The Kumbh Mela at Prayagraj this year was special not just for the humongous crowds it attracted and the state-of-the art amenities offered to pilgrims but also the fact that it passed off without any untoward incident. This was made possible through the use of smart-city solutions such as artificial intelligence (AI), video analytics and GPS by the local administration during the two-month-long event.
This is especially noteworthy given that more than 25 crore (250 million) people visited Prayagraj between January 5 and March 4. Past editions of the Kumbh Mela have seen the festive spirit being somewhat marred by accidents. The most recent such accident was a stampede at the Allahabad railway station during the 2013 Kumbh, which claimed the lives of 42 people.
What changed this time was the command-and-control mechanism put in place for the event. From the earlier scenario of entry being allowed to the ghats from several points, Larsen & Toubro, the agency tasked with the job, controlled the access points from two integrated command and control centres, which were fed with information from 1,100 cameras tracking movement of people and vehicles. They also provided the authorities with a video management system and key video analytics like an automatic number plate recognition and red-light violation detection system and a face recognition system.
On special occasions such as the Mouni Amavasya, which saw more than 6 crore (60 million) people take a holy dip at the Sangam Nose point on a single day, more than 450 Pan Tilt and Zoom (PTZ) surveillance cameras helped the police manage the crowds by holding them up at separate spots for over 45-50 minutes. This was done to check the assembly of too many people at one place.
“Whenever the density of the crowd exceeded 3 persons per sq m, a soft alert was triggered to commence evacuation. If the figure reached 5 persons or more, then immediate action was initiated, as such crowd density creates conditions for a stampede,” a senior L&T official involved in the implementation of the project tells FE.
S N Subrahmanyan, CEO and MD of L&T says, “the company blended the benefits of contemporary technologies like Artificial Intelligence with the needs of millions of pious devotees. It is the smart solutions that were largely responsible for the flawless conduct of the event and the attention it received worldwide.”
Apart from “dense crowd counting”, the cameras were capable of recognising faces, coming in handy to nab a serial killer. An intelligent traffic management system was also installed across 19 junctions, and gave feeds for facilitating traffic flow. As part of smart waste disposal, the daily solid waste was channeled through 500 dustbins and 48 dumping locations, with the collection and segregation process being monitored with a GPS tracking system.
R Srinivasan, executive vice-president & head—L&T Smart World and Communications, says, “This was one of our toughest assignments given the challenges: the need for the right kind of solutions, their implementation within a stringent timeline and maintenance of a very high uptime during the event; we are delighted that our solutions passed the test.”