Queuing For Machines

I was recently sat in St. Pancras enjoying a light ale while waiting for a train back to my home town of Sheffield. I was sat 10 yards from a bank of cash machines (I assume bank is the collective noun for ATMs) and during the 30 minutes I was sat there the queue for these machines never got shorter than 3.  If I looked to my left I could see a block of four train ticket machines allowing travelers to buy tickets for immediate travel or to collect tickets they had previously ordered via the delightfully titled FastTicket, which had similar, if not longer queue lengths. A stream of seemingly never ending people waiting for pieces of paper and card to be dispatched by machines.

As I sat watching this scenario in between gawping at my smartphone I could not help but wonder why in the second decade of the second millennium people still had to queue for machines to dole out pieces of paper.  I thought about how I felt when standing in those queues and those feelings usually involved disdain (come on what are you doing that takes this long? Do you really need to print a mini statement?), Annoyance (Why is there only 5 cash machines in this huge train station) and of course grumpiness (just because I am a miserable shit).

Now I know mobile ticketing solutions are on the horizon, from the 2D barcodes and QR codes for tickets to the future NFC technology solutions replacing both ticketing and eventually cash.  These problems should not be with us much longer (well maybe a decade or so). These solutions cannot come fast enough for me.

We are trying to eradicate queues at all costs from the removal of physical cash to the redesigning of the car so that it is driver less and can in theory bring about the end of traffic jams (more a case of humans queuing in machines).  So the days of long queues are seemingly coming to an end. We will be blessed with an easier life and more time to do exciting things (like gawping at smartphones). But then I began to think what will we lose if we no longer queue for these machines?

For a start the queue is a British tradition and we all love tradition so we may make our lives more stress free but a patriotic little part of us will die.  We will have removed the awkward bonhomie between queue members. The knowing look between two queue members who both hate the idiot unable of retrieving a train ticket.  No queues mean we have less frustration outlets. A lack of frustration outlets will create a tut and sigh surplus the likes of which the EU will have never seen. And what of the engineers? The real men and women whose mechanical engineering skills help keep these complex metal and plastic beasts spitting out rectangles of entitlement. Where will they go? Maybe they will go and make beautiful machines that people do not mind queuing for i.e. roller coasters. Or maybe they will build the kind of theme parks / interactive rides that Cory Doctorow describes in his excellent book Makers.  And that is about as far as  my sympathetic / reminiscent thoughts went.

For me the positives outweigh the negatives by quite a margin. Eliminating queues for these machines that are owned by organisations that the public have little love for may go a little way to healing old wounds, providing the solutions that replace them are slick and simple. Another plus point is that we will have removed a flash point from society. No longer will late night revellers risk the drunken lout at the back of the cash machine queue causing a ruckus or have to listen to a boorish conversation of a business dullard while he waits for his first class train ticket to the big city.

As I said before I cannot wait for the services that bring about the death of these machines and therefore the queues for them.  Maybe then the smart technology companies can focus on improving / eradicating the scene of the most hated forms of queuing for machines. The Airport. Roll on teleportation.


WARNING. This post contains a lot of talk about the passing of urine and is generally quite crude but in an innovative and ultimately charming way.

A few tweets have been pinging about today discussing the recent story of the new urinal games that Sega are trialling in Tokyo.  These fantastic innovations in waste passing entertainment include such games as ‘Mannekin Pis’ a challenge to see how hard the urinal user can urinate. It then compares this to the previous urinal user to see who had the greatest velocity wee wee expulsion.

This lovely announcement was picked up on by all round fine fellow, Gregory Povey, who commented that they had made his flippancy.  Greg was referring to a high brow discussion that Tim and James and I were lucky enough to be involved in, which took place in the summer of 2010.

The porcelain based parlance followed a talk at the LoveBytes event by Tobie Kerridge. Tobie talked about a project called Material Beliefs which amongst other things involved a prototype called Vital Signs which was a live bio monitoring device. The device involved the adhesion of digital plasters to the patients body to monitor the heart, breath and movement.

After the conference we retired to a local ale house to discuss what we had seen and heard.  As the ale flowed we somehow got onto the topic of barely games. Now I don’t quite remember who (but I suspect it was me) mentioned urinal games i.e. the simplistic and usually advertising based, featuring such things as plastic football goals in the bowl.

Greg took this a stage further discussing the digital opportunities around these liquid excretion based frivolities and the social gaming potential they possessed. As the conversation flowed we stumbled back to the bio monitoring digital plasters. We also talked about Near Field Communication (NFC) and how the physical & digital world will become increasingly linked probably via the mobile.  I may have said something about these plasters being able to attach to certain appendages and to maybe measure effluence flow rate, bladder capacity vs pints drunk (a useful measure in the manly challenge of seeing who can go the longest during a drinking session without going to the toilet) and then connect to the phone via NFC and use the functionality of the device to submit this very useful data to the cloud, GPS locate the piddler and other such useful recordings and measurements. James summed this up a bit more succinctly in his tweet the day after, which I must protest is without context and paints me in a terrible light, maybe even more terrible than this post.

So there you have it the story of the NFC based penis plaster which when I tweeted about today piqued quite a bit of interest from bemused tweeters. Emma Cooper asked if there was a ladies version. She then quickly tried to unask the question but it was too late.  I think that it would be possible for ladies although the mechanics are more complex.  I am also of the understanding that the female urinal is not quite a prevalent in society as the male version.   Tony Kennick asked a quite crude question but also a very valid one, about if there was accompanying technology that could be used for orifices to record check ins.  I suspect if the former invention were created the latter would surely follow.

So that is that.  I have spent too much time thinking about this thing but enough people asked about it that I felt I had to explain myself.  I am not sure how accurate my recollection of the original discussion is, Bernard Premium Strength Lager is quite strong, so if James, Tim or Greg would like to add or amend any of the details then please let me know.  My final thought on the matter is the product name. The worse one I have come up with is iUrethra my favourite is Wee NFC. Any other product name suggestions greatly appreciated.