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Meet Airbolt: a TSA-approved travel lock you can control with your smartphone

If you’ve ever had your baggage lost or stolen while traveling, chances are you’ve wished for a better luggage lock. The travel industry is full of technological innovation these days, so why are we still using combination locks to secure luggage and keep our personal belongings safe? That’s the question that inspired AirBolt, a Bluetooth-enabled smart lock that layers a variety high-tech security measures into a system that you control entirely from your smart phone. The AirBolt smart lock is comparable in size to most old-school combination locks, but despite this small footprint, the device is absolutely stuffed with features that put the safety of your stuff back in your hands.

For starters, the AirBolt lock pairs with your smart phone so that only you can unlock it when you’re within range of your luggage. An initial setup process lets you set distance controls to customize AirBolt’s many security measures. The lock’s alarm system, for example, can be set to go off if you get separated from your luggage, alerting you (and everyone around you) if you leave something behind or if someone walks off with your bag without permission. Without distance controls, AirBolt’s alert system still lets users sound the alarm manually if luggage goes missing unexpectedly or just gets misplaced.

There are also a number of built-in redundancy measures that make AirBolt extra secure for plenty of “just in case” scenarios. If you lose or damage your smart phone, for example, AirBolt lets you log in to your paired account from another device to unlock your bag and reclaim access to all your security settings. If you’re worried that your smart phone might go missing with your stolen or misplaced bag, AirBolt includes a security PIN to prevent unauthorized access if your phone should end up in the wrong hands.

Furthermore, AirBolt plans to employ a crowdsourced GPS network so that lost bags can easily be found by fellow travelers — instead of sitting unclaimed in the back rooms of crowded airports. Any AirBolt community member will be able to ping the last known location of a misplaced bag if they were within range. For the crowdsourced GPS to work effectively, lost luggage hopefuls will either need to get very lucky, or enlist fellow travelers to join AirBolt so that the system can benefit from more hubs on the network.

One of the reasons that we’re still using combination locks on our luggage is actually quite simple: TSA regulations. Combination locks built to TSA standards are designed to keep luggage secure, as TSA master keys allow airport representatives to open and close locked luggage without damaging the hardware. Any non-TSA approved lock is subject to be clipped at any point, so AirBolt is designed to be fully-TSA compatible. AirBolt has already been pre-approved for up to 5,000 units by the TSA, and the company will only need to scale up its license (read: licensing fees) as the AirBolt grows in popularity.

Although the AirBolt can’t stop TSA agents from breaking into checked baggage, the lock’s use log makes it easy to see whether or not anyone has been snooping in the bag, even if it is within their rights to do so. And in countries where TSA regulations don’t apply, AirBolt settings can be adjusted for any individual trip so that your privacy is protected whenever possible.

AirBolt’s original Kickstarter funding goal of AU $50,000 works out to about US $36,168. But with more than a month left in the campaign, AirBolt is already close to doubling that goal, as the company nears US $70,000 in funding. Backers can get their own AirBolt lock for a pledge of $47 or more, and the device is expected to retail for about $56. It seems like there’s still plenty of work to do in pre-production, since the campaign states that meeting their funding goal will finance tooling, software development, and mass production of the AirBolt — but if all goes according to plan, AirBolt locks will supposedly be delivered in August 2016.

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Chloe Olewitz
Chloe is a writer from New York with a passion for technology, travel, and playing devil's advocate. You can find out more…
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