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Notable Stories


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Notable Stories


Dedication and inspiration mark the people and spirit of the Kumbhathon.

Ramakrishna R., Google

 Ramakrishna R., Google Software Engineer and his wife

Ramakrishna R., Google Software Engineer and his wife

The dedication of talented mentors with unique skillsets is one of the key things that makes the model work. Ramakrishna R, a Stanford-educated Software Engineer currently employed at Google, found himself caught up in the excitement of the Kumbhathon in Nashik. After visiting the Kumbhathon in July 2015, he and his wife (who’s a software engineer at Yahoo!) took leaves of absence from their respective jobs. They volunteered their time and significant software expertise – in areas such as analysis and visualization, search indexing, Google Mapmaker, and developer infrastructure – to the Kumbhathon effort. They advised and mentored several innovators, and prepared them for a successful launch at the Kumbh Mela in August and September 2015.


Lavanya Addepalli and Nilay Kulkarni, Crowd Management

In anticipation of 30 million visitors to Nashik for the Kumbh Mela, there was a huge need for crowd management. Utilizing modern technology such as mobile phones and Big Data, two innovation teams worked on separate crowd management solutions, both of which were invaluable to the government administrators at the Kumbh. And both solutions could be applied to other massive gatherings around the world – from religious pilgrimages, concerts and sporting events to rush hour in highly populated cities.

Crowd Steering

 Lavanya Addepalli

Lavanya Addepalli

The leader of the Crowd Steering team, Lavanya Addepalli is a PhD candidate who developed a sophisticated solution for tracking crowds throughout the city of Nashik. Working with Google mentor Ramakrishna, she and her team created and presented a heat map with detailed visualizations showing crowd locations, density and movement. They used data from mobile phone towers. The information was shared with administrative and government officials to anticipate and abate any problems related to large crowds. This solution continues to mature, as Lavanya and her team consider other places and ways to deploy it.

Lavanya is a PhD candidate at the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain. Her research is about Architecture design and deployment of an online social network that uses data classification to provide relations built on trust. She holds an M.S. in Medical Software from Manipal University, a B.A. in IT from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, and a Diploma in IT from Mumbai Technical Board, India. She performed her master’s thesis and project in Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic. She has over 20 publications in various fields of research, and serves as a reviewer of multiple journals. Learn more about Lavanya, and about Crowd Steering.

ASHIOTO Foot Tracker

 Nilay Kulkarni

Nilay Kulkarni

The lead innovator of ASHIOTO is only 15 years old. Nilay Kulkarni is a computer programming prodigy. He has a passion for creating and making products for the good of the world at large. Even at his young age, he understands the larger impact that technology can have on people and society. He coded ASHIOTO, a solution to prevent stampedes in large crowd-dense events such as the Kumbh Mela.

At the Kumbh Mela, the ASHIOTO “crowd management by footcount” prototype was installed near the Godavari River to track the number of people exiting after taking a dip. The mat was able to register large numbers of people and accurately track those numbers. A centralized dashboard on mobile phones displayed data from multiple mats located around the city. On three auspicious days of the Kumbh Mela, ASHIOTO counted more than 500,000 people at five exit routes out of 20. The police were able to use the data to reroute crowds to other exits and avoid issues. ASHIOTO mats are reusable and portable. Nilay and his team are looking at opportunities to use them in other venues, such as malls, concerts, temples, and other crowded venues in order to avoid bottlenecks and stampedes. Watch Nilay’s TEDx talk and an interview with Nilay.  

 

Sampath Reddy, Pop-up Housing

 Sampath Reddy and Pop-Up Housing

Sampath Reddy and Pop-Up Housing

Sampath Reddy is an Aerospace Systems Engineer turned Urban Systems Designer. At the Kumbhathon in Nashik, he developed the Pop-up Housing solution as a low cost, modular, eco-friendly structure that could be used for affordable or temporary housing and office space. It utilizes reusable industrial racking systems which are readily available. The structure can be erected in less than three days. Prior to the Kumbh Mela, Sampath secured a space in the government housing area for one of his structures.

Sampath is looking into opportunities to deploy Pop-up Housing in other settings, such as emergency and transitional shelters, low-cost durable housing and hostels. At the Kumbhathon in July 2015, Sampath's Pop-up Housing was recognized as one of the top 10 projects to make an impact at the Kumbh Mela. For more information, see Sampath's introductory presentation and the Pop-up Housing website.

