Luxury-minded travelers will already know the Rimowa name; easily identified by its "grooved" outer housing, the company is one of the most reputable luggage manufacturers on the market. But unlike it's competitors, this is one old kid (est. 1937) on the block embracing all things new.
Ordinarily, I would not gush about a luggage company! There really isn't all that much room for innovation (famous last words, I am sure) to go around in what really is a case for your clothes. Look at an old-school steamer trunk and you can see the design hasn't changed that much to today. Sure, some are stronger, others lighter, a few are watertight, and still others promise wrinkle-free results, but only in rare instances will you be pressed to test those attributes.
But if the whole process of luggage was made...easier? In the same manner you can check in electronically without being anywhere near an airport, Rimowa has embraced the 21st Century by allowing you to do the same for your luggage. It is called, not too surprisingly, the Rimowa Electronic Tag.
Coming out late last year, here is how it works: It consists of a Rimowa suitcase, an airline app, and the Rimowa Electronic Tag with an E Ink Mobius display, which is built into the luggage. A predicted 3.5 billion people will travel by plane this year, almost all of whom already have a smartphone. Connecting suitcases to the digital world was a no-brainer.
Personally, I am a big advocate of carry-on, but I will acknowledge that sometimes that just is not an option. So, as opposed to luggage that is checked by hand before a paper label is attached, passengers with the Rimowa Electronic Tag can simply check in from home or while on the road using the airline app - and check in their luggage, too. In addition to a digital boarding pass, passengers will receive digital luggage information from the airline for their booked flight.
The airline in question is Lufthansa, which is acting as the beta tester for the new technology. The German carrier integrated the feature into its app as part of an exclusive arrangement, which may or may not be a fancy way to say that this technology is still in something of an experiment stage to see how well the market reacts (and how well the technology works). Just by one click the luggage information is then sent via Bluetooth from the smartphone to the suitcase equipped with the Rimowa Electronic Tag. The details are immediately displayed on the built-in data module. A Rimowa-tagged suitcase can be dropped off within seconds at the airport, no fuss, no muss.
In terms of size and appearance, the luggage information displayed on the electronic data module corresponds to today's paper labels, including the green EU stripe required by customs (compulsory for all flights departing from European airports). This makes the transition from analog to digital simple. The important information is protected from moisture, heat, cold, shocks, and vibration and cannot be accidentally torn off, unlike a paper label--which, by the way, is one of the most common ways luggage gets lost.
Because the technology is restricted to Lufthansa, it goes without saying that if you trend towards other airlines, or even trains or buses, you are out of luck. However, if this experiment takes off, it is only a matter of time before someone notices and new markets are sought out. Not everybody flies, you know, or needs to.
And as the Rimowa/Lufthansa cooperative is fresh off their Best Baggage Initiative" prize (bestowed last September's "FTE - Future Travel Experience" conference in Las Vegas), some one is bound to notice. If you think long lines at check-in is an American problem, look no further than Casablanca or London; even Doha got hit with congestion after an employee shortage. Any sort of technology that gets people out of the line and to their gates is a welcome change, and a long overdue one.
And to be honest, I don't care what the innovation is, just so long as I am out of that line.