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Great Mosque of Mecca Adopts BLE-Based App

Worshippers can use an app from technology company NaviBees to view their location in or around the mosque, and to navigate their way to their destination.
By Claire Swedberg

With the new technology in place, the Grand Mosque now offers its visitors the NaviBees app for Android and iOS devices. The app is available in eight different languages.

Visitors first download the app, and then ensure that their Bluetooth function is on upon arriving at the mosque. The phone's built-in BLE reader captures transmissions from the beacons installed at gates, in corridors and in doorways, and the app identifies the individual's location based on those transmissions.

NaviBees' Saleh Basalamah
A user can view his or her location on the map of the mosque, and can input a requested site, such as a particular gate or a restroom, and the app will then display the route to that destination. When individuals are outdoors, the app uses GPS data to provide the same functions.

The next step, Basalamah says, is to enable the mosque to use analytics based on the beacon technology. By collecting and managing data from the beacon transmissions, as well as by taking into account responses to content on the app at specific locations, the mosque can better understand traffic movement and accommodate accordingly. For instance, users could view on the app where traffic is especially heavy, and what might be a better time to visit. Thus far, tens of thousands of people have downloaded the app.

NaviBees is now installing the technology at multiple Saudi airports for the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA). The company has gained support in developing the technology from the Saudi Arabian government's Technology Innovation Center that is aimed at directing research toward commercializable innovation as a way to diversify the country's economy beyond oil. That government effort, Basalamah says, focuses on more knowledge-based economy, and NaviBees is positioned to be part of that effort.

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