Early buzz at the 2013 International Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas is focusing on Samsung's transparent television but that news may be eclipsed by the startup GlobaTrac's device to track your luggage.
If you've ever lost luggage you just might want to grab a flight to Vegas to check out GlobaTrac's new Trakdot device at this week's International Consumer Electronics Show. The sprawling 46-year-old conference, generally referred to by its acronym CES, officially opens Tuesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Early buzz on Twitter and gadget blogs is focusing on two companies: electronics giant Samsung, and the aforementioned GlobaTrac, a startup that will demonstrating a nifty device that you can put inside your suitcase. Upon landing, the device will send you a text message that identifies what city it is in. So if you and your luggage aren't in the same area code, you can alert airline officials, who can presumably contact the airport in the designated city.
As for Samsung, according to Cnet, it will launch a television with a transparent screen, so it blends in with your room. "The line to get into the Samsung event at CES was so long satellites could see it from space," said the news site Monday evening. On its blog yesterday, the technology company posted an image of a television that's sitting vertically instead of horizontally. The set also appears to be sitting on a landscape in which the viewer can look through the display to see what's behind it. Samsung posted on its blog an image of a television that's sitting vertically instead of horizontally, c|net explained. "The set also appears to be sitting on a landscape in which the viewer can look through the display to see what's behind it." That's about all the concrete information Law Technology News could find, so we'll have to wait for more.
Samsung's invention sounds fashionable, but GlobaTrac's is downright sexy if you are a frustrated frequent flier. On Monday, LTN talked to CEO Harry Steck to learn more about the company's plans. GlobaTrac formed in 2012 to develop Trakdot, which is expected to launch officially in April, he said. Trakdot uses standard text-messaging technology, he explained, so on the inside it's essentially a "very dumb" cell phone.
Unlike existing products that track lost pets, cars, or your misplaced iPhone, Trakdot couldn't use GPS technology because of Federal Aviation Administration security rules. Instead, it uses what's called GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications, née Groupe Spécial Mobile) the same technology underpinning the AT&T wireless network in the U.S. and most overseas networks. It won't tell you exactly where your suitcase resides, but it'll at least help your airline figure out to which major airport the luggage may have been diverted. The FAA as well as the Federal Communications Commission approved this approach, Steck added.
Of course, the first question smart travelers will ask is "What about battery life?" Steck says Trakdot runs for up to two weeks on two AA batteries and, in addition to emailing or texting you about its location, it'll send you reminders when the power is low. Customers also receive a luggage tag that airport security agents can read in case they have questions about the mysterious device in your bag. Still, "You don't know what every single TSA agent will do. It's not a device that is intrusive in any way [but] that is still an unknown," Steck acknowledged. It will work worldwide, he says. Costs: $50 for the device, plus an $9 activation fee and $13 annually for the tracking service.
Michael Steiner, executive vice president of Ovation Corporate Travel, said he's cautiously optimistic that Trakdot will succeed. "I do think there's a market for this." As the saying goes, time is money for lawyers. Steiner, who runs Ovation's law firm division, added that attorneys only check bags when they have no choice, he observed.
Given the trends in baggage fees and the time spent waiting at airport carousels, "It would come in handy the once or twice a year that I'm landing somewhere and my luggage isn't there," Steiner said. When airline employees look for your bags, "sometimes it takes them longer than I think it should," he joked. "If you have this thing for five years, it's probably worth it, if it saves you the hassle a few times."
But only time will tell if Samsung or GlobTrac will hit the holy grail of huge sales. After all, there have been plenty of clever CES debuts over the years that never amounted to much. But Steck is optimistic. "We have adequate resources on all fronts to bring the product to market," including various patents pending, he said. The Los Angeles-based company does not disclose its funding, nor its number of employees.
But one thing is certain, there will be many launches this week from companies small and massive. Keynote speeches are scheduled for executives from from the likes of Panasonic and Verizon. We will be keeping an eye on the show, which ends on Friday.
Evan Koblentz is a reporter for Law Technology News, a Legal affiliate based in New York.