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Smart Prayer Room

Students at the Technion have developed a system that informs the user whether the Faculty prayer room is occupied or vacant and whether the worshipers are men or women. It does this with the aid of sensors alone, and without using a camera, which could violate the worshippers’ privacy

 

 

could violate the worshippers’ privacy

 

Mosallah (مصلى) is the name of an original system for monitoring the presence of worshippers in the Muslim prayer room at the Technion Faculty of Computer Science. The unique app can identify the current stage of the prayer and, according to this information, the system can estimate when the prayer will end. The innovative system was developed by three students at the Technion Faculty of Computer Science - female students Anwar Dabur and Lina Mudalej and male student Bakr Odeh - as their final project in the course on systems programming in an Arduino environment, held in conjunction with Microsoft R&D.

 

Dabur relates, “It all started two years ago, when the Faculty provided its Muslim students with a mosallah (dedicated prayer room).  It was of course a very important step for us Muslims who want to pray during the day, but we soon found that there was a little problem: a person who wants to pray in the room has no way of knowing whether it’s vacant or occupied.”

 

Unlike prayers with many participants, where men and women gather in the same hall, prayer in small prayer rooms is not mixed. “Therefore it is important for us to know not only if the room is occupied but also who is inside - men or women. We realized that this was a very complex challenge, but we are students at the Technion - there’s no way we would fail to solve all those problems.”

 

During the past year, the project year, the three visited many prayer rooms in order to analyze the characteristics that could be monitored during prayers in the mosallah, and developed the system, constantly improving it based on experiments. From the outset, it was clear to them that cameras would not be used, because they violate the worshiper’s privacy. Therefore they developed a smart prayer rug equipped with pressure sensors. The rug provides the system with information enabling it to determine whether the worshippers in the room are men or women. “Women and men pray differently,” Dabur explains. “When men pray, one of the worshippers stands in front and the others behind, while women pray in a single row. The order in which they kneel is also different. Therefore, based on the information obtained from the pressure sensors, we can determine the gender of the worshipers without entering the room.”

 

The system developed by the three students includes pressure and distance sensors, an Arduino controller and servo motor; software that analyzes the data; and a dedicated app that sends the user prayer reminders on his mobile phone and tells him when the prayer room is vacant or partly vacant. The system can also be used without a smartphone, thanks to an interactive interface based on an LCD touch screen installed outside the prayer room, enabling the user to obtain relevant data and inform the system that he is waiting outside. 

 

“Using the system saves the user a lot of time. Everyone knows that time is a rare commodity when you’re a student at the Technion,” concludes Lina. “This way, instead of standing in line to enter the prayer room, I study at the library and when I see on my phone that the room is vacant, I go there to pray. In the future, we intend to turn the app into a tool for learning prayers and the special movements that go with them.”

 

The course on systems programming in an Arduino environment is held in conjunction with Microsoft R&D, and enables students to use technology and state-of-the-art software during their studies, including smartphones and tablets for running apps during the development phase.  In the course, which is designed to challenge the students with independent product-building projects, the students design smart systems that combine hardware and software using Arduino-based controllers connected to Azure, Microsoft’s cloud.

 

Photo  The student Lina Mudalej   / Technion