Smart luggage trackers are super popular right now, and for a good reason. Who wants to lose the luggage and be at the mercy of the airline!
With so much tech available to us today, there are a lot of smart luggage trackers out there that can help us keep our luggage safe and put the power back in our hands.
But you might be asking yourself: how do these luggage trackers work and which one is the best?
So, with those questions in mind, this post will show you the technology available and in use in luggage trackers and which one is best for you!
There are a few different technologies to consider when looking at smart luggage trackers and they are:
Most luggage trackers use one or two of these technologies and they each have their pros and cons.
Let's take a look at each one so you know what to be on the lookout for.
GPS luggage trackers might seem one of the best options because they include a GPS chip and can be tracked anywhere in the world.
GPS works almost anywhere and is incredibly accurate, but it does have a downside - it can be blocked quite easily by natural objects (trees, mountains etc) and also by buildings.
And this is where the major disadvantage of GPS luggage trackers comes in...
When you need your tracker to work you are probably standing in the airport terminal wondering where your luggage is.
So, you are in a building. And, unfortunately you might not be able to track your luggage because of poor GPS coverage!
The upside is that GPS is not dependent on any local technology (ie. whether your tracker works in the country you are in) or on proximity (like with Bluetooth - more on that below).
Mobile or GSM luggage trackers get around the GPS coverage problem by using the local mobile network to help track your luggage.
The same way the FBI can pinpoint a criminal via cell towers (triangulation), these devices can be found when they are in range of mobile towers.
And, it will work inside the airport terminal - just like your phone does!
The downside is that the country you are in has to support the SIM chip in the device (usually a GSM based chip).
Currently two countries that don't support GSM are:
The rest of the world should not be a problem!
Some trackers use only these technologies or use them in combination with Mobile to try to give you more options and accuracy.
Bluetooth typically only works within 30 meters (100 feet) of your phone, although some devices have ways to boost this.
So this is a great option when you are close to your luggage but trying to pinpoint it. When GSM or GPS is not accurate enough, this is a great addition.
However, most Bluetooth trackers are only that, and are really meant to be used at home to find your phone or lost keys. I would not use them alone to keep track of my luggage!
Depending on which of the three main technologies your tracker has, they all operate a little differently. In most cases though, they are meant to be used in combo with a tracker specific app on your phone so you can track them on an app.
The accuracy of the location depends on the tech used and in the case of bluetooth, how close you are to the tracker.
GSM trackers use mobile towers to locate the device, so are not super accurate.
GPS trackers are far more accurate (with GPS being capable of insane accuracy) but it depends on the software and tech involved.
I will get into more detail on each in the reviews below.
There are a lot of different options out there including "smart tags" and other devices, but I want to focus on just a few devices that I think are worth your time.
Are they all amazing and super accurate? Not always, but for now they are the best options we have to track our luggage.
And keep in mind that the main aim with your luggage is often to know if it is in the airport or "lost". Actually locating it in the terminal is not usually the issue.
One of the more serious contenders, LugLoc offers a Mobile/GSM based luggage tracker that can help you keep track of your luggage and offer peace of mind.
It comes with the GSM tracker and a mobile app that you need to download to either your iPhone or Android device. Then, once you are registered, you are good to go.
It also combines bluetooth technology to help with location accuracy when you are near to your luggage. Not a bad idea at all, especially since GSM tracking is not as accurate as GPS.
They have also smartly combined an automatic on/off feature to keep the device FAA/TSA/FCC compliant. Why? Because it uses cell phone tech, so cannot really be running while on a plane.
Another issue to be aware of with such trackers is you often need to "subscribe" to their service because it uses the mobile/cell network. These guys offer a free 30 days upon purchase, as well as a 'per trick" fee (instead of a monthly fee).
All in all not a bad device, but with some shortcomings you can check out in the PROs section below.
The second serious contender, Trakdot is quite similar to Lugloc, but with some differences worth noting too.
It is also a mobile/GSM tracker with a mobile app that you need to download to your iPhone or Android phone.
It also comes with the bluetooth capability so can help you hone in on where exactly your luggage is. And it also has a cool vibrate mode that tells you if you are getting closer or not.
Again, the all important smart flight mode is included, that turns off while the aircraft is in the air, and on again when it has landed.
An added bonus of this guy is that it sends you a message (email or sms) when your luggage is located by the device. So, while you are waiting for your luggage to arrive, a message arrives to tell you everything is ok!
Again, you need to sign up for their service after the initial free period, and in this case it is either $20 a year or $50 for lifetime. Check with them before buying though as this can easily change between now and when you read this!
Compared to the LugLoc the battery life of this device is very low. It should be 48 hours (enough for a long-haul flight) but some amazon reviews I read reported less than 24. Compared with the super-long life of LugLoc this is a potential issue.
This is a great little luggage location device with a messaging service that can help you know what is going on when you land. If that is what you are after, this is a great option. And with the yearly or lifetime service fee, a great option for frequent travelers.
The Tile Smart Tracker was not built as a luggage tracker but it's so small and versatile it can certainly be used as one.
It only uses Bluetooth technology so you need to be quite close to the device to find it - 30m or 100ft. However, they do allow you to make use of the "tile network" which means that other tile users can anonymously tell if when they are near your device. So, even if your luggage goes "wild" you might still be able to find it. Not bad, huh?
This is more of a "specific location" device and not so much of a "did my luggage arrive" device like the others above. In that way, it really depends on what you want a tracker for.
Or, you could use this as a a bit of extra security to the Trakdot above which does not come with Bluetooth. Especially since Tiles are pretty cheap (around $20).
The Tile system is quite simple and again comes with an accompanying app to help you locate the "thing" it is used with. It's accuracy varies depending on who you talk to, but it's a good addition to your luggage security, especially if you have expensive equipment. (Think camera gear, drones, skis, surfboard etc).
Because it is meant to be used as a phone, keys or pet tracker it also comes with a alert sound that you can activate to help you find what you have placed the Tile on.
The battery lasts about a year and (kinda like Apple devices), is not replaceable. You get a discount on a new device, but it's a bit of a bummer in all honesty. Still, it's a simple, slim and useful tracker.
Both these devices are only meant to keep approximate track of your luggage and not follow it like the FBI on the movies. Keep that in mind. We are still not quite at that level of technology.
However, for simple peace of mind, especially when dealing with lost luggage or expensive items (golf clubs, ski bags etc) it might be worth the investment. And, you can always throw in a Tile to give you a little more security using their Bluetooth app!