A small story of the collaboration between GETS and UNIFI
The activity of General Electric Transportation Systems in the production of railway signaling systems has in Florence its excellence center for hardware and software design. This center has started already more than ten years ago a series of collaborations with the University of Florence, even before the acquisition of the previous Siliani company by the Harmon group first and then by the General Electric giant. In the sector of software development the collaboration with University has addressed the introduction of advanced software engineering techniques, compliant with the EN50128 guidelines. The first experiences have concerned the automation of software testing, but the observation of the increasing costs of testing of safety-critical software has soon boosted the interest of the company towards the introduction of formal development methods that could lower testing costs. Introducing formal methods in an already established software development process is not immediate, but has to take into account many issues and constraints coming from the internal company organization, the customer needs and the technology avialability. This was even more demanding since the market of railway signalling was rapidly moving in Europe from a kind-of protected, national based, market, to a free european market. Introduction of formal methods in GETS owes most of its success by the backing from University: this story can be traced in the list of theses that have been developed on the argument (many of the listed students are now professionals at GETS), and the publications at international conferences and on journals, that stemmed from them.