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Technical Blog

Load cells in smart retail applications

In smart retail environments, load cells, also known as weight sensors, are integrated into shelves, display units, vending machines or shopping carts to measure and monitor the weight of products in real-time. These sensors play a crucial role, particularly in the context of inventory management, customer experience, and theft prevention.

Checkout free shopping experiences

Stores such as Amazon Go and Tesco GetGo operate without human cashiers or checkout counters, using Just Walk Out technology to enable the consumer to enter, pick up the items they want, and leave without going through a traditional checkout process. Load cells work together with cameras to monitor when a customer picks up or returns an item to the shelves. When they leave the store the system calculates the total cost of items in their virtual cart based on the items’ weight and other data and this is then charged to the account linked to the App.

Inventory management

Load cells incorporated into shelves enable retailers to track and manage inventory levels automatically. As products are added or removed, the sensors detect the changes in weight and update the system accordingly, allowing retailers to maintain optimum stock levels. This can help ensure popular items are always available and avoid customer disappointment. With perishable goods, load cells can be used to monitor freshness and quality with the system monitoring weight changes and alerting staff to remove spoiled items promptly.

Theft prevention 

By highlighting any discrepancies between expected and measured weights, anti-theft systems that use load cells can alert retailers to potential theft or suspicious activity. The system can flag anomalies, such as if a customer places an item back on the wrong shelf, triggering a notification.

Smart vending machines

Thanks to advancements in technology, traditional vending machines have evolved into smart vending machines which offer a range of improved features and capabilities which benefit both customers and operators.  As well as improved inventory management, this also includes cashless payments, touchscreen interfaces and the use of AI to adjust pricing based on demand. By utilising load cells in a smart vending machine and receiving real-time data, operators can track inventory levels in real-time and receive alerts when stocks are running low to ensure popular items are always available.

Load cells from Zemic Europe

We are the exclusive UK partner for Zemic Europe, the leading supplier of load cells, strain gauges and sensors. Zemic offers load cell solutions for many different object identification applications including load cells to determine the weight of an individual product, the weight change of a single item within a vending machine, or the total weight of a complete shelf.

One example is the L6D single point load cell which is suitable for unmanned stores, vending machines, intelligent shelves and unattended supermarkets.

If you are an OEM operating in the vending machine or unmanned retail space and are looking for a load cell solution for your application, please get in touch via our contact form, by calling 01327 351004 or emailing sales@variohm.com. We offer a range of standard load cells, with or without OIML approval, and can work with Zemic to design and develop a bespoke load cell to meet your specifications. Also included in our product range are temperature sensors, another vital component in vending machines and grocery retail applications, and you can read more about this here.


Article published on: 22/08/2023

Article last updated on: 22/08/2023