The Hajj Vision of the Future
Recently, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has released video showing its Smart Hajj vision of how the pilgrimage will be supported by a number of technologies, including wireless wristbands, earphones, and contactless cards. This is the era of Fourth Industrial Revolution or IR4.0 where the cyberworld converge with the physical world.
Imagine a pilgrim that seamlessly walk through the process of arriving at the Airport with personal greetings, taking fast transportation with the ease of check-in to the hotel. Furthermore, the devices will help the pilgrims continuously during their pilgrimage. A personal assistant will help to reminds the number of rounds made during the Tawaf and Saie.
Many times we have pilgrims encountered problems and have difficulty to communicate with others due to the language barrier. Previously, only physical maps are shown in certain strategic locations in Mina, however, with the help of smartphone and GPS, the pilgrims can easily find their way back.
All of the technologies shown in the video are already available such as Bluetooth wristbands, contactless cards, wireless earphones among others. The only challenges they might face with such short-range Bluetooth devices are the coverage in areas like Arafah, Mudzalifa or Mina or even outside both Holy Mosques (Masjidilharam and Masjidil Nabawi).
Individual devices alone can’t make a very good and seamless service unless we integrate with feature-rich mobile applications or backend support systems. However, the most important factor is the right business model either by providing such affordable solutions either to individual pilgrims or make it mandatory for all 2.3 Million pilgrims.
The Mission – Providing a Peace of Mind
The main objective of a Smart Hajj is to provide the pilgrims with a Peace of Mind during their travel while performing their Hajj rituals. The Saudi Kingdom, being the host to Millions of people converging to the Holy Land during that short time period of the year have a mission to provide the best possible service to the Holy visitors. Being good to another Muslim is core in the Islamic faith.
Many whom have performed their pilgrimage either Haj and Umrah will understand the difficulty when thousands or millions of people converge into one place. The challenges faced by the Authorities to manage the well-being of their own pilgrims either for health or safety.
Many are gone missing or will encounter lost a sense of direction when staying in a new place. A big mosque like Masjidilharam with many doors to enter and exit can be a nightmare to many old people or people who rarely travel from their hometown.
During the peak period of Haj when pilgrims travel to Arafat, Mudzalifah, and Mina whereby the men can only wear a white robe, the best and safest way to carry any communication device safely is by wearing only a “watch” rather than a smartphone.
Wearables in Hajj
The history of a digital wearable goes back in 1972 when Hamilton Watch Company announces the Pulsar Time Computer, billed as the first digital watch. In 2008, the earliest fitness device by Fitbit originally tracked the number of steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned, activity intensity, and sleep.
Wearables like smartwatches have evolved from accessory type of devices to textile-based where people can wear as part of their clothing. In future, we will be seeing skin patchable devices and finally a body implantable sensor that is safe to human body.
It will not be long such devices can be used for Hajj from just wearing a smartwatch to have a clothing or robes and patch devices. It will become more ambient and pervasive.
The Key Success Factors of Smart Hajj
Among the key success factors for a Smart Hajj solution are:
- Easy to wear and robust. People tend to forget about the device if it is just a normal tag, however, having a device like a “watch” is rarely forgotten because the watch is seen to be an everyday wear. It’s also important to have a device with a long battery life. However, just like any smartphone, the pilgrims have that option to carry along a Powerbank to charge the device just in case it requires that extra juice.
- Fitness, Safety, Health, and Peace of Mind.When wearables such as Fitbit was introduced, it was meant for fitness-related activities. Such fitness devices have tremendously evolved with the integration of other sensors and features into a single device. It no longer just tracks your exercise activities but also your health parameters such as Blood Pressure and ECG. It no longer tracks your running, walking or cycling daily routes, but also tracking for the purpose of security and safety. The application is no longer to track oneself, but also provide a peace of mind to the family members.
- There will be likely a 90% chance that the pilgrim will get a “Hajj Cough” during that 2 months period. The heat can cause dehydration and people can get fainted and send to the hospital. With the challenge of a language barrier, it can be a daunting task to convey any message across. There must a better method for a 2-way communication between the pilgrims and the Hajj Authorities or to their travel group members.
- End-to-End Hajj/Umrah Management System– People spend the lifetime savings for that single holy journey. Managing Millions of people is not an easy task for an individual’s country Hajj authorities and also for the host. Pilgrims are divided into smaller groups and traveled together under their assigned Mutawwifs (Officer-in-Charge). Thus, it’s the responsibility of the Mutawwifs and their agencies to take care of their pilgrims. However, they need to have the right tool or system to monitor them.
Welcome to the New Era of Hajj
Although the rituals of Hajj remained the same, the upcoming pilgrim’s journey and experience will be very different with the introduction of smart tools, applications, and infrastructure. Technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data Analytics, Augmented and Virtual Reality and Blockchain will transform the Hajj journey into the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Let’s welcome to “Smart Hajj 4.0”!
Dr. Mazlan Abbas is the CEO and Co-Founder of FAVORIOT, a Malaysian IoT Start-up that focuses on providing a peace of mind solution called RAQIB for the pilgrims and their family members during performing their Hajj. Favoriot also offers RAQIB to monitor the elderly’s health, safety, and location. Both solutions above comprised of Smart Wearables connected to FAVORIOT IoT middleware. The middleware is now being used by more than 20 organizations to build their own IoT solutions.