Jeddah — With more than 1.6-million Muslims arriving in Saudi Arabia in the coming days for the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, thousands of programmers and developers have been hard at work to come up with ideas that could transform the face of this ancient religious ritual. At a so-called ‘hajj hackathon’ organised earlier in August in Jeddah, inventors competed for prize money worth $420,000, as part of a new push by Saudi authorities for a wider use of technology to make the pilgrimage experience safer and more enjoyable for the millions who perform it every year. While hajj organisers have used technologies for many purposes such as large-scale simulation to predict the movement and flow of crowds, this has not prevented deadly accidents like the stampede that left hundreds of pilgrims dead in 2015. Officials hope that opening the door for ideas from outside the government could provide innovative solutions to complex old problems. "Most apps or existing technologies used now ...

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