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Maker of smart luggage goes out of business after airlines ban bags with built-in batteries

Maker of smart luggage goes out of business after airlines ban bags with built-in batteries
Bluesmart made a high-tech brand of smart luggage with pockets that hold and charge electronic devices and an app with real-time tracking information. The company has gone out of business because of restrictions on lithium batteries on planes. (Associated Press)

One of the world's first smart luggage makers is packing its bags and calling it quits — a victim of its own design flaws.

New York-based Bluesmart Inc., which started in 2014 with more than $2 million from a crowdfunding campaign, announced that it is going out of business, after several major airlines banned luggage with built-in lithium batteries because of the threat of fires igniting in the cargo compartment.

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The bags, powered by lithium batteries, include GPS connectivity that lets owners track them anywhere using cellphone reception. The bags also include a charger for digital devices, a scale to weigh the bag and an auto-locking mechanism.

However, to remove the battery from Bluesmart bags, you need to remove four screws and unplug at least three wires. Other smart-luggage makers are still in business because their lithium batteries can be easily removed.

But even luggage makers with batteries that are easily removed are in a bind because some of the bag's features, including GPS tracking, do not work without a power source — disabling one of their key selling points.

"After exploring all the possible options for pivoting and moving forward, the company was finally forced to wind down its operations and explore disposition options, unable to continue operation as an independent entity," the company said on its website.

The company says it won't honor its warranty and won't respond to customers who want to return or get a replacement for any Bluesmart products.

The Federal Aviation Administration has imposed restrictions on spare lithium batteries carried in the cargo area but has left it up to airlines to impose restrictions on larger batteries inside of electronic equipment, such as smart bags. The nation's five biggest airlines — American, United, Delta, Southwest and Alaska — all imposed bans on checked luggage with built-in batteries.

Bluesmart said it has reached an agreement to sell its designs, intellectual property and technology to the Boca Raton, Fla., luggage company Travelpro.

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