'Smart' technology to help mosques cut down on energy bills

ABU DHABI // Complaints from worshippers about chilly and overcrowded mosques as well as spiralling energy bills could be a thing of the past. The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology’s new “smart mosque” project aims to save money and energy by controlling air-conditioning systems and monitoring occupancy rates at places of worship so the […]

ABU DHABI // Complaints from worshippers about chilly and overcrowded mosques as well as spiralling energy bills could be a thing of the past.

The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology’s new “smart mosque” project aims to save money and energy by controlling air-conditioning systems and monitoring occupancy rates at places of worship so the devout can pick and chose where they want to pray in space and comfort.

“The idea came up when I noticed how occupancy rates vary from one mosque to another,” said Dr Talal Rahwan, assistant professor of computer and information sciences at Masdar and project leader.

“I thought there should be some intelligent building-management system that can adjust air conditioning to reflect the occupancy rate.”

Air conditioning accounts for almost 70 per cent of the country’s electricity consumption. As mosques are only visited at five points during the day, when worshippers come to pray, their energy use needs to be monitored and checked.

“Either a mosque will leave the air conditioning on all day, even when empty, or it will lower the air conditioning when no one is present and increase it again to a very high level once the mosque becomes full,” said Dr Rahwan.

He and colleague Dr Sid Chau, also assistant professor of computing and information sciences at Masdar, developed a video program that counts the number of people entering the mosque. “It can keep track of the occupancy rate. You need a algorithm to predict occupancy rate as well as an optimised control over the air conditioning to reflect the need for cooling, controlled wirelessly,” Dr Rahwan said.

Although the project is still at the study stage, the pair were able to demonstrate its effectiveness at two mosques – Masjid Fatah, near Madinat Zayed in the capital, and at Masjid Al Haq, in Khalifa City A.

“We chose those two as one is always packed and the other not as much,” Dr Rahwan said. “This really shows there needs to be a system that can adapt to the varying occupying patterns we see.”

The system will automatically switch off the air con once worshippers leave, maximizing energy saving without compromising people’s comfort.

“We expect the technology to minimise power consumption of mosques while also helping with the overall management,” said Fatiha AlBarqi, head of mosques services at the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments.

The trial in Khalifa City A is almost complete.

“We managed to find a study quantifying people’s different levels of comfort in temperature, given various activities,” Dr Rahwan added.

“When people do different activities, like sitting, sleeping or walking, they prefer a different temperature. The ideal temperature for people to be comfortable when they pray is the same temperature as when walking slowly.”

Eventually, a mobile application is expected to be developed to show occupancy rates in each mosque. The aim is to help worshippers make informed decisions when selecting where to pray at, to avoid overcrowding, which Dr Rahwan is keen to see rolled out across all the UAE.

cmalek@thenational.ae

Source: uae news

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