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KUMBHATHON: smart citizens for smart cities


Internships are starting in March and June in Nashik, India

>> APPLY HERE

KUMBHATHON: smart citizens for smart cities


Internships are starting in March and June in Nashik, India

>> APPLY HERE

JOIN US IN NASHIK

We're looking for smart, engaged students and collaborators to help develop inventive solutions.

We are seeking innovators for 6-month internships in Nashik, India

>> For more, click HERE

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Innovation in Nashik


Innovation in Nashik


INspiration for Bottom-Up Innovation in Nashik

After successes in Hyderabad and Mumbai, Professor Ramesh Raskar was anxious to do something meaningful in his home town of Nashik, India. Inspired through brainstorming about social challenges and how local human capital could solve them, he and his team initiated the first Kumbhathon. This is a series of “buildathons” or camps run with innovators. 

Nashik is the 16th fastest growing city in the world. Plus, in 2015, as the site of the Kumbh Mela, it became the largest city in the world for a one-month period. India is home to 1.3 billion people, a huge percentage of which are new “digital citizens.” India presents an enormous opportunity for innovation-driven development.

KUMBHATHON and Kumbh Mela

Ramesh Raskar and his team from the MIT Media Lab have convened local innovators, corporate executives, government officials and academics to participate in the Kumbhathon "buildathon" events. These week-long events draw upon local innovation talent who understand the context of their city and who develop solutions to solve pressing challenges there.

Over the last couple of years, the Kumbhathon has evolved to become a focal point of new technological ideas that have practical applications in Nashik. MIT Media Lab researchers mentor participants and help make their solutions more robust. Corporate leaders such as TCS have participated and contributed to the enthusiasm and success of the Kumbhathon model and the overall results of the Kumbh Mela.

In the run up to the Kumbh Mela, teams worked with increasing purpose -- to prepare to launch their solutions at the world's largest gathering of humanity, in August and September 2015. By all accounts this Kumbh Mela was a resounding success. There were zero casualties, zero missing cases, and zero disputes. Now, Nashik is increasingly seen as an innovation hub with year-round innovation activities.

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How We Work


How We Work


How we work

During the Kumbhathon, innovators "spot" opportunities, and "probe" the feasibility of technological solutions with broad and deep social impact in India and beyond. This bottom-up innovation empowers smart citizens and communities -- the essence of smart cities -- with information to improve lives and livelihoods. At the beginning of the week, teams of innovators with skills in engineering, business and design, form to strategize about problems possible solutions. In mid week they describe their projects, map milestones, and identify risks. They spend time with individual mentors, as well as with a panel of mentors who critique their projects and advise them on key issues to address, or perhaps why and how to pivot.

Mentors provide invaluable feedback and encouragement to innovators. On the last day, each team gives a pitch to the entire group assembled. At the end of each Kumbhathon, the innovators emerge with a sense of accomplishment and empowerment -- that they can address a complex problem with a creative and effective solution.

roles & responsibilities

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MIT MEDIA LAB

  • Provide innovation platform by organizing buildathons that bring together creators in and around Nashik to identify problems and develop solutions within the Focus Areas.
  • Identify innovators who represent top talent within their respective fields who can fill the future work-force pipeline.
  • Host a collaborators meeting during the buildathons to strategize, gather feedback and adapt model as needed.
  • Identify new global collaborators to engage for these efforts based on existing and new relationships at the MIT Media Lab.
  • Provide connections to the University in undergraduate and graduate departments to leverage students and faculty members with relevant skill-sets and previous experiences.

NASHIK INNOVATION CENTER

  • Host a space with the needed infrastructure (building, internet, etc.) to support the innovators.
  • Provide additional coaching and required services to formalize projects.
  • Match innovators with investors and corporate collaborators.
  • Engage with local stakeholders and build long-lasting relationships with the government, trade associations, academic institutions and private sector corporations/companies.
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GLOBAL MEMBERS

  • Join the Emerging Worlds Special Interest Group at the MIT Media Lab to gain access to the innovation sandbox and scale opportunities.
  • Sponsor a specific Emerging Worlds project on location.
  • Sponsor an Emerging Worlds Fellow at the MIT Media Lab.
  • Provide company resources and utilize existing distribution channels to projects to expand from pilot stage.  
  • Propose challenges, ideas, solutions and prototypes on an ongoing basis to MIT’s Media Lab to incorporate into the Focus Areas.
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Program Overview


Program Overview


Future Opportunity

Pop-up cities can appear in so many ways: such as festivals, concerts, and refugee camps. There is a defined scale marking the predictability and control for such events. We can have impact in an uncontrolled situation, and it will allow us to enter other sectors – strengthening the impact with each innovation. This initiative is closely related to others worldwide dealing with smart cities, Big Data and digital governance.

