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Airport security becomes even more annoying, while airlines experiment with smart luggage tags and trackers. A multi-purpose camera backpack flies past its funding goal, and a multi-purpose charger/storage/locater does the same.
All in this edition of Travel Tech News for July 10, 2014.
Keep Your Gear Charged When Going Through Security
Flying became even more annoying this week, as first the US and then the UK announced many electronic devices will need to be powered on before being allowed through security checkpoints at certain international airports.
Mobile phones, tablets, laptops, even hair straighteners and travel irons are affected by the changes. If you can’t power them on for a security official, you risk having them confiscated or needing to rebook your flight.
There’s little word on which airports are affected, although North African and Middle Eastern locations seem most likely. There’s also no guidance on how mains-powered equipment will be handled.
So what does this mean?
- Make sure all your battery-powered devices are fully charged before heading to the airport. If they’re sturdy and low-value, pack them in your checked luggage instead.
- Keep the chargers with devices in your carry-on.
- If you see a power socket at the airport, use it to keep things topped up.
- Don’t buy electronics before going through security, unless you know they come with at least partially charged.
- Pack an emergency charger to help keep your USB-powered gear powered up.
- If you’re transiting during your journey to or via the US and UK, leave plenty of charge in your devices until you’ve cleared security on your final leg. Long multi-stop flights are about to become even less enjoyable.
Like a lot of these type of measures, we think they’re more security theatre than anything else. Focusing on individual threats like this – and inconveniencing air travellers even further – misses the bigger picture. Regardless, though, for now you should be prepared to power on your gear or risk losing it next time you fly.
VENQUE’s Convertible DSLR Camera Bag Gets Funded
Luggage maker VENQUE is running a crowd-funding campaign for its latest idea, a convertible camera bag for DSLR owners. It’s a quality piece of gear, made from the company’s unique ‘quanta’ fabric, double-stitched, includes a rain cover and has weight-transferring buckles — but those aren’t even the reason we like it.
The Campro DSLR backpack converts into one of three different shapes and sizes. It’s a dedicated DSLR camera bag that can handle two bodies, six lenses and all of the other gear that a pro photographer accumulates.
There’s also a ‘half full’ version that can take the camera body and a couple of lenses, with room for clothes and other items for an overnight trip, and a 22 litre daypack.
That makes it a much more practical option for travellers. Most people don’t take their full camera kit everywhere they go, and having many options makes it easier to justify buying and carrying.
In each configuration, there’s room for a dedicated laptop holder at the back of the bag. That’s handy when going through airport security (with all of your gear charged, of course…). VENQUE also offers a ten year replacement or refund guarantee on these bags, another point in its favour.
The campaign is already funded, and runs for another three weeks. Backers get a discounted price of $149 CAD, and the Campro will be $219 CAD when it hits stores later this year.
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A Small Gadget Raises Big Money
Speaking of crowdfunding, the GoKey finished its campaign a week ago – and let’s just say it rather surpassed its goals. When you ask for $40,000 and make over a million, that’s a pretty clear sign that there’s a demand for your product.
The GoKey combines a bunch of useful functions into a device that attaches to your key ring. It can charge your phone for a couple of hours from its own battery, and act as a USB cable for charging your device. It can also store up to 32GB of files and be a locator for either your phone or whatever you’ve attached it to.
The smartphone app that comes with it will track the last known GPS location of the GoKey, and can even act as a smartphone remote for (eg) taking photos or playing music.
None of those features are revolutionary by themselves, but having them all available in a single little gadget that will cost $69-89 at retail definitely is. It’s the kind of thing that will make a great gift for the traveller in your life (or, you know, yourself) when it arrives in stores early next year.
Airlines Start Experimenting With Smart Luggage Tags and Trackers
Smart luggage tags have been around for a year or two, pioneered by a few companies that realised there was potential in trying to improve luggage tracking from the flyer’s perspective. Now, the airlines are getting involved as well.
British Airways has been trialling smart tags for a while now, and they seem to have passed the tests – the tags should be available to BA fliers later this year. The Air France/KLM conglomerate is looking to offer a combined tag and tracking system, at around the same time.
The basic idea behind all of the tags and trackers is similar, although the implementations differ slightly. Essentially, a smart tag replaces the paper version, and is coded with information about the bag’s intended destination in human and machine-readable form.
A companion smartphone app lets travellers update that information for each trip, hopefully speeding up the check-in process.
Of more interest are the tracking devices, placed inside (or built into) the luggage. These connect via Bluetooth, GPS and cell data to notify the owner of their location, whether it’s on the baggage belt or a different continent.
Companies like FastTrack already have working products on the market, and a few luggage companies are looking to embed the technology into their products. Undoubtedly more will follow if it’s a success.
What do you think of the recent airport security changes? Would you buy any of the bags, gadgets or luggage tags and trackers that we mentioned? Let us know in the comments!