Thinking Bigger at Nashik

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by Guest Blogger Scott B. Knox, Architect/Urban Design Mentor at Kumbathon 5

What is Kumbhathon 5? It’s not a holiday party, not a new product line, but an opportunity to see inside people, millions of them. How many? Expect about 30 million people over several weeks!

This August,  30 million pilgrims will descend on the town of Nashik (three hours drive) East of Mumbai. The Kumbh Mela is an Indian holiday tradition of cleansing the soul in the anointed rivers on celestial years. This isn’t science fiction, this is the world’s largest human gathering, and it’s growing. Over 10 million pilgrims immersed themselves in the Ganges in 1986, in the last decade the pilgrimage topped 20 million people, and this year over 30 MILLION people are expected to attend in Nashik in the Godavari River.

This is a huge opportunity for Big Data! A sandbox of testing and “seeing” what can be achieved in the course of a few weeks. But what can people do to capture data in a festival environment such as Kumbh Mela? And how do they plan for an event of this scale? Enter entrepreneurs and guidance from the powerhouses at MIT’s Media Lab and IIT Mumbai with support from IT companies world-wide (see for a full description) and the sky is the limit.

This week the US/Indian technical prowess is in high gear. A full complement of students, teachers, professionals, mentors, government officials, and commercial investors are gathered at the Nashik Engineering Cluster for Kumbhathon 5. Teams are poised to take on any challenge to make the event a safe, healthy, and sublime experience for everyone near and far.

There are six major K5 initiatives creating solutions through applications and physical planning to support Housing, Health, Civic, Transport, Food, and Commerce. Any one of these initiatives could promote thousands of lives, save hundreds of people from disease, injury, or even death as the challenges on the scale of this magnitude are truly mind-boggling.

The backdrop of K5 is Ramesh Raskar, Sunil Khandbahale, and the whole Kumbhathon team to make Nashik more than the Tier-2 city it is, but the smartest Tier-2 city in the world.  Kumbhathon is Community in Action!

Over the next few weeks (between mentoring the Health in Housing sessions, sleeping, eating, traveling, and reflection) I will bring you blog posts, progress reports, and photos of Kumbhathon 5 and hope the inspiration in this little corner of the world transcends the boundaries of lives across the globe!

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