DUBAI: “Everyone has a story about a relative getting lost during Hajj,” says designer Hamza Oza. “Even in my family, my grandmother got lost during Umrah.”
Oza is explaining the inspiration behind his invention, Rehber — a “system and device that helps families find each other during Hajj” — which he exhibited at the Global Grad Show during Dubai Design Week this month. The device, a plain wristband (in keeping with the aesthetic ethos of the pilgrimage), has a range of up to five kilometers and works independently of a mobile network, phone, or sim card. A web-based dashboard enables authorized users to search for a particular device (or the wearer can activate their device and send an alert to the website).
With two million pilgrims attending Hajj this year — and with Vision 2030’s aim of increasing that number to eight million — there’s clearly a market for Rehber. “As far as I know, a lot of the Hajj missions are concerned with this,” Oza says. “They want to be able to identify where their pilgrims are. I’m sure the Saudi government is interested in knowing where people are too.”
And while many pilgrims will have their own means of tracking locations, many more cannot afford a smartphone or smartwatch.
“Hajj is a massive event. It’s a huge spectrum, from the Bangladeshi village elder to the New York executive. So I wanted to make it as easy and affordable as possible for pilgrims to use,” Oza tells Arab News. “Each device should retail for about 25 pounds (around $32). So, if you’re a family of four, it becomes affordable. By keeping the wristband basic and dumb, I can make all the bigger changes on the website, so that means you don’t have to worry about updating software and stuff.”
Oza’s device clearly has a huge potential user-base (not just among pilgrims, he suggests, explaining that an easy-to-use, lightweight tracking device has several possible commercial applications), but, as he remarks, most potential customers will hope it’s a waste of money.
“The best-case scenario for this device is that it’s always hidden and you never have to use it,” he says. “But if you do, it’s there.”