Every year, millions of Muslims gather at Mecca to perform Hajj, about 74% are from foreign countries with an average age of 54 years old. Saudi government entities work with all their capacities to ensure the safety of pilgrims during their movement in time-specific routes. A major concern of the crowd management is caused by people searching for a lost companion. Old age, language problem, getting separated from the group are some of the reasons why pilgrims get lost in the Grand Mosque and the central area around it.

Existing mobile technologies helped, but putting a huge peak load pressure on the mobile and networking infrastructure. It is also observed that the large proportion of pilgrims do not own any mobile devices are most prone to getting lost. Given the large and increasing number of foreign pilgrims, improving hajj management requires cooperation not only from the local government but also Hajj service providers and pilgrims themselves.

What it does

HajjConnect is a smart band for pilgrims and a mobile-app solution for Hajj operators that reduces the chances of pilgrims on the move from getting lost and provides other essential conveniences along their journey.

It features:

  • Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) module for proximity tracking
  • Near-field Communication (NFC) technology for instant payment and privacy-protected identification
  • Operator dashboard for real-time insights

HajjConnect allows the Hajj guides to keep track of the pilgrims in a certain radius and get notified if their guests wander away from the group, thus preventing them from getting lost. Additionally, it can be used as a payment method. Pilgrims can set a limit on their daily spending, and top-up the credits with their guides when needed.

HajjConnect is designed around the existing operation and infrastructure of pilgrimage without requiring major behavioral changes from the users.

How we built it

Utilizing a locally designed and manufactured smart wristband with BLE and NFC capability, our team crafted the minimal data required for a secured and low-bandwidth mode of communication. We used react-native to harness the power of native Bluetooth API and robust app performance. For the backend, we used Google Sheets API as a flexible and familiar database and Google Drive for CDN. MongoDB is used to push real-time location of tour groups. The hardware components are low cost and durable and the software stack is scalable.

Challenges we ran into

  • reading advertising payload of BLE beacons
  • network connectivity

Accomplishments that we're proud of

  • parallel dev work and squashing bug after bug!

What we learned

  • the hardware can be manufactured locally and at a low cost (~5 USD/device)
  • pacing in team development work is very important

Who are we

We are a team of four from China and Pakistan, and resides in Saudi Arabia for years. Ali is an engineer with a startup based in Wadi Makkah and specialized in hardware engineering. He designed the hardware prototype of the band. Usman Bashir is a full-stack developer and technology consultant from Jeddah. Andrew is a data scientist and entrepreneur from KAUST, with experience in software development for various projects. Ge is a tech entrepreneur who currently studying at KAUST, with years of experience in UI/UX design.

What's next for HajjConnect

  • work on NFC payment gateway
  • field test our solution with Umrah/Hajj service providers
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