US Retail Giant Walmart Eyes Blockchain to Improve Delivery Process

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Walmart Eyes Blockchain for Drone Deliveries
Image: Walmart sign, Mike Mozart, Flickr

US retail giant Walmart is exploring to use blockchain technology to improve the delivery process. 

A new US patent filing published on August 30, 2018, describes a blockchain-based system for the authentication and coordination of autonomous electronic devices such as drones for long-distance shipping from the physical store to the final destination. The system is set to help reduce the delivery process time, and boost cost-effectiveness and overall efficiency.

The system would use blockchain to allow autonomous electronic devices to authenticate the identity of one another, allowing them to pass packages between themselves without the need of human intervention.

The authentication system would be based on the communication of “blockchain keys” between devices and a distributed database.

The filing reads:

“In exemplary embodiments, two autonomous electronic devices, such as delivery drones or household autonomous robots, can authenticate each other using embodiments of security procedures described herein. This can safeguard packages, customers, and the autonomous electronic devices themselves.”

This is one of the many patents filed by Walmart to bring more automation to the delivery process. A separate patent filing published on July 5, 2018 describes a blockchain-based management system for delivery hubs. These hubs would be “located at a user’s home, at public locations such as transportation hubs, public venues, or the like, or other desired locations.” The stations would coordinate “directly with one or more delivery systems” to organize the delivery of items.

“In some embodiments, the docking stations utilize a blockchain reservation system,” the filing reads.

“The docking station authenticates the public key and creates a blockchain contract to reserve and use the requested capacity units. The docking station then compares the blockchain contract with the ledger. If the ledger indicates that the capacity units are available for the requested time, the blockchain contract is validated.”

Walmart filed numerous blockchain-related in the past years. In June, it was granted three patents from the US Patent and Trademark Office: a patent for a blockchain-based medical records system to store patient data, another for a blockchain-based energy network, and a last one for a system that uses cryptographic keys stored on a blockchain to help users securely control or limit the access to a real or virtual space.