[THE INVESTOR] San Francisco-based startup Travelmate Robotics on Nov. 21 announced the global debut of its autonomous suitcase in Korea.
Named Travelmate, the smart suitcase moves on its own and keeps following the owner, by automatically adjusting the speed and location through crowds and obstacles. The self-moving suitcase is linked to an app on smartphones to control, track the location and add updates.
The startup is ambitious, saying it is essentially doing what iPhone has done for cellphones in the suitcase market.
“When the first iPhone was announced, people thought, ‘why do I need a phone that does stuff besides calling?’ Now though, most people can’t live without a smartphone. It’s very integral to people’s everyday lives,” said Maximillian Kovtun, president of Travelmate Robotics, at the launching event in Seoul. “We are doing something similar for suitcases. We are combining robotics with suitcases to make the best of both worlds. Now with Travelmate, you have a robot that carries your stuff for you and has a myriad of different features.”
Kovtun emphasized Travelmate is not just a suitcase, but more of a “constantly-evolving platform,” that gets smarter and will have new features to play around with.
The suitcase, with a GPS chip, can be easily tracked even when the battery is dead. It runs on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and as well as 3G and 4G by simply inserting a sim card.
“We are currently in talks with Verizon and T-Mobile (in the US),” Kovtun told The Investor after the event, adding in Korea, it is discussing with the nation’s largest carrier SK Telecom to use its cellular network.
However, safety concerns at airports have been raised for the suitcase powered by lithium-ion batteries.
“Travelmate’s battery is fully compliant with TSA regulations and FAA specifications,” he said. “Also, our battery is very easily removable. So if you are checking it in and if you are in a country that doesn’t allow any lithium-ion batteries, you can just put in in your carry-on baggage. The battery is fully compliant with the carry-on specifications,” said Kovtun, adding he had no problems carrying the Travelmate during his trip from San Francisco to Seoul, and which will next extend to Japan.
In choosing Seoul as Travelmate’s first place to hold the launching event, Kovtun believes the country is both a great market and development for its products.
“It is a very interesting choice but a very logical one,” he said. “Arguably, there are only three countries in the world that seriously develop robots, and I would say Korea, Japan and the US. That’s why we chose Korea, which I think is a leader in technology and industrial robots.”
Travelmate is holding a press conference in Tokyo on Dec. 4, followed by Las Vegas on Dec. 7, which will also be live streamed.
Although the price is a bit high, starting at US$1,099 for the smallest size and up to US$1,495 for the largest one, Kovtun said sales are already doing well, with over 200,000 preorder commitments from its distribution channels in over 100 countries.
In Korea, consumers can buy the smart suitcase via its local distributor Blue Sky Route, or directly on Travelmate Robotics’ website.
By Ahn Sung-mi (firstname.lastname@example.org)