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Will Walmart Use Blockchain-Based Delivery Fleets?

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By Nathan Reiff May 14, 2018 Investopedia

 Retail giant Walmart (WMTWMTWalmart Inc84.39+1.21% ) may be the next major traditional business looking to get involved in the world of blockchain and cryptocurrency. Last month, the company revealed plans for a new, cryptocurrency-powered payment system for vendors and customers. Now, new patent filings show that the company may also be looking to utilize blockchain technology to help revolutionize a system of automated delivery cars or trucks, according to Coindesk.

Application Filed in October

Walmart filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in October of last year; the filings were published late last week. According to the documents, the patent in question revolves around the use of blockchain to secure “restricted access areas” at customer homes. These areas could receive packages from autonomous ground vehicles, or AGVs, according to Walmart.

A large portion of the application with the patent office does not indicate the involvement of blockchain technology in the product. However, one key component reveals that blockchain could act as a portion of a larger-scale solution for “authentication-based access and encryption” to allow the AGCs access to restricted areas at customer homes. Beyond that, a blockchain-powered distributed network could be highly useful for tracking and authenticating goods for delivery, too.

In describing the proposed blockchain delivery system, Walmart wrote that “when a customer interacts with a product, the customer is permitted to do so via a private or public authentication key,” much like for a digital currency. “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.”

Goals Include Customer Loyalty, Convenience

Aside from the primary goal of security, Walmart indicated in the application that the system could also “increase customer loyalty” as a result of “significant convenience” relative to other modes of delivery. Further, the company expects that the blockchain-powered delivery apparatus would cut down on costs as a result of its automated nature. However, increased automation could mean fewer jobs for potential delivery drivers.

Companies like Walmart have increasingly looked toward blockchain for its applications outside of the world of digital currencies. This latest example could be one such application. In many cases, blockchain appears poised to help companies automate, streamline, and cut costs on various aspects of their models. Whether companies like Walmart will face backlash for potentially reducing the number of available jobs as a result of procedures like these remains to be seen. For the time being, it appears that the general fervor surrounding blockchain applications may be substantial enough to quell dissenting voices.

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