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Trakdot - GSM location based luggage tracking
I recently returned from an overseas trip visiting Iceland and France. This involved a layover in Iceland for a few days and then a return connection on the way home (Iceland Air - which is pretty fantastic). Interesting tidbit is that Seattle to Iceland is about a 7 hour flight. That's 90 minutes longer then flying to New York. Anyway, most of you have probably experienced the "missing" or worse, "lost" bag on your trips. I was visiting my friend Jimmy a few weeks ago and he had a few of these "Trakdot" luggage tracking devices. I had seen similar devices before (on Kickstarter) but the Trakdot seemed like it his a nice sweet spot of cost and annual service ($20/year, first year free). So this post is about my experience with this device.
What is it?
The Trackdot [Amazon - $69.95, Direct - $49.99] is a small black box that runs on two AA batteries for 48 hours. Included in my device, purchased from Amazon was 1 year of service. I don't know how much it is after that (I think $20/year) and I'm not sure it will matter (see more below). It contains a GSM SIM card allowing it to send text messages from anywhere in the world. The idea is that when ever the bag arrives at any airport, it wakes up and sends you a text message telling you where it is.
Trakdot also has an iOS and Android app that allows you to pair it via bluetooth and receive push notifications. I found the iOS app to be quite buggy. It never kept my signin info, I never got push notifications, and the Bluetooth feature is bizzare. I could not really understand how to get it to work. The idea is that if the bag is within 40 ft of your phone it will vibrate. This could be useful for example to detect of the bag is on your plane.
Why did you get it?
Well, I wanted to make sure my bags were on the plane I was on, that they made their connections etc. On the way home our 90 minute layover turned into a 30 minute layover, and it gave me piece of mind to know that when I landed at SeaTac my bag let me know it was there. Had I not received the SMS I could have immediately gone to the lost bag counter and possibly even told them where it was (maybe it went to the wrong city).
So how did it work? Well it worked OK. I did receive an SMS before departing Seattle. However, I did not receive one upon landing in KEF airport in Iceland. I sent them a support request and didn't hear back till a few days later. And till now they don't appear to have a grip on why. When leaving KEF to CDG I did get an SMS (great, maybe there was a bug), but then when arriving in Paris at CDG I got my SMS message after retrieving my luggage from baggage claim (30 min later). So it worked, but not how I would expect.
On the return trip things fared a bit better. I did not get an SMS in KEF Iceland, despite the fact that we were on the ground for an hour.... but then I got an SMS immediately when arriving at SEA (within minutes of landing).
So, my guess is that this device works great in the United States, and is pretty spotty internationally. I am still waiting to hear back from them about this experience. Based on this alone, I could not recommend this product to anyone till these bugs are worked out.
How has it made your life better?
Well, primarily piece of mind. If this technology were more mature, and the cost were lower, I could see this being pretty standard in a few years. In fact, given that there is an opportunity for an annual service fee and a better customer relationship / insights, I could see all the big baggage companies offering this service themselves (Tumi, Rimowa, Briggs & Riley, Victorinox, and so on). In fact, this seems like a good upgrade to the Victorinox Swiss Army Bag tracker program.
However, this is still a pretty immature product category and given the issues that I experienced, they have a long way to go to stabilize the technology.
But for the price, I think it's a reasonable product and assuming the bugs get fixed, I could see owning these for all my luggage in the future.
Are you going to keep it?
Since I purchased this already (sunk cost), I plan to keep it. I wish they would move to a device that lasted longer (lithium disposable batteries, or rechargeable) as well as an iOS app that wasn't incomprehensible and SMS messages that were reliable.
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