US retail giant Walmart has filed a patent application for their blockchain-powered “Smart package” solution. The patent application was filed in August 2017, and the US Patent and Trademark office (USPTO) has released the patent recently.
Online shopping involving perishable products often requires temperature control. The prevalent shipping processes aren’t particularly suited to this requirement, because it can’t be tracked in an automated manner whether the environmental parameters are being controlled as required.
While technology certainly exists to let the company know the contents of a package, its location, and the surrounding environmental conditions, a secured and automated tracking of this is currently not enabled. Blockchain, with its promise of decentralization and immutable records can help.
A summary of Walmart‘s proposed solution is following:
- The “Smart package” will have a body portion with an inner volume.
- A door is coupled with the body, which can opened and closed.
- The door, when closed, restricts access to the inner volume, and allows access when in open position.
- There’s a monitoring device, which will control and monitor the status of the package and environmental condition of the inner volume.
- A modular adapter coupled to the outer surface of the body portion connected to an output of a delivery vehicle system.
- The smart package also has a blockchain-based tool, and the blockchain will record the key addresses, for e.g. seller private key address, courier private key address, and buyer private key address.
- Walmart suggests that the technology could also be used in conjunction with autonomous vehicles technologies, for e.g. drones.
Walmart, headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, USA, is not new to blockchain. In fact, the patent application described here actually leverages another patent application filed by the company, for a blockchain-powered drone package delivery tracking system. In 2016, Walmart had worked with IBM, and tested this technology to identify and remove recalled food from its products. They have also recently announced that they will use blockchain for quality assurance purpose in their live food business.