For most football fans attending the 2022 FIFA World Cup™ Qatar, their smartphone will be a must-have accessory. A Saudi team of innovators taking part in Challenge 22 , the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC)’s regional innovation award, is taking advantage of this fact. They’re working hard to develop a solution that will guide fans through the entire tournament experience, from the moment they swipe into the venue with their match ticket.

Back in 2015, Saudi engineer Faisal Alferdos, an enthusiastic Al Hilal fan, founded a company – Near Motion – with the goal of creating solutions for the first ever FIFA World Cup™ to be held in the Middle East. In Challenge 22 he saw the opportunity to make one of his ideas happen.

His project, Smart Stadium – Indoor Navigation & Access Management, will provide an exceptional fan engagement experience through smartphones. He explained: “It combines mobile ticketing, access management and indoor navigation (including seat and stadium facilities wayfinding), location-based notifications, analytical tools, reporting and much more.”

Alferdos is keen to make the tournament accessible to all fans, regardless of their preferred language. While this type of service has been seen before in the USA for major sporting occasions, Alferdos wants to bring it to the world of football and make the FIFA World Cup™ in Qatar the smartest and most connected fan experience yet.

“Assuming that most fans will be holding a smartphone, we’re customising this solution to the World Cup  by distributing Bluetooth low energy devices around the stadium that can be detected by the smartphones to perform certain actions. Using this technology, friends will also be able to locate each other,” he continued.

Faisal Alferdos, founder of Near Motion and Challenge 22 participant from Saudi Arabia.

When they swipe their ticket and enter the stadium, fans that have the application installed will receive a personalised message. “From there on, the app will take them into the stadium using step-by-step indoor navigation, directing them to different facilities like shops or restrooms.”

Selected by Forbes Middle East  as one of the entrepreneurs shaping Saudi Arabia’s future, this young Saudi engineer is keen to have a prototype adapted to a stadium within a year. He hopes that arena will be Khalifa International Stadium, which is soon to be completed.

He emphasised the importance of a project like this for entrepreneurs across the region, saying: “No matter how cool your project or idea is, without an initiative such as Challenge 22 it is very likely to stay in the dark. This will be the most important event in the world, and it will bring a lot of opportunities to businesses in the region.”

The Smart Stadium – Indoor Navigation & Access Management proposal is one of 12 ideas in the internet of things category that made it to the final of Challenge 22. Of the total number of submissions selected for the final round, eight came from Qatar; five from Jordan; four from Saudi Arabia; three from Egypt; two came from Oman, Tunisia and the UAE; and one concept was selected from both Kuwait and Morocco respectively.

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