Terza Primavera: a social innovation project

A team of Italian telecom engineers decides that the time has come to bring senior citizens closer to nowadays technologies of mobile communication. They design an application, Fontrillo, that has the goal to make smartphones user friendly especially to the elderly and provides users with additional social benefits such as the ever present Emergency Call and Remote Location service.

The project is named "Terza Primavera" and it aims to reach several goals:

  • Improve the relationship of senior citizens with nowadays lifestyle, providing easy access to state-of-the-art communication services, in order to get them closer to their families, acquaintances and friends.
  • Simplified emergency management with immediate access to first aid services as well as location services that help quick identification of the person in need of assistance.
  • Services of monitoring and remote assistance.
  • Eco-friendliness. Installing Fontrillo can give new life to otherwise dismissed smartphones.

One of the project key goals is to keep the cost for the end user as low as possible. Hence the distribution of the free version in simplified configuration and the possibility to run the app on low cost smartphones.

The Research

The app design is based on the most recent User Experience studies and has been developed with the support of UX experts in order to provide all users with a comfortable and intuitive user interface.

All functions are based on the swipe technology, where the user moves from one function to another as if turning the pages of a book. This reduces the depth within menus to the minimum, thus removing any issue of returning back from any view.

The size of text and keys has been made big enough to be easily read even by people with vision problems. The alphabetic keyboard has been completely redesigned to provide big keys even on the smallest definition screens. Keys in alphabetical order are intuitive for those who are not familiar with computers.

The text-to-speech technology allows users with severe vision impairments to have the text of messages, list items and menus read out aloud.

All notifications are implemented as pop-up messages: received SMS's, missed calls, calendar events are all displayed full screen with an easily readable font size and must be acknowledged before disappearing. In this way the users will never risk missing any kind of information

All native keys (Back and Home) have been disabled to avoid accidental pressing.

The Innovation

The innovative positioning system is based on a combination of location services such as CellIDs from the GSM mobile network, WiFi hotspots and the GPS service. The technology allows the location service to work both indoor and outdoor without relying on mobile network data services.

Fontrillo monitors all the information from the network spots on a regular basis, automatically enabling and disabling WiFi and GPS to save the battery life, and keeps track of the places visited by the user.

A proprietary algorithm has been developed to learn the most frequented locations and apply a tag when no GPS signal is available. Upon request, the location information is sent via SMS messages in order to provide the maximum accessibility even when mobile data services are not available or not enabled.

Next Steps

The Terza Primavera project is evolving. Besides cooperating with experts the project is open to suggestions and requests from any Fontrillo user. From the Support page it is possible to send requests and suggestion to Fontrillo development team.

Meanwhile new features have already been identified for next Fontrillo releases:


The Terza Primavera project takes part to the Social Innovation Camp Milano 2012 sponsored and hosted by The Hub Milano. At the SICamp Terza Primavera is selected as one of the contest winners.
In June 2012 Terza Primavera is presented to the Milan Chamber of Commerce committee Tavoli Tematici per Expo 2015 in the Solidarieta` e No Profit section.
In October 2012 the first version of the application, whose name is Fontrillo, is presented to the Vodafone Foundation Smart Accessibility Awards 2012 contest, where it reaches the finals.