Unveiling “The Smart Booth” in Turin

04/02/2012 - 01:30 PM

The telephone booth of the future is being previewed today: a single technological item that provides telephone service plus a number of “Smart City” functions.

Made by Telecom Italia in partnership with Ubi Connected, and selected by the Municipality of Turin and the Fondazione Torino Smart City, this prototype is a groundbreaking example of urban infrastructure that combines tradition with new technologies.

In Turin today, City Mayor Piero Fassino inaugurated the “Smart Booth”, a groundbreaking example of urban infrastructure that combines tradition with new technologies, and is designed to offer a number of services dedicated to townspeople and tourists alongside the traditional telephone service.

Made by Telecom Italia in partnership with start-up company Ubi Connected, the prototype has been installed on Corso Duca degli Abruzzi, outside the Turin Politecnico, which is a partner with the Municipality in implementing the European Union-promoted “Smart Cities” project.

During this trial phase, the new booth can be used to make phone calls via its touch screen, which also offers access to information on publicly-useful services, tourism, mobility, shopping, leisure, social networking and online services for Politecnico di Torino students. Wi-Fi internet access is also available during the trial phase.

The prototype’s multiple displays serve as a viewing platform for advertising, public sector messages, tourist information and news.

Following a “Smart City” approach, the new high-tech booth is designed with eco-sustainability, electric mobility and security in mind. A built-in photovoltaic panel contributes to the booth’s energy needs. The booth is equipped with atmospheric pollution monitoring equipment, a video surveillance system that can be linked to the Municipal Police operations room, and is surrounded by six recharging pillars for electric bicycles and scooters.

Sixty years after first appearing in Italy, the telephone booth is evolving into an open, flexible multimedia tool capable of hosting services and applications customized to meet specific local needs, while forging a strong bond between a locality and the web-connected world. As part of this process, Telecom Italia has launched a contest online (www.cabinaintelligente.telecomitalia.com) to stimulate and solicit new ideas from students, developers and the online community. The company is also concluding an agreement with the Politecnico di Torino to work together on researching the new iteration of the telephone booth.

The trial will continue throughout the rest of 2012, and in coming weeks will be extended to other Italian cities.

The Smart Booth is an integral part of the Torino Smart City project, in which sustainability is the unit of measurement for assessing choices the city will make over the coming decade. This approach permeates every aspect of city management. It is being applied predominantly to transport, energy generation and consumption, in addition to the role of ICT in simplifying everyday citizen activities and dealings with government bodies. Public and private stakeholders are working together to build a new idea of city.

City Mayor Piero Fassino says: “Turin lies at the heart of an area that is highly fertile for research into and the development of new technologies, thanks to its innovation-driven manufacturing environment. Turin also has a magnificent pedigree in ICT. Telecom Italia’s roots are in this very area, which has a large number of companies investing in research and leading start-ups. The Smart City Turin Project is our attempt at defining new rules of engagement between the public and private sectors in order to foster a network of government bodies, companies and drivers of innovation, all of whom are stakeholders in a new approach to the city through building based on the principle of sustainability.”

Enzo Lavolta, Councillor for the Environment and Innovation in Turin, and Chairman of the Fondazione Torino Smart City, says: “The fact that Italy’s top industry enterprise, Telecom Italia, has signed up to the Fondazione Torino Smart City as a privileged partner for the city is a source of satisfaction for us, prompting us to invest even more effort in this major cultural and technological project.”

Gianfilippo D’Agostino, Telecom Italia’s Head of Sales – Top Clients and Public Sector, says: “Through this project to evolve the company’s historic public telephony asset into a new multiservice urban infrastructure, Telecom Italia is following the new model of development indicated by Italy’s present Government. The Smart Booth leverages Telecom Italia’s ability to develop synergies with start-ups, universities and the public sector in order to create a new, forward-looking approach to the future. This project has been conceived to contribute to the development of Smart Cities, widespread take-up of digital culture and the Internet of things.”

Ubi Connected CEO David Nespoli says: “The Smart Booth developed with Telecom Italia is simple, broadband-connected, innovative, designed with sustainability in mind and aesthetically pleasing. It adheres to the Smart Cities philosophy, and will help pave the way for this ambitious collective project. Ubi Connected’s first project amply expresses our approach of taking commonly used urban items – today the Smart Booth, in future drinking fountains, benches, waste bins, building facades, kiosks and newsstands – and turning them into new, smart tools that serve people and enhance quality-of-life. These items leverage technology and design to change the appearance of our cities and how we experience them.”

Marco Gilli, Dean of the Turin Politecnico, says: “The University defines itself as a ‘green mobile campus’, in which innovation and technology are the defining elements. The Smart Booth fits perfectly with this approach. I am sure that our students will benefit from its services and opportunities. The University is playing an active role in Torino Smart City by offering its input through research and technology transfer, and through education with a commitment to forward-looking development and the smart use of resources.”

Turin, 2 April 2012

Public telephony in Italy: images from the past