The official hajj operator Muslim Tour has integrated artificial intelligence-based technology for traveling to Mecca and Medina. The company has integrated a secure system for ID document recognition and authentication, using the Smart ID Engine for ID image processing. The technology developed by Smart Engines accelerated the service of pilgrims 7 times at the time of peak demand.
Muslim Tour is the official tour operator of the Russia’s Council of Muftis and the Russia’s Spiritual Administration of Muslims, which organizes the tours to the Muslim shrines in the cities of Mecca and Medina of Saudi Arabia. Since 1997, Muslim Tour has sent more than 60 thousand people to Hajj.
Muslim Tour requires an original or copy of the Russian passport, a certificate of vaccination against meningococcal infection, and a certificate of acceptance of Islam for non-ethnic Muslims. Women need to show a document confirming the degree of kinship with mahram. For spouses — original marriage certificate and passport of the Russian Federation with the seal of the Registry Office, for sisters and daughters — birth certificate. The ticket is purchased and paid online.
Muslim Tour began using the Smart ID Engine to automate pilgrim paperwork in 2019. The technology provides accurate and fast scanning of ID cards and resident permits issued by 169 countries. The GreenOCR® technology, developed in-house, enables precise optical character recognition for text extraction not only in English but also in more than 100 languages worldwide. It is important that the data is not transferred to third parties and remains under the protection of Muslim Tour.
How AI helps deal with peak demand
During the Hajj season, operators of tours to Saudi Arabia are facing a sharp increase in the number of applications from pilgrims. Hajj is held annually and the majority of customers come to the operator after receiving the annual accreditation and allocation of an individual quota at the Hajj Council in the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.
After the distribution of quotas by countries, the load on the Hajj operators has increased manifold. The registration is carried out mainly remotely. Manual entry of passport data enormously slows down the processing of contracts.
“Before integrating the Smart ID Engine developed by Smart Engines, we tested several OCR systems. When using other solutions, various recognition errors occurred. This can lead to fines in Saudi Arabia equal to the cost of an entire trip”, — declares Ali Ibragimov, CEO of Muslim Tour.
Muslim Tour also analyzed what software Turkish hajj operators use. “Turkey is a country where the quota, the number of companies and the competition for the service are much higher than in Russia. However, we see that their operators are content with a machine-readable zone and the subsequent extraction of a photo from a biometric chip. This option does not suit us at all. This is neither a fast, nor guaranteed process, and almost all transactions we have are performed remotely. We instantly get face photos from the documents sent to us. So we did not find suitable solutions meeting our requirements among foreign colleagues. So we finally chose the Smart ID Engine. We would recommend Smart Engines to any companies or public organizations without any hesitation. The most modern, powerful and secure solutions you can find in the OCR market”, — mentions Ali Ibragimov.
The high accuracy of the Smart ID Engine program allows you to process documents automatically, without the operator’s involvement. The solution extracts all text data from almost any photos, scanned images of passports, and files sent by instant messengers, and instantly enters them into the company’s information system, which noticeably simplifies the manager’s work.
An important feature of Smart Engines’ solution is that the software allows for a perspective-corrected image of the document. Extracted faces are used for visas and badge printing, and a high-quality copy of the ID document will be needed for a pilgrim in Saudi Arabia. The authorities there keep the original documents in a special office and return them only on the way back at the airport in accordance with pilgrim control requirements.
Pilgrimage services have undergone a pandemic
This year’s pilgrimage season to the holy places of Mecca and Medina will last from early June to early July. The Hajj quota for pilgrims from Russia this year is 25,000 places, which corresponds to the pre-pandemic level, said Ilyas Umakhanov, Hajj Commissioner of the Commission for Religious Associations under the Russian Government.
“Hajj is the most important event in the life of Muslims. It is a great honor for us that we have been helping to book a trip to Mecca and Medina for five years together with the Muslim Tour company. This year, more pilgrims from Russia can go to the Hajj because the quota for the country has returned to the pre-pandemic level. This means that our system will handle a larger volume of documents. I emphasize that the Smart ID Engine does not send passport images to the Internet, cloud services or operators for processing. This is an absolutely safe system, which is included in the register of Russian programs”, — said Vladimir Arlazarov, CEO of Smart Engines, PhD in Computer Science.
“Muslim Tour” plans to expand the possibilities of applying the Smart ID Engine solution, Ali Ibragimov said. According to him, the company intends to use the program to recognize handwritten data from the residence page of the national passport. According to the new requirements of the Hajj Commission, pilgrims provide this data in the form of properly rotated photos of the document and manually typed data from them. Now this is done by the hands of managers and it just takes a lot of time and nerves,” Ali Ibragimov explained.