What is it? A palm-sized device placed in your luggage which reports its location on arrival at airports.
How it works: The device finds the nearest cellphone towers and reports the airport location by text or email. It's clever enough to enter flight mode before takeoff and activate itself on landing.
How is it powered? Two AA batteries that can last up to two weeks.
Useful or gimmick? It's extra insurance. Reassuring when you land and your baggage isn't waiting for you on the carousel; invaluable in the unlikely event that your luggage is somewhere in Africa when you land at LAX. A downloadable app can be used to identify your luggage on the carousel.
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The cost? Around US$60 (including activation fee) and US$13 annual service fee.
Easy to use? Registering and activating your device on the Trakdot website is an eight-step process but straightforward enough (just don't leave it until minutes before your taxi arrives to register). Operation also seems simple - in theory ... Push the button to turn it on and wait 10 seconds for the red light to disappear. Roughly 30 seconds later a green light should appear, indicating your device is connected with the network.
Any pitfalls? The first time I used the device, on a flight from Auckland to London, was a failure. Despite following the instructions, the lights didn't quite work as indicated and I was not confident the device had activated correctly. So it proved on landing - no message.
Coming home, I followed the same instructions and this time it worked fine. However, the text informing me that my luggage was at Auckland Airport came 10 minutes after I had picked up my bag, passed through Customs and boarded the airport bus.
Would I use it again? In the unlikely event of your luggage ending up at the wrong airport (US figures put the chance at one in 150) the ability to quickly locate it would be priceless. And the ability to distinguish your luggage from all the other lookalikes on the carousel is a plus. Overall, it seems a reasonable price to pay for peace of mind - as long as it activates correctly.