Tech

Cecille de Jesus

Walmart fights package theft with patent to blockchainize deliveries

Walmart proposes a system of locker hubs where packages can be deposited until their recipients can sign for them—and a monitoring system for the availability of these lockers on a blockchain.

The US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) has granted retail giant Walmart a patent for a blockchain-based “delivery reservation apparatus and method” last week.

The patent application outlines a system where delivery packages can be deposited into delivery hubs or “docking stations” until their intended recipients can receive and sign for them. But unlike a traditional PO box, these lockers are available for all so long as they are reserved and there is space available. The availability of these docking stations are monitored on a blockchain which is updated as couriers reserve slots for their packages.

This would curb package theft—which has become quite a common problem.

Walmart’s proposed system hopes to take a more pro-active solution to package theft rather than relying on karma. Additionally, status updates, notifications, deadlines and schedules can be coordinated within the system, as outlined in the document:

“When the customer retrieves the products from the locker, the locker and/or docking station can send a notification message to the delivery system to notify the delivery service of the completed delivery and the availability of the locker for pick-up. Further, by some approaches, the contract includes a pick-up time or deadline by which the locker should be decoupled from the docking station so that docking station can accurately and reliably form contracts with the delivery systems. When the locker is decoupled from the docking station, the docking station can update the ledger to reflect the additional available capacity units. The locker can be decoupled from the docking station at the behest of an entry at the user input, a signal from the delivery smart device, according to a timer, or the like.”

The patent filing involves a signature system to attest to the delivery of a package, and as proof that the recipient is authorized to receive the delivery by signing it with his private key.

“Party A may prove that he has possession of the digitized item by signing the transaction with a private key that may be verified with a public key in the previous transaction of the digitized item,” the filing describes.

Walmart has been actively integrating blockchain technology into their system. In April, their blockchain platform for tracking food supply went live. That month, they also filed patent applications for securing and encrypting payment data, as well as facilitating the division of payments to different parties involved in a transaction.

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