Innovating for Billions workshop - Day 3 - January 25, 2016


Teams of innovators started working in earnest today. Today was a day to clarify challenges. After conducting online research and meeting with stakeholders and experts in the field, they were expected to understand and articulate the holistic picture of their challenge. They had to map all the major stakeholders and their pain points, and to select a segment to use as a pilot. The other expectation was to ask questions that could be answered with data. Could they get access to data? Or would they have to collect data manually?


In the afternoon every team presented to a panel of mentors for 10 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of comments and questions from the mentor panel. The innovators prepared answers to the following questions:

·       What is the challenge?

·       Why is this an issue?

·       Who is impacted?

·       Where in the value chain is this?

·       Whom has the team met?

·       What are the 3 striking things?

·       What support is needed?


The mentors evaluated the progress of each team based on the clarity and importance of the challenge and the understanding of the stakeholders and their issues, as well as the cohesiveness of the team. Mentor panelists asked questions to encourage holistic thinking and clarity of focus:

·       Who feels the pain?

·       What is the impact of this issue?

·       What data do you have access to? What data do you need?

·       What finite data set could you start with as a beachhead market?


Over 27 challenges were presented, including:

1.     Reduction of antibiotic misuse

2.     Identifying a patient segment for preventable blindness

3.     Ensuring healthier lifestyles to improve heart health

4.     AgriMate to improve/enhance crop cutting for better productivity and yield

5.     InnoWater to reduce water wastage and enable more equitable distribution

6.     Don’t Miss the Bus! addresses the alignment of travelers, buses and routes


There was excitement mixed with a bit of trepidation on the part of innovators. They were energized and excited to get time with the mentors from MIT, corporate members and the government of Nashik. The panel tried to put them at ease by recognizing what they’re doing well and by giving them actionable feedback. In most cases, they recognized the importance of considering various perspectives, like Michael Porter’s Five Forces, such as distributors, payers, government administrators, providers, producers, professionals/healthcare providers/pharmacists, and customers/patients/users. They realized that there are stakeholders who affect the situation, and others who are on the receiving end. Once they have a map of all the stakeholders, they were encouraged to pick an initial stakeholder group and to define them clearly. This means specifying their characteristics; e.g., if the key stakeholder is the government, what department and what roles within that department will care about this?


The goal is to create solutions with impact that directly address challenges, that are unique, that leverage large data sets and digital technology, and that leapfrog existing solutions. We cannot solve problems in a week, but we can outline challenges and propose solutions that can be tested and developed over the course of a six-month internship in the new innovation center in Nashik that is scheduled to open in March 2016.


4 Tata Fellows.jpg

Tata fellows lead healthcare innovations at the MIT Media Lab

There are four Tata Fellows at the MIT Media Lab who are developing cost-effective health solutions designed to solve significant challenges in India and other developing countries with limited resources. Working in Professor Ramesh Raskar’s Camera Culture Group and led by Dr. Pratik Shah, the four fellows – Anshuman Das, Mrinal Mohit, Shantanu Sinha and Tristan Swedish – are advising and coordinating with innovators in Hyderabad, Mumbai and Nashik, India.

Anshuman Das is a Tata Center postdoc with the MIT Media Lab. He works with optical system designs, cameras and imaging, signal processing, low cost diagnostics, and prototyping. Mrinal Mohit is a graduate student and research assistant at the MIT Media Lab. He is passionate about redefining the limits of automated machines, systems, and algorithms, especially in perception, interaction, and health. He develops imaging solutions for predictive health screening. Shantanu Sinha is currently a graduate student and research assistant at the Media Lab. His interests primarily lie at the confluence of learning-based computer vision, digital signal processing and mechanical design. At MIT, he is developing imaging systems for predictive health diagnostic tools. Tristan Swedish is a research assistant at the MIT Media Lab where he has been building a new class of user-centric retinal imaging systems inspired by computational photography, machine learning and displays.

Health innovation in Nashik

In the evening, corporate members, MIT team, Kumbhathon leadership, workshop organizers, healthcare mentors, and local doctors were hosted at Winjit, a local company that has supported the Kumbhathon for the last couple of years.


Led by Dr. Pratik Shah, all of the healthcare scientists from MIT presented the work that they’re doing that can be developed further and deployed in Nashik. Pratik Shah welcomed and thanked Winjit, health mentors, the Kumbhathon team, the MIT health tech team, and the Nashik administration.


“Nashik serves as the base for health technologies in Nashik, across India and beyond.”

