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AT&T Uses Real Time Tech to Track Luggage

June 03, 2014

One of AT&T’s latest innovations – which can track luggage – uses WebRTC and machine to machine (M2M) technology to follow the location of suitcases, briefcases or even duffel bags.

Although it is not yet available commercially, Smart Luggage with embedded GPS technology was recently demonstrated by the company at AT&T's Innovation Showcase in New York City. It features a tracking app which, through a built-in GPS sensor, tracks a customer’s luggage in real time. It also lets users contact an airline to get misplaced luggage sent to the right location. Users could get alerted, too, if luggage goes off of a passenger jet or goes beyond a geo-fence. As an added plus, users may be able to tap an app and an LED beacon on the luggage will light up as it comes along a luggage carousel, in that way double-checking it is the right one and not a look-alike belonging to someone else.

With the recent demonstration, Smart Luggage was found on a specially-built suitcase, along with a USB port. It may later be placed on tags which will let users employ the technology on regular suitcases.

Craig Lee, director of the AT&T M2M Foundry in Plano, TX, led the development of Smart Luggage. Smart Luggage will provide registration, monitoring and management of the flashing beacon LED on the luggage, the company said.

It may be some time before the Smart Luggage option is offered to consumers. “The concept as demoed doesn't seem quite ready for market,” Mashable said in recent report. “Location accuracy isn't as good as it could be.” For instance, passengers may know if luggage is in an airport, but the exact location of the luggage may be unclear, the report said, with airports being huge places with multitudes of suitcases. Also, FAA regs for wireless and GPS use prevent such tracking, as a jet flies across oceans.

It is noteworthy that Delta Airlines offer a related though less fancy option for passengers. It lets passengers track luggage status using a mobile app. It uses information based on where a baggage tag was scanned by airport staff. It lets passengers track checked baggage with the Bag Tag Number they get during baggage check-in. If luggage was delayed for some reason, passengers can check its status by a File Reference Number, located on the Property Irregularity Report, the airlines explained.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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