Solutions that enabled the successful Kumbh Mela in Nashik -- as well as other solutions being developed in Nashik -- can have far-reaching utility across the globe.

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FAQ's


FAQ's


Smart Citizens before Smart Cities. What does that mean?

Our goal is to stimulate impact ventures that empower newly digital citizens in non-metro Tier 2 cities. In developing countries, citizens are becoming digital well before cities are becoming smart. Thus, our emphasis is on Smart Citizens, because these Smart Citizens will play a key role in defining Smart Cities. In the emerging world, learning takes place without schools, transactions proceed without a formal currency, transportation solutions are built by companies that don't own the fleet, food is grown away from traditional farms, and digital information democratizes participation in civic matters. The innovation sandbox is focused on identifying, nurturing and launching key ideas with social impact. This will lead to corporate ventures, startup ventures or new research and insights.

What are the Innovation Center and Kumbhathon? Do they go beyond Kumbh Mela?

Impact ventures around newly digital citizens require an integrated effort and a large petri dish for experimentation. A single isolated venture is unlikely to succeed without deep engagement from multiple stakeholders, including local businesses, government officials, and well identified newly digital citizens. We have found an ideal venue for such a sandbox for venture experimentation. The vibrant and beautiful Kumbh Mela in the city of Nashik provides the grounds to test many of these ideas for technology and adoption. At the same time, innovators are bringing innovative solutions to the Kumbh Mela, many of which have been already put in place by the citizens. (Kumbhathon teams built the official app of the Kumbh Mela; it provides unprecedented dynamic graphical data to empower visitors and officials of the Kumbh Mela.)

Kumbhathons are year-round initiatives with quarterly camps used for identifying and addressing technology and market risks. Since innovators need more than just one specific event like Kumbh Mela, the Kumbhathon is NOT a traditional hackathon or a competition. It is a buildathon. After months of preparation, each buildathon is a week-long ideating and prototyping marathon that is part of a year long process. It includes tech talks by renowned industrialists and technological evangelists and a deep engagement with stakeholders of the city. It is a great platform to make ideas take shape. The innovation center now supports innovators and entrepreneurs in taking these ventures to other venues or morph them for daily use by the newly digital citizens.

How does the Nashik Innovation Center work?

The Nashik innovation center or LaunchBox is a year-round initiative to identify and address the challenges of cities in developing countries. The year-long activities are in four phases: (1) Spot, (2) Probe, (3) Grow and (4) Scale.

  1. The Spot phase involves spotting problems, potential solutions and collaborators. The Spot phase takes place online and via expert panels.
  2. The Probe phase investigates technology and market adoption risks by bringing stakeholders together. Probing takes place mainly at the quarterly Kumbhathon (or buildathon).
  3. The Grow phase supports development of the concepts throughout the year.
  4. The Scale phase again uses Nashik as a sandbox and brings in impact investors and initial customers during quarterly engagements.
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Focus AreaS


Health // Education // Food & Agriculture //

Housing & Transportation // Finance // Smart Cities

Focus AreaS


Health // Education // Food & Agriculture //

Housing & Transportation // Finance // Smart Cities

AREAS OF FOCUS

 

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Get Involved


Get Involved


JOIN OUR EFFORT And HELP FORGE THE FUTURE FOR THE NEXT 5 BILLION CITIZENS

We are seeking inspired Corporate Members, Mentors and Advisors, Innovators, Students and Volunteers!

Themes


Themes


Classic corporate innovation model earlier were to develop solutions in the west, ‘Here’, and deploy them as-is in emerging worlds. Later, the organizations sent expats ‘there’, opened labs in Sao Paulo, Bangalore and Beijing but this scales only minimally. But in complex ecosystems, we can make progress by solving it ‘together’.

 

The entire world is our laboratory. To impact the next 5 billion people in the developing world, we challenge ourselves to break free from all academic silos to explore the infinite spaces beyond and between traditional disciplines. Thinking only within the confines of established disciplines greatly limits creativity. Innovating together with innovators worldwide is critical. Join us as we push the limits of intellectual agility and look globally for game-changing ideas for true innovation.