WHEN was the last time you were in CDR King in SM City? How much of your time was wasted waiting for your turn? The last time I was in that branch is precisely that—the last time. I spent close to an hour waiting for my turn that I ultimately gave up.

Yes, their products are cheaper, but you waste an hour of your time just to save a few pesos? I’ll reserve masochism for bulk purchases.

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

Waiting in line has got to be the blight of modern man’s existence. In the offices of Pag-ibig, and Social Security System, the Land Transportation Office and National Statistics Office, you see people waiting in line for so long you’d worry about the national productivity. In medical clinics, healthy people get sick—and murderous—by the time doctors finally attend to them.

I do not have proof, only strong suspicion, but I think your blood pressure (BP) is directly proportional to the amount of time you spend in line.

Take a BP monitor the next time you transact with a government agency and find out for yourself.

A better queuing system would do wonders to our health, sanity and national productivity. Wouldn’t it be great to get a priority number for a transaction and be notified when it’s your turn?

Joselle Macrohon, a student of the Ateneo de Zamboanga, saw the long lines in the school’s finance office and, instead of ranting or writing a column about it, decided a technical solution to the problem would make a good school project and entry to the Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program (Sweep) Innovation and Excellence Award. The team came up with the TimeFree application to address that problem.

The system is simple and ingenious. You drop P5 into the TimeFree machine, enter your priority number, specify on which priority number you want to be alerted and then enter the phone number where you want alert text messages sent. After that, you can go somewhere else knowing that when it’s close to your turn, you’ll get a text message to alert you.

For example, you want to pay your utility bills and you get 235 as priority number. The tellers, however, are still attending to priority No. 130. With TimeFree, you don’t have to wait inside the payment center until all the 104 people ahead of you are called. You can configure TimeFree to send you a text message when, for example, priority No. 230 is called. When it’s your turn, the system will send you another text message.

TimeFree is customizable, said mentor Louie Gallardo. A company can, for example, deploy the system as an added customer service and do away with the coin slot so that its clients don’t have to pay for the alerts. TimeFree is also easy to deploy. Gallardo said they can easily connect it to existing ticketing systems.

The TimeFree protoype that the student group produced will be used by the Ateneo de Zamboanga’s finance office after the contest.

When I wrote this column last Saturday, the winners of the Sweep Innovation and Excellence Awards were not yet announced. But regardless of whether TimeFree goes home with the top award, I think the application has the most potential to be actually deployed and used. I’ve covered Smart Sweep for four years but I couldn’t recall being as excited and as giddy as I was during the demo of mentor Eugene Kanindot of Ateneo de Zamboanga.

(Max Limpag blogs at http://max.limpag.com)