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Mobile app breathes new life into ancient cathedral

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Duomo di Milano cathedral appPreserving one of Europe’s most popular and iconic cathedrals, the Duomo di Milano, along with its associated Duomo Museum, Archaeological Area and Terraces, is no small task. Federal budget cuts have threatened to make things even harder for Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano (VFD), the historic organization responsible for preservation and restoration of the cathedral.

The cathedral was built in 355 AD. VFD was founded in 1387 and has maintained contact with the arts, science and technologies used to build the monument to ensure it has the distinctive attributes of continuing history.

Catalyst for change

A citywide event, Expo 2015, meant VFD would have the opportunity to reach more people than ever before. With more than 140 participating countries, the city welcomed in excess of 21 million visitors to its landmarks over the course of the six-month summit. The VFD knew it would need to upgrade its digital technologies to enhance the visitor experience.

VFD wanted to share the cathedral’s heritage with the world, especially with young people. Today’s tourists expect more than following a tour guide around or renting an audio device. Most people carry mobile devices and are accustomed to having nearly limitless information at their fingertips.

App transforms the tourist experience

Monsignor Gianantonio Borgonovo, President, VFD

In line with its technology strategy, VFD developed a mobile app, Duomo Milano, built on the secure and flexible IBM Bluemix virtual server platform.

The organization worked with IBM to develop a new infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) solution that was designed for reliability and provided a scalable platform for developing a feature-rich application for visitors to the Duomo and its ancillary attractions. The solution is hosted in an IBM Cloud Data Center, and VFD can easily manage unpredictable download volumes and support a high number of connections because it defines private, public and management traffic travel on separate network interfaces.

The app transforms the tourist experience, providing visitors with interactive tours of the cathedral and access to enhanced content, including a 360-degree interactive map of the Milan skyline. During the first week of Expo 2015, users downloaded the app more than 800 times, and it maintained an average rating of five stars, exceeding even our expectations. It set the stage for an extremely successful first three months with a total of 15,000 downloads.

The app uses real-time location information to make sales suggestions and drives potential donors to our Get Your Spire fund-raising campaign. Recently, we incorporated The Weather Company data for IBM Bluemix API into the app. This added functionality collects weather data and sends a push notification to app users whenever they are near the cathedral and conditions are favorable for an excursion to the Duomo Terraces.

Seeing the Duomo di Milano in a modern way

For VFD, digital transformation mainly means new ways of communicating with tourists from all over the world, not only about the Duomo, but also about fund-raising initiatives to support the sites. Cloud represents a total paradigm shift in IT. Its potential goes beyond technological innovation: it provides extraordinary leverage, enabling new ways of doing business, creating value and enhancing existing services.

VFD wanted to share this incredible experience with the world, and IBM created the structure that enables it. The app has improved the way the Duomo di Milano is perceived among young and tech-savvy audiences by providing them with an interesting and modern experience as they tour this ancient treasure. With help from IBM, today we can tell a real story made by the Milanese.

Learn more about the Duomo di Milano and download the app.

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