Milan finds contactless technology fashionable.

Paris?..Nueva York?!

Image by edithbruck via Flickr

If you’re looking for style and sophistication, head to Milan. But Italy’s cosmopolitan northern city is showing that when it comes to innovation – as with fashion – it is head and shoulders above the competition.

In 2008, Italy’s biggest telecoms operator, Telecom Italia, teamed up with the city’s municipal transport company, Azienda Trasporti Milanesi (ATM), to launch an NFC transit fare trial, enabling customers to access the public transport network and purchase or validate tickets via NFC-enabled cell phone handsets. Smart posters were also rolled out in Milan’s subway stations so travelers coulddownload transport service information to their phones. The trial was expanded in early 2010 to involve more than 100 customers using Samsung S5230 Player One NFC handsets. There’s potential for further expansion of the scheme to enable users to pay for parking and make low-value purchases.

Italian banks are also getting in on the act. An estimated 10,000 Visa V Pay contactless debit cards were issued by Credito Valtellinese in 2008 as part of a pilot in five cities in the north of the country. The two organizations also teamed up for an NFC trial in 2009.

Banco Popolare di Sondrio has issued prepaid bank cards that include Visa payWave. These act additionally as an ID card for students at two of Milan’s universities.

Taking contactless a step further, Intesa Sanpaolo is the first bank to commit to a large-scale rollout of the technology in Italy, launching it in the Milan area in conjunction with MasterCard and Gemalto. The contactless scheme will eventually be extended countrywide. Other institutions that have been identified as likely to join the rollout include the Italian Post Office bank, BancoPosta. Cardholders can use their contactless cards at 11 national or European outlets including fast food restaurants and supermarkets as well as sports and home improvement stores. Hundreds of smaller merchants are slated to join the program as the expansion gains pace. Scheme partners are investing in the promotion of the scheme, including putting up 1,000 billboards throughout the city. Other banks known to be issuing contactless cards include Credito Valtellinese and Banca Popolare di Sondrio.

And it’s no surprise in a country where fashion is so important that leading womenswear designer and manufacturer Miroglio Fashion is also making a foray into NFC technology. In an attempt to reduce its administrative costs it plans to gradually eliminate paper-based discount vouchers and loyalty cards. In a scheme that involves Telecom Italia expertise, customers will be able to use NFC phones to collect and redeem loyalty points at the company’s factory outlets and eventually at all 80 of its stores across Italy, including Milan’s.

Click here to see the League Table on Milan


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