Wednesday 8 September 2021

stc Saudi Arabia's Robotic Hajj 2021

The Hajj pilgrimage despite being greatly impacted and reduced in term of pilgrims due to the pandemic these last two years is being transformed by innovative technologies and advances in mobile networks especially with the rollout of 4G and 5G. 

For example stc Group have launched a series of smart robot technologies aimed at increasing the efficiency of the Hajj pilgrimage and developing a reference experience for the coming Hajj Seasons through shortening the effort and time and providing safety for the pilgrims. 

stc envisage two types of robots to be used in Mecca. The first robot is featured as a personal robot, while the other is a security robot. The personal robot works using 3D technology and is equipped with a screen, camera and microphone, as it can move among and talk to pilgrims, answer their inquiries and provide guidance and advice. It further enhances communication among individuals under the circumstances of remote work and social distancing imposed by Covid-19 pandemic.

The security robot is dedicated to follow up and monitor the compliance with the precautionary and preventive measures that the pilgrims must follow as per the applicable health protocols. It can measure the human temperature and monitor the mask wearing through its AI technologies. Further, it undertakes site sanitization on a continuous basis, where it can be controlled and operated remotely through the Monitoring and Control Platform.

Furthermore, stc enhanced “Augmented Reality” technology (AR) together with its efforts to expand and deploy (5G) technology across Holy Sites. Such AR technology is an interactive experience based on the latest technologies where the user can deal with the information and objects that reside in the virtual world and see the surrounding world through mobile devices such as smartphone or through wearable devices such glasses and contact. Such technology contributes to the enhancement of Hajj and Umrah experience and provides virtual guide for circumambulation (“Tawaf”), information about the directions to the main sites and first-hand information about the Holy Mosque.

Moreover stc Group has significantly raised its network operational plan, and its network availability rate with the latest technology in 5G and 4G in recent times. Regarding the Hajj pilgrimage 5G coverage in Mecca and the Holy Sites has increased by 48% comparing to last year. Data Traffic on stc network has increased 40% compared with the last year. With the number of international voice channels increased by 33% distributed over 8 international exchanges, the company. Concerning the internal coverage solutions, sites in the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque have been allocated and upgraded to 5G technology, in parallel with the company’s goal to create an innovative Hajj experience for pilgrims during this season.

The Digital Operations Control Center, which was recently launched at stc complex in Riyadh as the largest control and monitoring center in the region, has monitored the difference in the movement of services in parallel with the strategy of delivering more services through the latest networks. In fact, the voice traffic recorded more than 737% growth compared to last year, with more than 65% delivered through the 4G network to enhance customer experience in voice services, while the 4G and 5G networks have carried more than 96% of the internet traffic in Mina.

While data traffic increased on The Day of Arafat by 220% compared to last year, while the volume of voice traffic increased by 350%. Around 97% of this increase was transmitted through 5G and 4G networks. The data also showed a 330% increase in the number of stc customers on the Holy Mount Arafat.

This quantitative and qualitative increase in state-of-the-art voice traffic delivery and data traffic technologies comes in conjunction with the development of the 5G and 4G networks this year in order to increase the qualitative efficiency of customer experience across all stc services.

On the other hand, the critical communication network solutions provided by “specialized by stc” to government and private entities involved in the Hajj season recorded an availability rate of 99%, thus ensuring continuity of communication with field teams and immediate communication of critical and emergency situations. 

Another interesting innovation is the deployment of the 'smart card' this is linked with all services being provided to the pilgrims; such as their entry to hotels in Makkah and tents in the holy sites as well as their using of means of transportation.

Indeed King Salman of Saudi Arabia has affirmed that the digital Hajj system aims to reduce human cadres in managing crowds and organizing Hajj to ensure the safety of pilgrims and those serving them.

Deputy Minister Hajj Amr Al-Maddah said that the launch of the card establishes a digital phase ahead in which all transactions will be managed in a smart and contactless manner. He pointed out that it will also serve as an electronic financial wallet in the future; thus eliminating the need for pilgrims to carry cash.

The smart card can be used in payments through points of sale as well as to guide lost pilgrims on to their camps; governing access to camps and timing of grouping and transportation. It aims to facilitate the movement of pilgrims to and from Makkah and markedly reduce the waiting time for buses that transport them between Makkah and the Holy Sites. The card also enabled pilgrims to bring down the human contact to the minimum.

Also this year, instead of communal water dispensers, an army of robots was deployed to distribute sacred water to the faithful.

“Bottled zamzam water is much better. There are fewer people and there's no need to queue,” Pakistani-American Aneela, 37, told AFP.

Egyptian pilgrim Siam said the new technologies meant the Haj was “keeping up with the times”.


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