Checking out Rimowa’s Electronic Tag

Last year I purchased a Rimowa check-in luggage with an Electronic Tag. The innovating solution from Rimowa. It sounds cool, it looks cool and it even has an app for your iPhone. But than the big question: What does it actually do?

Rimowa's Electronic Tag
Rimowa’s Electronic Tag

The Mechanism

Rimowa’s electronic tag is an E Ink display with the same width as a standard paper luggage tag (it already has the green stripe required for all flights departing from European airports), and it uses Bluetooth radio to grab data from either Rimowa’s dedicated app or supported airline apps. Right now these are only available on iOS. The Rimowa app is for initiation as well as switching the tag to contact information mode — so that the E Ink display can still be of good use if your airline or airport don’t support electronic tags. As for the airline app, simply use its luggage check-in tool to sync the electronic tag, then just drop the suitcase off at a dedicated airport counter (pending ID verification, of course).

Bluetooth pairing can only be enabled with a button inside the suitcase (30 seconds per session), so you’ll obviously have to set a passcode on the locks just to be safe. The electronic tag module is powered by two AAA batteries which can refresh the display up to about 800 times per charge. And due to the nature of E Ink, the image is retained even if the module runs out of battery.

The E Ink display is shielded by a piece of Gorilla Glass, which begs the question: What if it takes a hit? We all know that Gorilla Glass isn’t shatterproof. Rimowa’s response was that according to their TÜV Rheinland lab test results, the chances of the screen getting damaged is actually lower than that of a suitcase losing an ordinary paper tag. We find that hard to believe, but we’ll just have to take the company’s word for it. Additionally, just like the suitcases themselves, the E Ink display is also covered by Rimowa’s five-year warranty.

Source Engadget writer: Richard Lai

Problems with the concept

After I admired the technique of the paper ink and the app. I thought to myself what is this doing for me? According to Rimowa this is what it comes down to this:

Instead of checking your luggage in at the airport, you check it at from any place.

I love Rimowa don’t get me wrong and I encourage innovation. But I really don’t see how this is going to work or to be revolutionary any time soon. The problems I see are the following:

  1. Dependent on support of airliner: The airliner has to support the technique and it has to support the drop off points at the airport. At the moment only Lufthansa and Eva Air are on board. In order for it to be successful it has to be supported by all major airliners.
  2. Mobile phone with an internet and bluetooth connection: You are dependent of an internet connection. Outside of my country I’m dependent on public wifi hotspots. Mobile data is very costly.
  3. It doesn’t solve a significant problem.
    1. What Rimowa is saying is that you check your check-in luggage in at home or at the hotel. Ok got that.
    2. Now you go with your luggage to the airport. You go the check-in counter or drop off location and hand-over your luggage. You already checked it in at home so you just hand it over. This is best case scenario. I’m assuming you don’t stand in line. I’m assuming the steward does’t ask any questions.
    3. Even in the best case scenario I don’t see how you gain any time. I even dare to say you loose time. The time that it normally takes to check-in at the counter. You have to do at home. And I’m pretty sure that it takes you longer to check-in on your mobile than it will take a steward to weigh the suitcase and put a label on your suitcase. So instead of eliminating time you just change it to another timeframe and on top of that you have to do it yourself instead of a steward. I can see how this helps the airliner but it doesn’t help the traveller. I’m just doing the work that the steward normally does. Weighing and putting a label on the suitcase.

What I do like about the concept

  1. Innovative: I’m very critical at the moment, but in order to be innovative risks have to be taken. If more airliners support the Electronic Tag this might become the new standard.
  2. Looks cool: You can’t deny it. A digital screen integrated in your suitcase just looks cool. Even if you can’t use it for checking in your luggage you can use it to put your name and address on it.
  3. Personalize it: Another cool feature is that you can set your own background image or preset background images.
  4. E Ink: Once the Electronic Tag is synchronized, it stays there even when the batteries die off so you don’t have to worry about it fading away.

Conclusion

You don’t have much of a choice. All check in luggages from the Topas, Stealth, Titanium, Salsa, Salsa Deluxe and Limbo come by default with the Electronic Tag since 2017.

Update February 2018: Rimowa now offers the same model with and without Electronic Tag. A reason for this might be that the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has banned lithium batteries from check in luggage. They might even ban lithium batteries from carry on luggage. The Electronic Tag from Rimowa is only available for the larger check-in luggages.

The usefulness is at this moment still debatable. A few airliners are on board, let’s hope more can be added to the list in the near future. In the meanwhile I’m downloading the Rimowa app on my iPhone, making an account, pairing my iPhone to Electronic tag and sending over my name and address.

 

 

 

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