Well, it was hard not to use a headline like that having spent today in this beautiful Tuscan city. The machine in this case is Ericsson and four of the major telecom operators who have partnered with the public transportation company ATAF to bring mobile ticketing to passengers. The day actually started for me the night before, having an unexpected trip back to the office to collect my train tickets which I’d left on the printer. How ironic that the event in Florence was to launch a paperless ticketing system! After a winding, peaceful and calm journey on the train from Frascati, arriving into Roma Termini was at the opposite end of the scale with the early morning commute well underway. With an hour to kill before the high-speed leg of the trip, it was straight to the bar for coffee and cornetto.
Now, I never have been a lover of trains back in England. You can never get a seat, always late and carriages that have seen better days. But so far my experience in Italy has been a positive one. Ok I’ve only ever done the Frascati – Roma – Frascati but still, a positive experience. Today was a first time on the Freccia Rossa high-speed train. Admittedly even before boarding, the free wifi sign won me over! After a smooth 90-minute trip, I arrived in Florence having managed to check off a few emails, post updates to the company social network, catch up with my Twitter feed, see what the rest of my world were up to on Facebook and of course finish a couple of outstanding games on Draw Something!
Now it was time to do some real work. Hosted within Palazzo Vecchio is the main town hall of Florence and the home of the Mayor, Matteo Renzi. At just 37-years old, he is a Mayor that believes technology can play a part in improving society and that’s certainly the case with his backing and support of this initiative to bring mobile ticketing to the residents of his home city. Standing alongside him were Telecom Italia, Wind, 3 and Vodafone who together had previously signed an agreement to implement a solution, with Ericsson as the technology partner, to benefit the Fiorentini people. Inside Palazzo Vecchio it was a chance for me to grab some video interviews with our customers from the mobile operators before taking position in the press conference. It was a great turnout with media from print, online and TV vying for prime spot in the room to capture the words from the very charismatic Renzi. In a not at all surprising animated speech, he managed to tweet to his 100,000+ followersabout the new service and then proceeded with a demonstration from his phone to purchase tickets, much to the delight of those in the room.
Of course, I was here to cover the event for employees back in the offices in our region. News of how our technology has enabled and simplified the sale of public transportation tickets was soon spread onto the internal social network. The media scrum that followed at the end was fun. All video cameras, microphones, handheld recorders etc were thrust into Renzi’s face, I couldn’t get close at all. However, we were at the heart of this, working with operators and public service to deliver a solution that simplifies people’s lives, so we carried some clout. Within seconds Renzi was ushered to one side and like the parting of the waves we were given an exclusive one on one interview while the hungry pack of journalists were kept back. Oh that felt good. With the interview ‘in the can’, or on the SD card as is now the case, it was time to call it a day and head off back to get our train. Complete with my paper ticket to Rome!