After work on Friday, there are few things Claudio Cargnelli likes more than sitting with his kids on the sofa at his Toronto home playing “Clash of Clans,” a video game where barbarians and pyromaniac wizards battle raiders around the world.
On Monday, Cargnelli heads back to work, but that doesn’t mean he’s done with gaming. As chief marketing officer at GE’s Grid Solutions business, Cargnelli has video games on his mind, particularly online massively multiplayer games, like “Clash of Clans” and “Clash Royale,” which allow gamers from all over the globe to form teams and work together for a common goal. Cargnelli wants to replicate that energy, excitement and sense of engagement to modernize the power grid.
“Gaming has really been an inspiration for my professional work,” Cargnelli says. “The social interaction of building teams with people from all over the world—in my mind, it’s beyond immersive. That’s why I can tell my wife that I’m always working, even when I’m playing games. I’m sticking with that story!”
As electricity has became the lifeblood of the developed world, the networks that bring it to us have grown immensely complex. Cargnelli remembers when not so long ago he would spend hours trying to decipher mathematical equations and thermal models to understand how the power system worked. Eventually, he realized things should not be this complicated. If pilots can learn to fly any type of airplane using a simulator, why couldn’t GE do the same to help non-engineers and customers learn about power systems?
Determined to shake things up, Cargnelli hired half a dozen video game professionals and technical storytellers to form an internal agency dedicated to developing innovative and immersive content that customers can interact with.
Through studying games and translating those insights to the industrial world, Cargnelli and his team have helped design multiple Customer Experience Centers (in Toronto, Atlanta, the U.K., China and soon France) where users can learn and interact with GE’s power systems products and solutions in a simulated 3-D environment.
“In order to simplify discussions about how to modernize the power grid, we needed a new approach,” he says. “With many power system technical experts retiring, our customers are struggling to transfer a significant body of knowledge to the next generation. Our gaming platform
Another game Cargnelli likes to play a lot is “Forza Motorsport 6,” where drivers select cars from a slick user interface that compares various automobiles based on specifications and performance data. Cargnelli and his team have taken a similar approach for explaining complex equipment options where customers can identify the best solutions.
In the Customer Experience Centers, customers, regulators, university students and GE employees interact with programs such as the Grid Explorer, which simulates the grid on a huge 60-foot video wall. The wall encircles and immerses visitors in a virtual experience presenting possible real-world challenges such as a lightning storm downing power lines or a generator crisis quickly cascading down the grid. Visitors learn about how different combinations of hardware and software can resolve issues affecting their power systems.
Cargnelli’s team has been now developing interactive They have created more than 500 apps stored on the App Dash, a custom-made, cloud-based distribution system similar to the gaming platform Steam or Apple’s iTunes Store. App Dash recently got bigger when teams from Energy Connections (of which Grid Solutions is a part), GE Transportations and other GE businesses started using it.
Cargnelli says he’s happy his love of video games is paying professional dividends. “In the past, gaming was looked down on as a trivial pastime,” he says. “Today, we’re able to combine gaming technology with human insights to revolutionize the way we interact with and learn about technology.”