Walmart Delves Into Blockchain Technology Patents


Retail giant Walmart has made waves in the intellectual property field recently by filing for a group of patents to protect new blockchain technology that they intend to use to keep pace with main competitor and online retail giant, Amazon. While blockchain technology is not that new, having long been the cornerstone for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, only recently have retailers, banks, and other fields of industry began to delve into utilizing the technology in their respective fields.

The appeal of blockchain technology comes from its ability to provide a secure, self-validating ledger of records that can record transactions between parties in an open, efficient, verifiable, and permanent manner. From inception, a blockchain is innately resistant to hacking or modification because it must adhere to specific protocols to validate new “blocks” or records. Once a block is produced, the data within that block cannot be altered retroactively unless all subsequent blocks are edited as well. Such massive alteration would require consensus from the network itself.

Using Blockchain Technology for Drones or Robotic Delivery Devices

In a filing made public last month, Walmart submitted an application to protect blockchain technology that would control Walmart’s “in-field authenticating of autonomous electronic devices” that processed secure delivery of goods to their consumers. Specifically, the patent would cover the use of electronic devices such as drones or robotic delivery devices that would utilize blockchain technology to securely authenticate each process.

Entitled “Systems, Devices, and Methods for In-Field Authenticating of Autonomous Robots”, Walmart’s latest patent was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office earlier this year. The application was written to protect Walmart’s proprietary system of utilizing an assembly line of robots and drones to deliver consumer purchases across the nation and at varying steps of the overall Walmart supply-chain operation. Specifically, the patent would protect the system and method of using automated machines that rely on wireless network signals to enable the communication of secure network authentication through blockchain technology. In this case, Walmart would be using blockchain technology in hopes of providing an extra layer of secure authentication to protect the identity and digital security of Walmart’s robotic devices and drones. By using blockchain technology in this manner, Walmart hopes to protect their automated delivery force of drones and robots from hackers as relying solely on encryption has proven inadequate in the past.

Walmart Files Multiple Blockchain Technology Patents in 2018

Walmart seems to be going all-in on blockchain technology, having already filed two other blockchain patents earlier this year. One of the patents was submitted to protect blockchain technology used in a methods and systems that would manage smart applications, and the other patent Walmart has applied for would use blockchain technology to keep already-delivered items safe until the consumers that purchased them are able to retrieve, sign, and collect them.

As one of the biggest brick-and-mortar retail giants around, it is interesting to see Walmart invest in blockchain technology as a means to compete with its online rivals. Only time will tell whether Walmart’s gamble pays off.

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