An “evangelist” of Augmented Reality and of technology: this is how Francesco Benvenuto defines himself; he has been in AR Product Marketing in OverIT since 2017 and with experience in the sector since 2006, and not only deals with marketing new AR products, but also carries out information and promotion activities, trying to explain the technologies and most of all, to identify their possible application in the corporate context.
“Should I have to describe my profession – Francesco says – I would define it as Innovation-Driven Product Marketing, because nowadays the work of those who deal with defining and promoting the use of an Augmented Reality solution is based on continuous research and innovation activities”.
What does it mean today to deal with Augmented Reality and what is your goal?
“Dealing with Augmented Reality means understanding how to adapt this technology and the enormous benefits it brings to the business environment. First and foremost, we must listen to the needs of companies and continually evolve the product. At the moment, companies know only part of the potential of Augmented, Mixed & Virtual Reality and my task is to fully convey their potential, which should no longer be considered futuristic as was the case until a while ago, but ready to be exploited.
To keep pace with the technological evolution of the sector, it is necessary to find out how to adapt AR, MR and VR to multiple customer business processes, to help meet workplace safety standards and improve the overall efficiency and quality of the tasks performed by the resources. All this whilst reducing both the margin of error and the time needed to complete a task”.
What are the main areas of application of Augmented Reality in companies?
“The typical use of Augmented Reality is concentrated in executing maintenance activities, virtual collaboration and training. Field technicians often find themselves in situations where they have to deal with an unknown asset, which forces the company they work for to send out a more experienced colleague. This procedure is time-consuming and costly and therefore inefficient. Take the case of maintenance and repair operations, which currently represent one of the most important critical issues for companies. Augmented Reality is able to compensate the skills gap and to reduce the errors of technicians working in the field, ensuring a rapid and effective sharing of know-how, increasing the percentage of first-attempt solutions and providing more accurate diagnoses.
With technological advancement, machinery complexity has also increased and, consequently, support operations require the intervention of increasingly specialized resources; expert maintenance workers are a rare commodity and they are often forced to move from one side of the world to the other in order to respond to requests for intervention, prolonging downtime and increasing costs for companies. It is along these lines that the remote training of resources on new maintenance processes or complex assembly activities takes place. These functions are particularly useful in situations which are too complicated or expensive to recreate in reality”.
What are the main Augmented Reality features required by companies?
“By using a Head-Mounted Display, field technicians can operate hands-free and automatically recognize an asset, with the aim of viewing, both instantaneously and by overlaying the real world, data from “smart” production lines and IoT sensors. Furthermore, they can handle a Digital Twin or add, by “anchoring” them, notes shared by remote users, with the necessary skills to support the execution of the activities in the field. These features extend skills and enable faster and more efficient maintenance and support operations. Furthermore, companies can now create a shared knowledge base, taking advantage of Artificial Intelligence, which is capable of automatically suggesting the possible solutions learned from previous interventions. Another important feature concerns land management: maintenance activities can be associated with specific geographical coordinates which identify the place where the asset is located. By integrating the information from the Geographic Information System with the virtual data, users can view networks, assets and technical data, for example to evaluate in advance the impact of plants and networks even before their implementation, or to reduce the time necessary to identify assets in the area”.
What is the greatest difficulty of this profession? How to overcome it?
“I often find myself having to explain a technology to people who don’t know what it is and can’t imagine its opportunity. For this reason, generally, before presenting the product I analyze the company in order to bring concrete examples of how Augmented Reality can be applied to specific processes. In this way it is easier for the interlocutor to understand the benefits”.
What is the best part of this job?
“The most exciting part is when I gain the other parties’ interest. The challenge, in fact, lies in transferring the concept that what I propose is often ready and can lead to results in a short time. Moreover, very often interactions lead to new ideas that allow providing added value.
I remember with pleasure the experience with someone who is now one of our customers in the USA. During a presentation at one of the main US national laboratories working for the US Department of Energy, I was asked to play the role of an inexperienced technician in order to receive Augmented Reality support from an experienced engineer connected remotely. On this occasion, I was able to demonstrate the actual usefulness and simplicity of the proposed solution, successfully completing the task I was assigned, by exploiting the potential of the technology combined with the experience of an expert user”.
Did a university education help your career?
“I think it most definitely helped. Study experiences in India and in the US were fundamental as they enriched my English, an essential language to keep up with technology, not just in the field of Augmented Reality. Among the activities which I actively follow there is the interaction with researchers and consulting companies operating in the IT world to update them on a monthly basis about product development and to receive the feedback necessary for a continuous improvement of the product itself”.
Which sites, blogs, news do you consult every day?
“To keep pace with fast-changing technology, I annually take part in the main summits, namely AWE (Augmented World Expo) in Santa Clara in Silicon Valley and EWTS (Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit) in Dallas, both in the US. New hardware is presented at these events and there is the possibility of meeting companies looking for Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality solutions. An important blog is THE VRAR Association, where major Augmented Reality vendors publish useful guides and research articles for industry experts”.