– Pratik Shah, MIT Media Lab


Pratik gave a quick review of some of the research projects underway in the Camera Culture Group at the MIT Media Lab. They are designed to exploit Big Data and access to digital technology:

·       A system to take images around corners will be funded by DARPA and the US military

·       3D displays

·       Vision correcting display

·       CAT scan in a rickshaw

·       Biomarkers - tag cells and image them in low cost fashion

·       Computervision and machine learning - train neural nets to help physicians make good decisions

·       Rapid execution of ideas - concept to prototype to deployment to success


The health facilities in Nashik generated 500 health maps at the Kumbh Mela, the religious festival that attracted 30 millions visitors to Nashik in August and September 2015. With a robust ecosystem of collaborators, and people passionate about working with us, innovators can get access to data and experienced mentors coach the innovators.


How physicians can engage

Pratik appealed to the physicians present to step up and get involved in some of the 27 grand challenges. There are several focused on health, such as to end preventable blindness, to address antibiotic misuse, for zero loss of life due to lack of blood, and for 100% institutional delivery and immunization. Physicians can serve as expert mentors, get first-to-know rights to new technology, conduct pilot studies, be early adopters, or participate on a unique and prestigious advisory council. Pratik reiterated that we're not here to make money; our goal is impact rather than profit.


Health tech innovations in process

Anshuman Das, a scientist in the MIT Media Lab explained the challenge of antibiotic misuse. There’s an issue around physician education and patient awareness. The team still needs to determine if there's economic benefit. He appealed for help with a five-minute survey, clinical studies and patient education.


Achuta Kadambi introduced Mrinal Mohit and Otkrist Gupta, all scientists at the MIT Media Lab. Mrinal shared information about a challenge to deal with overworked doctors that don’t have enough time to take care of all patients. The proposed solution is a way to conduct a preliminary screening. It requires starting with lots of data, determining what “healthy” looks like, and creating a machine learning model. Ultimately, more people will be able to receive treatment.


Tristan Swedish and Shantanu Sinha, scientists at the MIT Media Lab provided an overview of the challenge to reduce preventable blindness. We know that many cases are cataracts that can be corrected. They are using screening devices with algorithms. They need access to mass screening camps, a UI/UX mock up, and a deployment strategy for the Nashik ecosystem.


Rohan Puri introduced Alicia Chong, both scientists at the MIT Media Lab. Alicia provided an overview of a system called Heart-Fi, which is meant to increase awareness of people’s heart health. The team is designing a low-cost medical device for cardiac monitoring. This will enable people to use get heart diagnostic tests in public spaces. The diagnostics will provide information on risk factors.


“Everything we do in the new innovation center will be important to the City of Nashik. We want to create a showcase across India and perhaps overseas as well.”

– Hasit Kaji, TCS


Questions from the physicians

Hasit Kaji and Pratik Shah took questions from the physicians. Dr. Shinde asked about the scope and direction and timing. Hasit said that the goal is to focus on projects that will see light of day within a year's time. Pratik asked the physicians to connect with their colleagues, and to post information about the Innovating for Billions work that we’re doing. Hasit reiterated that the formula is to apply MIT technology and expertise to specific challenges, and to articulate bottom-up challenges. He said, “We'll do things that are futuristic, and other things that we see as more immediate. It’s important for us to collectively prioritize, and to make a difference.”

Nashik ophthalmologist with innovators


Pratik and Hasit invited the physicians to contribute challenges and ideas to the innovation portal. A radiologist offered to share contact information. Dr. Shinde said, “I'm excited about the antibiotic project; I met the team today.” When Dr. Shinde went on to inquire about 3D x-rays that various health care providers could read, Pratik commented that we want to augment the physicians’ experience, not replace physicians.


MIT President Rafael Reif in India

While we were at Winjit, Professor Ramesh Raskar and Maggie Church were in Mumbai at a dinner with MIT President Rafael Reif and MIT alumni. They got a chance to share information about the Emerging Worlds effort and the Innovating for Billions workshop. Several of the MIT alumni present are friends of our initiative and have participated in prior Kumbhathons, including the leadership of Anand. President Reif is supportive of the work that we are doing, and he will help us get increased visibility on campus and with other leaders whom he knows both locally and globally. We hope that he will be able to attend one of our upcoming events and witness the effort and energy and accomplishments first-hand.


Innovation Center coming to Nashik

The new innovation center in Nashik is scheduled to open in March 2016. It will have maker spaces and other designated areas, and a work-in-process area. The objective is to have 100 innovators plus 25 mentors, and to manage up to five health challenges. We will keep looking at issues, and keep solving them. The important thing is to deliver and deploy.


In closing, Pratik appealed again to the physicians to get involved. Since the program depends on a pipeline of college, he asked them to educate their students and share this opportunity with them. The team wants engineering, medical and pharmaceutical students. Pratik also asked them to share information about the initiative through their social media channels. The physicians were very enthusiastic, and they all pledged to do what they could.