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A carry-on that charges your smartphone (and more)

Martin Diz shows off Bluesmart, the world's first "smart" suitcase.

Published May 25, 2015

“UB exposed me to all of these technologies and provided me with the tools that I needed to develop the suitcase.”
Martin Diz, PhD '15, Aerospace Engineering

It has been 45 years since the last innovation on the suitcase—the addition of wheels to make rolling luggage and an easier transport. The time had come, according to Martin Diz, a 2015 PhD graduate from the SEAS aerospace engineering program, for the carry-on to carry forward. “Everything today is smart, but there are no smart suitcases. We realized a major redesign was required. So we set out to think how the carry-on for this century should be made.”

Diz is co-founder and head of engineering for Bluesmart, a company that has developed a carry-on that uses digital technology to solve some of the problems that frustrate many travelers.

The Bluetooth-driven suitcase packs a microcomputer, a battery for charging smartphones on the go, a sensor for tracking the luggage’s location, and a built-in digital scale for weighing the case. The case is accompanied by a mobile application that serves as a personal travel assistant.

“The suitcase will give you the ability to forget about your trip,” said Diz. “You have to check the weather, decide what to pack and remember what time to leave for the airport. Now, the app and the suitcase will do these for you.”

The project was met with overwhelming support by the public. Diz and his five co-founders placed Bluesmart on Indiegogo, a crowdfunding website, with the goal of raising $50,000 in startup funds. They surpassed that total in two hours, and have exceeded $2 million in contributions.

Travelers can recharge Bluesmart in as little as five hours with their laptop or tablet cable, though the suitcase will also be shipped with its own charge cord. The case is preapproved by the Transportation Security Administration.

With orders from around the world, the technology will soon touch the hands of thousands.

But, designing groundbreaking gizmos is nothing new for Diz.

He designed autopilots for aircrafts and space vehicles as part of his doctoral research. One of his projects, a joint manipulator that can direct the flight of satellites or helicopters, was selected by NASA and Virgin Galactic to fly on a commercial research flight (see story on page 4).

“I’ve been using a lot of sensors for the suitcase, and that was 50 percent of my work with autopilots,” said Diz, who studied under Manoranjan Majji, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “UB exposed me to all of these technologies and provided me with the tools that I needed.”