Airlins have been experimenting with electronic luggage tags for the past several years, and now a German luggage manufacturer has come up with a design which is bound to cause an unending stream of problems.
Rimowa's electronic tag is essentially 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 about 500 times per charge. And due to the nature of E Ink, the image is retained even if the module runs out of battery.
That sounds like a nifty idea, but look at the tag and tell me if you can see the problem I spotted:
The tags are integrated into the case, which means they are not located on the handle where an airport worker will be looking if they have to manually transfer a bag. That means that one of these cases, which cost 60 euros more than Rimowa's regular suitcases, is more likely to be pulled from a conveyor belt and sent to the lost luggage office.
Sure, most luggage is handled by automatic equipment rather than people, but if a person gets involved they won't see the electronic tag at first. All they'll see is that there's no tag attached to the handle, and they might not realize there's an electronic tag until after they start trying to identify who owns this pace of luggage.
This trikes me as a great way to misplace an expensive piece of luggage, don't you think?