Every year there are millions of worshippers that visit the Great Mosque of Mecca located in Saudi Arabia. Often, they are all trying to find their way within a place that most of them have not seen before. This is the largest mosque in the world, covering an area of 4.3 million square foot. The Great Mosque of Mecca is the site of several pilgrimage rituals including the Hajj pilgrimage, which is the largest annual gathering in the world.

Previous Navigation System Used at the Great Mosque of Mecca

The Great Mosque of Mecca is surrounded by several different hotels which accommodate the pilgrims. Furthermore, there are also different entrances from the different street locations. This can make it more difficult for the pilgrims to easily navigate the location.

Previously, pilgrims have always made use of signage and maps to find their way around the area. However, the size of the Mosque and a choice between 100 entrance gates can make it difficult to navigate. To improve the navigation it has been chosen to introduce an application that can help the pilgrims. Furthermore, the use of this app is made more effective due to the use of BLE beacons at the Great Mosque of Mecca.

Improving Navigation at the Great Mosque of Mecca with BLE Beacons

By combining the use of the app and beacons, pilgrims can easily navigate the area. The combination between the app and the beacons allows having insight on the current location of the user. The pilgrim can identify its current position in the corridors or at the gates, view its location on the map and gain navigation to the site they seek to reach.  Furthermore, the app also offers possibilities for navigation outside the Great Mosque of Mecca. The user can also make use of the app whiles outdoors. This is made possible due to the GPS function of the app.

The beacon based solution has been made possible due to the technology provided by Dubai indoor navigation technology company NaviBees. This company was launched by professors at the Umm Al-Qura University in Mecca. NaviBees started to install the beacon-based system at the Great Mosque of Mecca in the summer of 2016.  Furthermore, to make this possible the company made use of beacon hardware developed and manufactured by Averos. This is another university spinoff company and a sister company to NaviBees.

The Use of the App and BLE Beacons

To enable visitors to navigate the location successfully, they will have to download the app and ensure that the Bluetooth function when they arrive at the Mosque. The phone will then capture the signals emitted by the BLE beacon and help the user to navigate the location. Furthermore, NaviBees has made the app available for both iOS and Android devices. A great feature of the app is that it is available in eight different languages. This is very useful due to the vast variety of annual visitors.

By making use of beacons, the company can also enable the Mosque to make use of analytics made available due to the use of beacons. The collection and managing of this data can provide great insights. Undoubtedly, the Great Mosque of Mecca can better understand the traffic movement. This can help in the traffic planning and provide users with the best routes. In addition, it can also provide users with the best times to visit. Until now the application has been downloaded by tens of thousand of people.

The use of BLE beacons at a big location as the Great Mosque of Mecca shows that beacons are a great technology to be used in large locations. Similarly, this can provide companies with insight on how to manage big crowds. Hence, this is a great example for big tourist attractions or companies operating in large events. This case provides the needed insight on how beacons can be used to improve navigation and ultimately visit experience.q