Cool tech: This gadget will keep track of your luggage - FOX 13 News

Cool tech: This gadget will keep track of your luggage

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

As Jamey Levesque hoists a pair of bright blue bags onto the JetBlue Airways scale, he is optimistic the suitcases will arrive at the same time he and his family land in New York.

But he can't help but cringe and remember that one time.

"One flight to California they lost it, and it went to another country," he said, "so it was about four or five days until I got it back." 

By the numbers, lost luggage is a relative rarity. U.S Department of Transportation figures show just 3.22 percent of bags was mishandled in 2013. 

Still, thousands of pieces of luggage go missing each and every day and passenger frustration with baggage mishaps is seemingly universal.

"Anger," Levesque said. "Instant anger."

Enter the TrakDot, a lightweight personal luggage tracker that sells for about $90.

"There's nothing out there like this on the market," said Mayer Alexander, a spokesman for GlobaTrac, LLC, which manufacturers the TrakDot. 

The TrakDot itself is a tiny, AA battery-operated transmitter that slips into suitcases and connects to cellular phone towers to report its position. Users with a smartphone app can track the position of their bag.

"We will tell you which airport it landed in," Alexander said. "It gives peace of mind to the airline traveler."

TrakDot, which is FAA approved for flight, can also send SMS text messages or e-mail alerts indicating the bag's location.

Alexander said that when a flight takes off (and exceeds 118mph) the TrakDot switches to stand-by. Then, when the plane shows to land, it re-connects and signs in. 

"The device wakes up and starts looking for the cellular tower closest to the airport," he said.

We took the TrakDot for an impromptu flight via the TV station's helicopter. Our flight plan was simple: the three nearest international airports.

As we flew SkyFox from Tampa International Airport to St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport, then the Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport, and finally back to Tampa, we wondered whether the TrakDot was keeping pace.

FLIGHT PLAN: http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=tpa-pie-srq-tpa

We landed at each airport and immediately logged into the TrakDot app. At every instance, the Trakdot had successfully recorded our location – recording the airport, the date, and the time it ‘phoned' home. A Google map plotted each waypoint. 

Since the chopper did not exceed 118 mph, the unit remained on and reported some other relative positions along the way.

The only departure from TrakDot's promises was the alert feature. We received exactly zero of them – despite signing up for SMS and e-mail before visiting three international airports.

TrakDot says it only sends SMS or e-mail alerts when tracker-equipped bags travel farther than 46 miles between airports. Our longest flight fell just short of that required distance.

Alexander is confident that the TrakDot will meet passengers' expectations on more traditional flights – which are largely greater than 46 miles in distance.

"It'll work," he said.

TrakDot's $90 price tag includes one year of cellular service. After the first 12 months it will require a fee to function. That service is currently $13 annually.

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