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  • I was only nine

  • when my grandfather first described to me the horrors he witnessed six years earlier

  • when human stampedes killed 39 people

  • in our hometown of Nashik, India.

  • It was during the 2003 Nashik Kumbh Mela,

  • one of the world's largest religious gatherings.

  • Every 12 years, over 30 million Hindu worshippers

  • descend upon our city --

  • which is built only for 1.5 million people --

  • and stay for 45 days.

  • The main purpose is to wash away all their sins

  • by bathing in the river Godavari.

  • And stampedes may easily happen

  • because a high-density crowd moves at a slow pace.

  • Apart from Nashik, this event happens in three other places in India,

  • with varying frequency,

  • and between 2001 and 2014,

  • over 2,400 lives have been lost in stampedes at these events.

  • What saddened me the most

  • is seeing people around me resigning to the city's fate

  • in witnessing the seemingly inevitable deaths of dozens

  • at every Kumbh Mela.

  • I sought to change this,

  • and I thought, why can't I try to find a solution to this?

  • Because I knew it is wrong.

  • Having learned coding at an early age and being a maker,

  • I considered the wild idea --

  • (Laughter)

  • [Makers always find a way]

  • I considered the wild idea of building a system

  • that would help regulate the flow of people

  • and use it in the next Kumbh Mela in 2015,

  • to have fewer stampedes and, hopefully, fewer deaths.

  • It seemed like a mission impossible,

  • a dream too big,

  • especially for a 15-year-old,

  • yet that dream came true in 2015,

  • when not only did we succeed

  • in reducing the stampedes and their intensity,

  • but we marked 2015

  • as the first Nashik Kumbh Mela to have zero stampedes.

  • (Applause)

  • It was the first time in recorded history

  • that this event passed without any casualties.

  • How did we do it?

  • It all started when I joined an innovation workshop

  • by MIT Media Lab in 2014

  • called the Kumbhathon

  • that aimed at solving challenges faced at the grand scale of Kumbh Mela.

  • Now, we figured out to solve the stampede problem,

  • we wanted to know only three things:

  • the number of people, the location,

  • and the rate of the flow of people per minute.

  • So we started to look for technologies that would help us get these three things.

  • Can we distribute radio-frequency tokens to identify people?

  • We figured out that it would be too expensive and impractical

  • to distribute 30 million tags.

  • Can you use CCTV cameras with image-processing techniques?

  • Again, too expensive for that scale,

  • along with the disadvantages of being non-portable

  • and being completely useless in the case of rain,

  • which is a common thing to happen in Kumbh Mela.

  • Can we use cell phone tower data?

  • It sounds like the perfect solution,

  • but the funny part is,

  • most of the people do not carry cell phones

  • in events like Kumbh Mela.

  • Also, the data wouldn't have been granular enough for us.

  • So we wanted something that was real-time,

  • low-cost, sturdy and waterproof,

  • and it was easy to get the data for processing.

  • So we built Ashioto,

  • meaning "footstep" in Japanese,

  • as it consists of a portable mat which has pressure sensors

  • which can count the number of people walking on it,

  • and sends the data over the internet

  • to the advanced data analysis software we created.

  • The possible errors, like overcounting or double-stepping,

  • were overcome using design interventions.

  • The optimum breadth of the mat was determined to be 18 inches,

  • after we tested many different versions

  • and observed the average stride length of a person.

  • Otherwise, people might step over the sensor.

  • We started with a proof of concept built in three days,

  • made out of cardboard and aluminum foil.

  • (Laughter)

  • It worked, for real.

  • We built another one with aluminum composite panels

  • and piezoelectric plates,

  • which are plates that generate a small pulse of electricity under pressure.

  • We tested this at 30 different pilots in public,

  • in crowded restaurants, in malls, in temples, etc.,

  • to see how people reacted.

  • And people let us run these pilots

  • because they were excited to see localites work on problems for the city.

  • I was 15 and my team members were in their early 20s.

  • When the sensors were colored,

  • people would get scared and would ask us questions like,

  • "Will I get electrocuted if I step on this?"

  • (Laughter)

  • Or, if it was very obvious that it was an electronic sensor on the ground,

  • they would just jump over it.

  • (Laughter)

  • So we decided to design a cover for the sensor

  • so that people don't have to worry what it is on the ground.

  • So after some experimentation,

  • we decided to use an industrial sensor,

  • used as a safety trigger in hazardous areas

  • as the sensor,

  • and a black neoprene rubber sheet

  • as the cover.

  • Now, another added benefit of using black rubber

  • was that dust naturally accumulates over the surface,

  • eventually camouflaging it with the ground.

  • We also had to make sure that the sensor is no higher than 12 millimeters.

  • Otherwise, people might trip over it,

  • which in itself would cause stampedes.

  • (Laughter)

  • We don't want that.

  • (Laughter)

  • So we were able to design a sensor which was only 10 millimeters thick.

  • Now the data is sent to the server in real time,

  • and a heat map is plotted,

  • taking into account all the active devices on the ground.

  • The authorities could be alerted if the crowd movement slowed down

  • or if the crowd density moved beyond a desired threshold.

  • We installed five of these mats in the Nashik Kumbh Mela 2015,

  • and counted over half a million people

  • in 18 hours,

  • ensuring that the data was available in real time at various checkpoints,

  • ensuring a safe flow of people.

  • Now, this system, eventually, with other innovations,

  • is what helped prevent stampedes altogether at that festival.

  • The code used by Ashioto during Kumbh Mela

  • will soon be made publicly available, free to use for anyone.

  • I would be glad if someone used this code

  • to make many more gatherings safer.

  • Having succeeded at Kumbh Mela

  • has inspired me to help others who may also suffer from stampedes.

  • The design of the system makes it adaptable

  • to pretty much any event

  • that involves an organized gathering of people.

  • And my new dream is to improve, adapt and deploy the system

  • all over the world to prevent loss of life and ensure a safe flow of people,

  • because every human soul is precious,

  • whether at concerts or sporting events,

  • the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad,

  • the Hajj in Mecca,

  • the Shia procession to Karbala

  • or at the Vatican City.

  • So what do you all think, can we do it?

  • (Audience) Yes!

  • Thank you.

  • (Cheers)

  • (Applause)

I was only nine

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【TED】Nilay Kulkarni: A life-saving invention that prevents human stampedes (A life-saving invention that prevents human stampedes | Nilay Kulkarni)

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    Zenn posted on 2018/03/14
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