from the handle, and flung it to his workmate, with the handle and the luggage tag coming off.

    Did they put the label back on the bag? Nope. Label free , random black suitcase , piled on a massive pile of other suitcases.

    And then , there was Paris....

    P.

  16. Arachnoid

    No your holding it wrong........

    You just need an audio device that when it gets bumped shouts in a clearly foreign accent " Take me to Greece "

  17. David 77

    Expensive

    I can't help thinking that you could build a version of this yourself with a bottom of the barrel android phone and a copy of tasker for about half the price.

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Expensive

      Well, I suppose your bag isn't technically lost if the local bomb squad have just destroyed it, after the x-ray showed a phone jury rigged inside it.

  18. Steve Lionel

    Have two - they work

    I have two of these - they work. The real comfort is when I am standing at the baggage carousel that I will know that at least the suitcase arrived at the same airport. However, the notification can sometimes be delayed 20-30 minutes, so it has been the case that I have the suitcase before the Trakdot tells me. I haven't found the Bluetooth locator function all that useful.

    The automatic disabling/re-enabling of the GSM connection is the important bit.

  19. a1exh

    No real market

    I used to manufacture a similar product in 2004. Ours were made from recycled mobile phone parts and a custom build of nokiaOS. We had two form factors, a CD-changer for the boot of you car and a shaver for your luggage. Our GPS & GSM aerials worked when the devices were in place no problem. They were very simple. Send it a txt msg and it sent you back the GPS coordinates. Being old skool devices they went days if not weeks without a charge.

    When we found it hard to sell these, we tried offering recycled phones which could plug into your heating system so you could switch your heating on/off with a txt msg. Phones which could connect to your home alarm system so you got a txt msg when your alarm went off. Even alarms with cameras which would send you a picture message of the intruded zone.

    However even with our bare materials being practically free we couldn't turn a profit enough to pay the salaries of two engineers and closed in 2005.

    It's almost impossible to break into this market.

    1. RDW

      Re: No real market

      The only problem I see with this is that the black box will cost slightly more than the usual contents of my checked luggage...

  20. Vociferous

    £80 to find out my luggage is in Manila?

    Why?

    Cats and cars need tracking technology, but luggage?

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  22. Tsunamijuan

    I would make use of this or similar tech

    I could see this as being convenient for large high expensive shipped items. Camera equipment or other technology that you need to make sure they reach their said destinations. Even logistics wise for things like live sound companies and touring bands. It would be better at that point if you could have a grouped charge for such things so you could have a large number of devices sharing a phone number. But reporting their individual UID's so you could track to make sure they are all correctly in route or at the location you need ahead of time. As well as simplify the annoyance of trying to figure out where stuff ended up. Ie the wrong venue.

    1. browntomatoes

      Re: I would make use of this or similar tech

      For larger/more expensive equipment (eg camera equipment which is too big to put in hand luggage) I think people end up using dedicated shippers like UPS or FedEx to take care of it rather than checking it on commercial flights (except in certain situations where it's not possible, eg film crew dispatched to breaking news event). The shipping companies are just much, much better at this than airlines and at some point the additional cost becomes a small expense worth paying. No thieving/careless baggage handlers to worry about, you can put it all in a proper sturdy box without worrying about size/weight limitations, they take care of customs issues for you (you can get something called a carnet - sort of like a passport for goods - which means no awkward conversations about paying duty) and they'll give you guaranteed arrival timescales. Plus the benefits of "traveling light" at the airport.

      For the average holidaymaker, the best advice is pack less stuff and put your valuables/breakables in hand luggage (go hand luggage only if you can) plus one change of clothes. Then it gets reduced to an insurance exercise.

  23. Herby Silver badge

    What is really needed

    Is an RFID chip for every piece of luggage. Installed at a common place (like under the handle, embedded in the side of the case). Then the airport monkeys can scan these in addition to the flimsy paper tags that are attached to your bad. If you register your bag properly, it can be scanned and located much like a lost cat (or other animal).

    If course the airlines would need to do some work, but data is getting cheaper to shuffle around, so it should be pretty easy. RFID tags are less than a buck a piece, so it shouldn't be too much of a problem.

    Will it happen? I doubt it, it would be too logical.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: What is really needed

      Tag chips aren't that big these days. The one for pets is about as big as a grain of rice. Perhaps a manufacturer can use this as a selling point: an RFID embedded in the handle with a 64-bit UID (20 for the manufacturer, 44 for a serial number). Especially now with more phones containing RFID readers.

      1. I like noodles

        Re: What is really needed

        The Handle?

        That only ensures you'd get part of your luggage back and leave you in the same situation as Rhod Gilbert.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OISGykO6Z7U

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: What is really needed

          If they're THAT nasty, it doesn't matter WHERE you put it. Some idiot takes the whole bloody case, there's little hope for you. Remember, we're not talking about preventing theft of the case and/or its contents. We're simply talking about a better way of keeping track of it as it moves out of your sight. The handle is just the most convenient location because EVERY suitcase has a handle.

  24. spiny norman

    Could be useful

    My son's luggage got lost on a flight from JFK to Birmingham via Paris. Flybe, who operated the CDG-BHX flight, were less than helpful. After several days a Delta customer services rep from the US got involved and asked WTF they were playing at. A couple of hours later, the case magically reappeared. We suspect it was in the airport all the time, they just couldn't be bothered to look.

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