Real-time innovation at Kumbh Mela

MIT researchers and leading tech companies join the crowd of 30 million in Nashik.

kumbh sadhu
Via The Times of India

Around three crore (30 million) pilgrims are expected to gather at the Kumbh Mela in Nashik this year, but sadhus and spectators aren’t the only expected visitors. Innovators from organizations like MIT, Nokia, Wikipedia, the Tata Center for Technology and Design, the IITs and Reliance Innovation Lab will also be present at the world’s largest religious jamboree.

They’re viewing it as a unique opportunity — called the Kumbhathon — to work with a very large test group, study the stresses of rapid urbanization and create disruptive solutions in the domains of health, housing, food, payments and transportation. Over 30 days, the Kumbh Mela will become for them a petri dish to test out frugal innovations that will one day power the smart cities of developing economies.

“Our research team in Bangalore is looking forward to collaborating with MIT during the Kumbhathon in Nasik, to pilot innovations that will make a positive difference for rapidly growing communities,” said Sophie Vandebroek, chief technology officer and president of the Xerox Innovation Group to Kumbhathon members, “Researchers at Xerox are addressing a wide range of urban challenges using a combination of mobile sensing, crowdsourcing, and prescriptive analytics to create actionable insights for cities and their citizens.”

The Kumbhathon is a year-around project set up by these organizations to brainstorm and come up with solutions to address the challenges of Kumbh Mela. For instance, a 17-year-old has designed a foot mat that can count footsteps. “It can be placed anywhere and can help in sensing crowd movement, thus preventing stampedes,” said Darnish Singh Kalra, co-founder of Lucid Lane, a creative agency that is taking part in the event. Stampedes are a common occurrence at the melas with the 1954 edition witnessing around 1,000 deaths. The young designer has been recommended by MIT and has been awarded a scholarship by Xerox, Kalra added.

Full story in the Times of India.

Photo via Times of India.