Supply-chain management is one of the most troublesome aspects of online retail; for this very reason the American retail giant Wal-Mart is trying to solve the issue using blockchain technologies.
On July 5th, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based big-box retailer obtained a patent detailing an invention geared towards the delivery of packages. The solution will include mechanisms for scheduling the delivery of packages.
Known as ‘Delivery Reservation Apparatus and Method,’ the patent initially filed in 2017 discusses delivery centers (locker docking stations) which use a public ledger to evaluate available capacity and make reservations.
Data concerning available lockers or those that are reserved is kept on a public ledger. Once reservation demands are made, the public ledger is checked to determine whether there is enough room. The pubic ledger is constantly updated to reflect new changes.
The blockchain reservation system is set in such a way that each docking station or delivery hub is basically a node within a blockchain network.
“Updates to the blockchain may comprise transfer of capacity units into and out of the public ledger and one or more nodes on the system may be configured to incorporate one or more updates into blocks to add to the distributed database,” reads the patent application number 62441705. The patent application lists Bruce Wilkinson and Todd Mattingly as the inventors.
While Wal-Mart recognizes that even though online retail outlets provide customers convenience given that purchases are delivered to them instead of the customer having to travel to a store, it also admits that there are some challenges to the business model as well for both the retailer and their courier. This is particularly challenging in the case of deliveries where a signature is needed to confirm receipt as it becomes difficult to schedule a time convenient for both the courier and the recipient.
Even though there is the option of recipients suggesting alternate addresses for their deliveries, the challenge still remains with regards to the insecurity of packages such as the possibility of thefts or damages to packages.