Tech is finally killing long lines

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Startups and large corporations alike are releasing technology to cast long lines online.

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Why this matters: Standing in lines has always been a hassle, but the pandemic has made the lines long, slow and even dangerous. Now many of those lines are going virtual.

What is happening: Physical lines disappearing at theme parks, doctor’s offices, clothing stores and elsewhere have been replaced by systems that let you book slots online and then wait to be notified that it’s your turn.

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Whyline, an Argentinian company Which was just acquired by biometric ID company CLEAR, is an app that lets users do just that – it’ll keep you up to date on your wait times and tell you when to show up.

  • Whyline’s list of customers – mostly in Latin America – includes banks, retail stores, the City of Lincoln, Nebraska and Los Angeles International Airport.
  • “Just like you make a reservation at a restaurant, the Whyline software is waiting for you at banks, at the DMV, in airports,” said Carine Seidman-Baker, Clear’s CEO on CNBC.

Another app called Secure Queue was born out of the pandemic and aims to make in-store shopping safer for customers and workers by isolating shopper visits.

  • The app uses GPS technology to detect if you are within 1,000 feet of a participating store and automatically puts you in a virtual line. You can then wait in your car or at a nearby location until it is your turn to shop.
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Many health clinics across the country Also putting your COVID test line online.

  • At my local testing center in Hoboken, New Jersey, patients stand in a quick line to check in and then enter a virtual queue through an app called Solve Health.
  • They can then go back home, run errands or have coffee while they wait for a text alerting them to return to the clinic for testing. (It certainly comes with a lot of people standing outside in the cold for hours thinking they might be infected.)

Disney’s Universal Studios, Famous for its huge lines, is also trying out virtual queues.

  • You can choose a ride or a time to see the attraction for groups of up to 10 through virtual line feature In the resort’s app.

big picture: Who doesn’t want to avoid standing in line? There are already professional line-sitters like same ole line guys, who operates in New York City and specializes in such iconic NYC functions while waiting on standby “Saturday Night Live” tickets.

  • Gig-work app Task Rabbit apparently offers “line standers” that you can pay to keep your spot.

the rub: While virtual queuing technology is gaining ground, lines are still more common. And in the age of social distancing, expect longer wait times and longer lines.

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