Frictionless Travel: Hands-Free Baggage


Where We Started
Universal Mind’s Innovation Lab works with customers to ideate on solutions to complex business challenges and identify ways to provide optimal experiences. Anyone who has boarded a plane understands the travel experience is less than optimal and full of friction. An excellent focus for the Innovation Lab to ideate on ways to reduce friction for travellers and business. We applied our Lab Sprint Model to uncover the elements of this friction, examine how these problems are currently being solved, and then explore ways to address them.

Forest-icon Forest Sprint

The goal in this sprint is to understand the users and their goals. The key is uncovering how people currently solve any problems and find the root(s) of friction. We utilized lean research methods, producing the artifacts (archetypes, journey map, business model canvas, etc) to guide us into the next sprint.

We reached out to a variety of travelers, flight attendants, and a dispatcher. Through this process we uncovered some expected and unexpected results. This process allowed us to begin shaping our empathy for the end users which we later channel in our strategic and design efforts throughout the other sprints.

“The hardest part of my job is getting people [and their baggage] on and off planes.” — Natalie, Flight Attendant

A few friction points that touched on many aspects of air travel began to surface. Based on those findings we narrowed it down to luggage as a target and opportunity. To narrow the scope further, we focused on the luggage experience of leisure travelers since we found they spent 2.28 times more than business travelers.


Our objectives were set for the next sprint:

  • Improve the baggage experience, wayfinding, and time savings/expectations.
  • Implement hands-free interactions and interfaces that reduce friction.
  • Be predictive, making contextual connections between customers and services.

Trail-icon Trail Sprint

With an understanding of the landscape, users, and points of friction, the team was able to now begin the next sprint. We iterated through various ideas around the luggage experience. We worked through several ideation sessions looking at potential workflows for both the digital and service aspects of this experience.

We found there were companies (established and startups) looking at both products and services to address the problems that travelers experience with luggage.

“Luggage is long overdue for some serious innovation. The last big breakthrough — wheeled suitcases — rolled out in 1970. Crowdfunded startups and established luggage companies seem to have suddenly realized the market opportunity, and they are adding Wi-Fi hot spots, Bluetooth, SIM cards, GPS and built-in batteries to their products.” — CIO Magazine, 2015

We came up with a service we called “Hand’s Free Baggage” which utilized a 3-D printed sensor tag to pair with the user’s device. There were both a premium and standard version of the service which both offered visibility into location and status of baggage at anytime. Easy access drop off portals were available, or for the premium model, the baggage would be picked up at home.


The baggage would then be delivered to the final destination with the premium version, or for the standard, at airport with clear directions to the carousel and notification when the luggage was close to being on the carousel.

This seamless customer experience would mean a much better travel experience for the leisure archetype, as well as additional revenue for airlines / airport. It could also give airports that adopted this (and equidistant to other airports) a more competitive business model.

“Industry Context: Baggage fees brought in $3.5 billion at about $25 per bag in 2014.” — US Department of Transportation


Campfire-icon Campfire Sprint
At this point we were ready to validate the concept of the baggage as a product idea and tell the complete story around it. We followed up with users that we originally spoke with to get their feedback on what we had created in the previous sprints. We finalized some of the workflow and explored the service package and base strategic opportunity.


We created high-fidelity stories that walked through the entire workflow. This would allow us to present the synthesized findings and product direction in focusing on the people that would be using the baggage service. The most important aspect of the Lab projects for us are to not iterate simply on a product or business idea, but to tell a great story—one that can be presented to customers or stakeholders to show strengths and /or risks of a new product.

We were able to start with a very wide scope—air travel—and quickly circle in to uncover the main points of friction and determine a specific path. The beauty of beginning this process with lean research, is that we focus first on how people are currently solving problems in their lives and at work.

Once we have found the root issues, we have a handful of trails we can take and go down. At the end of the trail we can return back to that point and take another one to explore. Doing this, we can lower our chances of missing the “blindspots” behind which great solutions live.

Author’s note: This is not our typical case study. It’s the first one about something bigger we’ve been working on for the past year. Through our interactions with clients big and small we’ve seen a large gap in their process to address future business models and products. It is something that startups understand (and where they live.) To address this we’ve created the Universal Mind Lab.

Our Lab is an innovation ecosystem where we envision new products or business models through lean design methods, rapid prototyping and new technology using a human-centered approach. Exploring these future experiences helps us leverage the power of narrative to understand how technology may play a role in the future lives of customers and employees.