When you're out shopping it can sometimes feel like you're always stuck at the end of the longest line. Shoppers know this age-old dilemma all to well - do you stick to your guns with the queue you're in? Or do you gamble on another queue and risk it all in the hope of gaining more ground?
Now, a system called ZipLine is promising to help shoppers win that battle every time, by using infrared sensors to help them to pick the fastest queue. The technology, developed by Cambridge Consultants looks at the length of queues and how fast they are moving to work out which is the best one to join.
Launched this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the concept combines the sensors with a long-range, low-power radio network. Algorithms then convert the sensor data into useful information which can be displayed on a shopper's phone.
The firm behind ZipLine claims there are no privacy issues around the data it captures, as it does not obtain any identifiable data from customers. According to Cambridge Consultants, it is also different from existing queue monitoring systems as it can handle queues that are not all in the same place.
The long-range radio system works over a number of miles and the technology could combine queue information from multiple outlets. The system is still being developed, but the firm told Mail Online it is reportedly in talks with retailers about using the technology.
In practice, this could mean you could check what the queues are like at your favourite chain of coffee shops, and it would tell you the fastest place to get your coffee – which could be slightly further away, but with a much reduced waiting time.
Tim Ensor, head of connected devices at Cambridge Consultants, said: 'In the increasingly competitive retail sector, technology can be a crucial differentiator.
'Our ZipLine concept aims to show how taking a service design approach to a problem can give a retailer vital competitive edge by transforming the customer experience. In this example, we're analysing some complex sensor data – and turning it into intelligent information that can be shared with customers in a simple but meaningful way.
'Yet it has the potential to remove a major source of frustration for shoppers.' Speaking to Mail Online, Mr Ensor said: 'We expect the ZipLine interface will be integrated into the department store's own app. That usually means it is free to download.’
'We're also looking at the option of using Bluetooth beacon technology which could offer the queue length information to consumers on their phone without needing to use an app at all.’
'Most of the premium department stores and shopping malls are already installing equipment in their stores to boost mobile phone signal because this is generally becoming expected by consumers. This will also mean that the app will have access to the internet when it needs it to help consumers get the best check-out experience.'