Walmart Patent Envisions Blockchain-Powered Delivery Fleets

NEWS
Annaliese Milano
May 10, 2018 at 18:45 UTC  |  Updated  May 11, 2018 at 15:39 UTC

Automated delivery cars or trucks connected via blockchain could one day deliver packages for Walmart, new patent filings suggest.

The retail giant hinted at the possible use case in an application filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) back in October and published Thursday. Per the documents, the patent centers around technology tools to secure "restricted access areas" at a customer's home that would receive packages from the autonomous ground vehicles (AVGs), as Walmart calls them.

Much of the application itself doesn't mention the technology, but at one point, Walmart mentions how blockchain could serve as part of a solution for "authentication-based access and encryption" that would allow the vehicles to access those restricted areas.

Additionally, that distributed network could serve as a way to track and authenticate the goods themselves.

As the application explains:

"When a customer interacts with a product, the customer is permitted to do so via a private or public authentication key. In response, new blocks may be added to subsequent root blocks, which will contain information relating to the date and time a product delivered by the AGV was accessed, as well as the authentication key that accessed the product."

Walmart wrote in the application that its proposed system could "increase customer loyalty" due to the "significant convenience" it would provide. Likewise, it added that the system would likely cut costs because of its automated nature – at the expense of delivery drivers who might otherwise serve in that capacity, however.

Indeed, the application further cements the impression that Wal-Mart is looking at blockchain as a possible tool for improving the automation of its services.

As CoinDesk reported in March, the retailer – which is separately researching blockchain as a means to track food shipments – filed a patent application aimed at creating a "smart" courier system.

Walmart trailers image via Shutterstock

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