April 2 - Customers at a theme park in the UK can now queue for rides using a smartphone in the latest application of virtual queuing technology. Ivor Bennett reports.
On the surface Blackpool pleasure beach is like any other theme park. Rollercoasters, screams and plenty of people. Only here, you don't have to queue up for the rides because your smartphone can do it for you. New software designed by British firm Lo-Q means visitors can queue for a ride virtually, without having to stand in line. Company CEO Tom Burnet. SOUNDBITE (English) LO-Q CEO TOM BURNET, SAYING: "It'd be perfectly possible conceptually to run a queueless theme park, for example. There's no need to stand in a physical queue, if everyone is standing in a virtual queue." Visitors can skip the queue entriely too, but at a premium of 35 pounds. With waits of up to 90 minutes on a busy day, many customers think it's value for money. SOUNDBITE (English) UNIDENTIFIED MAN, SAYING: "Well i think it's quite a good idea. It saves you time in the queues, alright isn't it?" SOUNDBITE (English) UNIDENTIFIED MAN, SAYING: "I will only use if ther's a lot of people, if not I don't think it's important." Virtual queuing does in fact already exist at Blackpool, but in the form of a Q-Bot. It's a wireless device that uses the same technology as the smartphone web browser. SOUNDBITE (English) REUTERS REPORTER IVOR BENNETT, SAYING: "So I've got my Q-Bot here. It's showing me all the attractions and the times they're available. If I just scroll through them I can see that the rollercoaster right here is apparently available right now. So I'm going to try and reserve my spot by pressing this button here, and sure enough, it tells me i can ride it right now." T here are incentives for operators too. The average visitor's thought to spend 4 pounds an hour - money lost if customers are queuing. Neil Dwyer from Blackpool Pleasure Beach. SOUNDBITE (English) BLACKPOOL PLEASURE BEACH SPOKESMAN, NEIL DWYER, SAYING: "Ideally speaking when someone's in a virtual queue of course we'd like to see them in restaurants, we'd like to see them in gift shops, we'd like to see them experiencing pay-again attractions. Which business wouldn't?" Blackpool's one of over 40 theme parks worldwide with virtual queues. So far they're all in Europe and North America. But there are plans to expand into Asia, where the sector's expanding four times faster. And theme parks could just be the beginning. SOUNDBITE (English) LO-Q CEO TOM BURNETT, SAYING: "There's queues when you go to the bank at lunch time. there's queues at the post office, there's queues when you turn up at the airport. there's a queue to get a doctor's appointment. there's queues all over the place. Conceptually it's possible for you to organise your life in such a way as you can move around all the things you might want to do without having to stand in a queue line. and you can do that from your sitting room." Lo-Q estimates it's saved guests over 4 billion minutes of queuing time since it launched. But eliminating queues entirely may not be possible. Visitors may not have to queue for the rides at Blackpool, but they do at the entrance.