Walmart Looks to Blockchain for Better Package Tracking
Walmart has yet another delivery-focused blockchain patent in the works.
The application published on July 5 is entitled "Delivery Reservation Apparatus and Method," and as suggested, it outlines a way for managing package reservations in the context of the purchaser not being available to actually receive it.
It's the latest "smart delivery" intellectual property play from the retail giant, which in the past year has submitted a number of U.S. patent applications in this area. Indeed, the company seems to be looking at the technology as a way to automate elements of the delivery process, but to date, much of the company's public-facing work with
blockchain has been focused on food supply chain tracking.
In the newly released filing, Walmart detail system of delivery lockers – located at a person's home, transportation hub or other location – that can safeguard the delivered items until their recipients can come and actually sign for them. Blockchain fits into the conceived picture as a method of connecting those lockers in order to track which ones are occupied and which ones are free to be used.
"Each space on the docking station has a corresponding capacity unit for each location on the docking station. The transactions for the capacity units are tracked in a ledger, with available capacity units indicating an open location on the docking station or contracted out capacity units indicating that either the location has a locker secured thereto or that the location is reserved for a future delivery," Walmart wrote, going on to add:
"In some embodiments, the docking stations utilize a blockchain reservation system. As such, each docking station can be a node within a blockchain network."
The application makes frequent reference to a "public ledger," suggesting that the proposed system would be openly accessible to some extent rather than closed off to certain participants. That leger, according to the filing, "contains a record of available and reserved capacity units for the plurality of locker docking stations."
This perhaps suggests that Walmart wouldn't necessarily be the only operator of these docking stations, and possibly is aimed at enabling a degree of participation by outside parties.