Could Walmart give Amazon a run for its drone money?
Blockchain continues to find innovative use not only in the disruptive technologies stack, but also across the traditional industry sectors. A patent application published by U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on August 30 indicates that the world’s largest retail giant Walmart Inc. (WMT) may be developing a system through which capable autonomous electronic devices (like drones) may exchange real-time information with each other over wireless signals, and even exchange physical objects, like a delivery package, with each other after suitable mutual authentication. (See also, Why Is Walmart Filing Blockchain Patents?)
An Automated Multi-delivery Logistics Model
Titled “Systems, Devices, and Methods for In-Field Authenticating of Autonomous Robots,” the system can be useful to build a blockchain-based authenticated network of delivery drones (or robots), where one drone carries a particular pack to a designated drone junction, where another drone is located to carry forward the pack to its ultimate or next transit point. The two drones will use blockchain authenticated signals and keys to verify each other automatically, following which the first drone will rightfully push the package to the second one. The ecosystem based on blockchain data entries will ensure that all such trust verifications, transfers and ultimate delivery to end destination happens automatically. The other artifacts of this specialized automatic drone delivery network will include sensors, RFID codes, QR codes and ultrasound.
As and when put in the real-world use, this system can offer multiple benefits. It will enable direct delivery from factory to customer within minimal time, as current operations that involve a combination of air, rail and road travel lead to a considerable time delay.
It will also enable long distance delivery. While drones are currently being used at select locations for delivery, they have a limited coverage owing to their limited battery power. Using the above system will enable the development of a transit hub-based coordinated network, similar to that of a train or air freight where goods are delivered over long distance using multiple vehicles.