RIYADH: Technology is being harnessed again this year to provide better services for pilgrims, according to Dr. Abdul Fattah bin Suleiman Mashat, Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah.
Mashat said that for the second year in a row, the ministry had implemented the “smart card” initiative, which aimed to provide high-quality services to pilgrims and facilitate the journey of worshippers while performing their rituals.
The “smart card” was an extension of the “Smart Hajj” platform, which covers the digital identity of the pilgrim. Mashat said that, with this year’s requirements, services related to the card had been developed to include the personal, medical and residential information of the pilgrim, including his Hajj regiment, bus and seat number, residence, room number and bed.
In addition, it helped to guide pilgrims to their homes and controlled their entry to site facilities, in addition to reducing irregular pilgrims.
Mashat said that one of the most important features of the “smart card” was its design — using a set of color groups related to program services, grouping and transfer — and included NFC technology to read Hajj data through self-service devices. In addition, it contained a barcode that Hajj workers were able to read to improve services provided to pilgrims.
He said that the ministry had started the implementation of the strategic executive plan for this year’s Hajj season early following Saudi Arabia’s decision to organize Hajj for very limited numbers. This was to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as it would have been impossible to ensure social distancing had a large number of pilgrims been received.
Mashat said: “The ministry, and all parties concerned with organizing this year’s Hajj season, were keen on procuring the best services to pilgrims while applying the highest health and safety standards, and the preventive and precautionary measures, according to the directions of the Kingdom’s leadership to provide the best services to the pilgrims.”