Certainly, the most interesting part of crafting user experience happens when you are the designer and the user at the same time. As a Muslim, at my last visit to the Great Mosque of Mecca, I had a lot of thoughts and questions about developing the holy places experience. foremost the place and our movements experience and the activities’ helpful resources.
Before we start, I would really like to appreciate all the efforts Saudi Arabia kingdom do to offer a much better experience. Every visit they surprise me with many new awesome places, services rate becomes higher and higher.
First, let’s define what are the problems you might face during such holy journey,
- It’s very crowded.
- Walking roads & Directions inside the great mosque will change several times on the same day.
- Any other ideas to help the people with disabilities?
- You will need some sort of Guideline or a reminder when you are doing Umrah. for example, you may miss counting the rounds you do around the go Kaaba “Tawaf” or even in Safa and Marwa.
- It’s much better, for any kind of prayers you do if it is in Arabic – which in many cases, not your mother tongue. for the holy Quran, it’s a must.
- A Little mistake, such as holding a big bag, may cause you on security issues, which will lead to leaving it before you enter the holy place with The Secretaries (save boxes) outside, and it’s really another crowded place where you will lose lots of time.
I Believe there are more issues, but for now, that’s what I personally faced before. so let’s think about possible solutions to those problems.
1- Security Gates:
As is: currently you have the freedom to enter the holy mosque and stay as long as you want without any warning.
Okay, at this moment roughly talk there is about 1.8 billion Muslims around the world. Lots of them visit Saudi Arabia several times every single year. To stay in the Holy places in general. many of them enter the holy place and stay for more than 300 hours each year (as an average, I guess and it might be more) That cause the traffic in the first place. if we build smart gates which you can enter using a unique ID Card or even your fingerprint (which will be created & collected for you in the first time you visit Saudi Arabia) and you have a balance of hours (updated every single year) for example you have only one hundred hours every single year.
The gate will open for you based on your Balance, and it will show you the remaining balance you have at every single entering or exiting. That will impact people behavior, they will control and count the hours they have and they will save lots of opportunities for other visitors as well. That will help in solving the problem no 1.
2- Smart Roads with Traffic Control Engine:
As is: currently the security use some kind of dividers, and they create and shape the ways based on the traffic manually.
The idea here is to build smart automated reshapable roads (walking roads), which will be able to change here self-based on the traffic control output. we can use a kind of screens on the floor to show the arrow (may we change the direction, therefore the arrow needs to be flexible) and we may also put an (X) on it, to mention that it’s closed. The ways also can change itself and reshape new directions for new paths, it can be at some point very smart to guide the visitors by visual lights in the right directions. it could also give users indicator to the endpoint through digital screens, with estimate walk time. that will be really helpful.
That’s will save a lot of time for the security guys, and it will give them more time to help & welcoming the visitors. also, it helps in solving the problems 1 and 2.
3- Disabilities Journey:
As is: currently they are using the normal disability chairs, and there are many persons to support you if you are going to use it.
If we build a gate, which actually contains automated Wheelchair (something similar to the Olympos teleferik actually – but it will be implemented with another design – which contains many chairs you could set in the first possible one). so people with disabilities could reach the gate, can wait for the next one, ride it and it will take him through all the rites based on the selected one.
We could also add a support screen or even voice support, and they can use it whenever they want to show the best prayers for these rites and any other support type.
4- Digital signage screens:
It’s there already, but I don’t think that currently, we get the best of it. and to get the best out of it, first, we need more of screens to be placed all over the place, gates, and roads. then we need to get a better management tool which gives us the ability to design much better interactive screens, with options such as timeline, calendar, and animations.
There was an old solution which we designed when I was working at wireless-marketer in Saudi Arabia, I think it will cover all possible needs and situations. you can check the case study for “Blue screen designer” from here.
There are many suggestions, we could use it to show a map for the visitors, we could use it for announcements & warnings, use it to show important traffic statues and more.
5- On Demand Guide Printing:
When you want to do Umrah, you might miss a step, or even you may don’t do it the right way. for many reasons, it might be the lack of resources and the different opinions in any kind of practices and there are many wrong ideas which are commonly shared between people each other.
For example, you may miss the count of rounds you did, it happens many times. Also, you may don’t know what actually the right thing to say in your prayers. and the best source of data will be the holy place management itself.
The idea is not only about delivering a printed guide with all what you are able to do such as Umrah, Prayers, and best practices or prayers you supposed to do or to say – and how you can do it the right way.
but also give the visitors an interactive printed guide. for example, we may have a number of scratchable circles printed on the paper, so you can scratch each one to count each round you already did.
6- OnDemand Digital Guide Box:
For peoples with disabilities again, such helpful way to guide through sound orders – or voice control. something like that will impact the entire journey and it will leave unforgettable great feelings.
I believe peoples will always put the device back somewhere. also, it could be secured in many ways. this device might be a customized version of an operating system such as Android, which only contains those helpful options (same as printed version) but with multi-modal interactions through voice control, automatic translations, maps and many more.
7- Automated Cleaning Robots:
It’s a trend, it is there for a while right now and I don’t think it will be that difficult even to build a customized version to fit the cleaning quality requirements in the holy mosque.
Many times I saw the above small version of cleaning robots, it’s very small if we compare it to the one used in the holy mosque. but it’s promising since the one used on the holy mosque is almost automated, it just needs a direction or a driver and a pre-configured program that it will do On the relay, and there are many engines already built which might help if we use it as resources for such product.
8- Help Machines:
Anytime, Anywhere. if you need help, you could easily talk to any help-machines (robots), through touch-screen and voice commands.
They will be able to show videos, photos, even maps through the screen, they will be able to show you your balance statues also. and they might guide you to achieve a very specific place in Al Haram.
9- Locker Robots:
A Robots, which will walk around the entire place in many different places, you will be able to stop them, and press on start button, it will open a box and you will leave whatever you want to save in the Safebox, it will go through materials secure check “fast one” then if it was accepted, it will print a return card for you, where you could find information such as when and where you get your things back.
The robots will collect as many things as possible, then it will automatically place it on the right places “Appeared previously on the printed cards”.
10- Laser lights Signs:
As is: There are lights on the sides, used currently as indicators for the start and the end of each round, but it’s not enough. The traffic might Obscure the vision.
So if we used some sort of leaser lights, comes from the top and reflect on the floor, that will reflect also in your body while you are moving and it would be a cleaner indicator for the end and start points.
Through this articles, we showed some early ideas and concepts which might lead to a much better experience in the great mosque. I’m not pretty sure about the effect of those ideas on behalf of solving experience problems and give a higher experience rate. but I’m pretty sure that it’s our duty as Muslims around the world to help even by writing articles and sharing new ideas and concepts. it’s not about who will make it real, it’s about making people think about its possibilities from the beginning.
we show through this article many ideas such as Security Gates, Smart Roads with Traffic Control Engine, Digital signage screens, On Demand Guide Printing, OnDemand Digital Guide Box, Automated Cleaning Robots, Help Machines, Locker Robots, Laser lights Signs. Also, we expressed possible ways to improve the Disabilities Journey.
For now, that’s all.
Also published on Medium.