How to turn existing cameras into sensors to build digital twin of retail stores

As brick and mortar moves closer towards a customer experience centric future, understanding what goes on in our physical stores has become more important than ever before.

A digital twin is a live virtual representation of real world physical spaces. Real world sensors collect a variety of key statistics and data on a space. This data can then be input into a processing system to generate simulations and business insights that can be reapplied to optimize the physical space.

Digital twins generate powerful outcomes

Using digital twins enables managers to achieve goals and unique outcomes impossible without a digital model. They enable you to better visualize how real world assets connect with real world data and allow businesses to understand the past, view the present, and prevent future problems.

From informing decision making for sales and marketing to simulations and predictions for ops in store layout, digital twins are the future of how we approach retail.

Lowe's has been exploring digital twins to model their retail stores in detail to greatly improve customer experiences by keeping inventory in stock, optimizing layout, and better understanding foot traffic data. Lowe's associates gain superpowers that were previously only available to ecommerce storefronts.

Digital twins are easier to use than you think

The barrier to entry for implementing digital twins has dropped. Retailers no longer need fancy, dedicated devices to understand what's happening in their stores. In fact, it's as simple as using the existing sensor technology that every retailer already has.

They already  every every important part of your store, are perfect sensors that collect massive amounts of visual data, and are already being used daily. These sensors are the security cameras you already own.

Data moves from your security camera, to cloud processing, finally to the digital twin for analytics
Data moves from your security camera, to cloud processing, finally to the digital twin for analytics

Target is already using their existing security cameras alongside AI image recognition to generate a better understanding of their stores and drive actionable outcomes. They were not only able to build a visual understanding of where and how people shop in their stores, but automate functions that saved thousands of man hours and millions of dollars.

With the infrastructure already set in place, Target now has the capability of expanding even further. By exploring how to use the same model with other solutions like inventory management, shortage, compliance, and safety, Target has taken a leap in creating future focused technology that goes above and beyond in enhancing the guest experience.

Using existing security camera infrastructure for AI analytics
Using existing security camera infrastructure for AI analytics

Digital twins are often misunderstood

Digital twins are a new and complex topic, here are some of the most common misconceptions and the facts:

1. Digital twins are expensive

Answer: Digital twins can be set up on the infrastructure you already own. From security cameras to multipurpose IoT devices, creating a digital understanding of your store only requires the software that connects everything together.

2. Digital twins are too advanced and time consuming

Answer: The technology is already there, and is designed to be simple to set up. Built with AI, the best software out there enables users to set up digital twins as easily as dragging selection boxes and asking simple questions to automatically collect data.

3. Digital twins are only used by engineers and data scientists

Answer: Digital twins simplify who can access the results from data and the power of decisions they can make from it, not complicate it. In fact, digital twins make it so easy and simple to understand data that it enables cross functional teams to work together better and draw better insights.

4. Digital twins exist to just provide good looking data

Answer: Digital twins isn't just about data, but automating decisions. From automations as simple as notifying store employees of live issues to advanced automations such as automatically generating optimal store layouts.

Good digital twins of the physical world not only provide data, but make it easier to make decisions and advise on actions to take.

Taking the first steps towards a digital future

With digital twins simpler to implement than ever before, retailers are digitizing the real world using sensors as simple as their existing security cameras. With these they can bring the power of digital analytics to the real world for all kinds of tasks. It's become clear that digital twins and a digital understanding of our physical spaces is how we will make decisions moving forward into the digital future.

The question is, are you taking the steps that keep you ahead?

March 13, 2023
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