2017 was the year that saw many nascent blockchain projects take off, giving investors and tech evangelists a sense of optimism about the future of this technology and its implications for both the private and public sectors.
We can see an acceleration this year, with companies like Walmart dipping their toes into the pool and finding new ways to make their supply chains more sophisticated and efficient.
The world’s top retailer by revenues filed a patent last week, describing in it a “smart package” that would operate on what is presumably a private blockchain developed by the company.
The document contains the following section:
“Many customers shop online for various reasons include (sic) ease of shopping, comfort of shopping, to save time and any number of other reasons that customers may have for shopping online. 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.”
This follows numerous mentions of a blockchain that would improve tracking mechanisms for customers who order online from Walmart’s website.
For example, the patent describes a blockchain-based system that would provide more convenient ways for customers to authenticate themselves as the owners of the products they ordered.
The way this would work, according to Walmart’s vague description in its application, is that the “smart package” would have a monitoring device attached to it that would detect when the package is opened and then proceed to update its status.
This isn’t the first time the retailer has pondered blockchain-related projects.
Towards the end of last year, Walmart partnered with IBM to improve food safety in China using blockchain technology.
If the project comes to fruition, shoppers will be able to use their smartphones to track the journey their food made to the store.