Walmart eyes blockchain-managed smart appliances

The US retail giant just can’t get enough of blockchain technology

Walmart has filed yet another blockchain-related patent application.

This one is entitled ‘Managing Smart Applications Using Blockchain Technology’, with the abstract as follows: “Examples of the disclosure provide systems and methods for managing a smart appliance. A computing system receives, from a smart appliance associated with an appliance type, a transaction request associated with a transfer between a user and a profile manager, and determines whether a transaction ledger includes transaction data associated with a reference transaction.”

“The reference transaction is associated with a reference configuration of an appliance associated with the appliance type. On condition that the transaction ledger includes the transaction data, the computing system transmits a configuration instruction to the smart appliance to automatically configure the smart appliance to operate in accordance with the reference configuration, and communicates with one or more nodes in a network to validate a transaction associated with the transfer.”

Proactive stance

Walmart is stealing a blockchain march on many of its retail rivals. Examples of other patents include tapping the technology to develop a more efficient, flexible online delivery tracking system.

In a patent application released by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the retailer describes a “smart package” including a device which would record information on a blockchain, such as the contents of the package, its environmental conditions and its location. This could also be used in tandem with other emerging technologies such as drones.

“Managing a packages environment when it goes from distribution or fulfilment centre to the customer’s home has been a challenge,” Walmart observes. “Various solutions have been proposed and each of those solutions is lacking. With the emergence of autonomous vehicles serving as couriers for packages, a possible solution for cold chain management and the environment of a package exists.”

“Additionally, the Internet of Things is being incorporated into many packaging solutions. However, the existing solutions sill lack the ability to track our packages at all times, including knowing who has custody of the package, what is in the package, why the package is in the state that it is in, where the package is located, and when the package will be delivered, companies would be able to more intelligently eliminate shrink with packages in the delivery cycle.”

It adds: “Many customers shop online for various reasons include ease of shopping, comfort of shopping, to save time and any number of other reasons. These online customers many times seek to purchase items that may require a controlled environment and further seek to have greater security in the shipping packaging that the items are shipped in. Current shipping packaging does not provide for such desired functionality.”

The patent builds on a 2017 Walmart filing for a blockchain-based drone package delivery tracking system.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author should not be considered as financial advice. We do not give advice on financial products.


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