Peer-To-Peer Parcel Delivery On The Ethereum Blockchain

A parcel service prototype has been developed on the Ethereum blockchain as a result of collaboration between the team at Streamr and PassLfix CTO Frederic Vedrunes, who met at EDCON 2017.

Vedrunes’ vision is to take advantage of the fact that most people have smartphones and that in high traffic regions, those individuals may better serve parcel recipients than a central postal system. By leveraging a safety deposit made by couriers who may not have earned the same trust as a parcel delivery corporation, such as Fedex, executable distributed code contracts (EDCCs) help to build trust and issue deliveries, providing a value to consumers while ensuring the courier has some skin in the game.

If issues occur during delivery, the courier has the option to drop the parcel off at designated postboxes that are outfitted with serial EDCCs which can record receipt. After which, the courier’s deposit is returned, minus any applicable fees. At this point, the postbox itself submits a deposit in lieu of a courier, which is returned when the package is retrieved.

The sending party uses a GUI (graphical user interface) to input the locations of origin and destination, as well as set parameters like desired delivery time. When the courier arrives, they confirm the contents of the package from a photo provided by the sender in the GUI. Onsite, the courier adds an IoT (internet of things) sensor to the parcel and seals it with tamper evident stickers.

In transit, the IoT sensor interacts with the Streamr platform through Bluetooth transmissions to an off-chain smartphone app as telemetry data is too much for EDCCs on the blockchain to handle. Once information that includes temperature, GPS, speed, and elevation are compiled, the Ethereum Android app interacts with the blockchain. On the Streamr app, visualizations from metrics gathered by the IoT sensor are available to the sender, courier, and recipient.  The EDCCs, which hold payments during transit, provide security for both the sender and recipient; the EDCC will only release the courier's payment and safety deposit when the recipient acknowledges the delivery in the Android app.

A reputation system is linked to the deposit insurance. PASS tokens are used as a currency to pay deposits by couriers or public postboxes. Couriers will only be able to transfer packages that have an input price lower than the PASS tokens they may lose, in case of a bad delivery. If the package arrives on time and in good condition, EDCCs release the full deposit back to the courier but conditions in the EDCC may diminish the return of a PASS token deposit if the parcel is late or overheats. If a package is lost or not delivered, the courier may forfeit their deposit. This system will allow new users to gauge the reputability of couriers.

Two cases for disputes have been acknowledged and solutions provided. In case one, the receiver may not want to or cannot take the parcel. In such an event, the courier returns the parcel to the nearest public postbox, to be sent to a DAO mediator who assesses whether the delivery conditions were met. Once approved by the mediator, the courier’s deposit is reimbursed and the postbox itself puts up the deposit, which is refunded to it when the initial sender reclaims the package.

The other scenario involves a damaged parcel, for which PassLfix provides an explanation on its website: "For disputes during or after the handover, the deposit is given back to the delivery service but there can be an impact on the appreciation given by the users and therefore the reputation of the service. For this reason, a reputed delivery service should partially reimburse the user."

If the courier fails to deliver the parcel, their PASS deposit is transferred to the sending party.

The new delivery system may prove to be a better choice for consumers. When using a traditional postal service, once the sender pays there is no way to extract value from the service in the event of a late delivery. With the possibility of a courier’s diminishing PASS deposits due to a lack of timeliness, the system incentivizes punctuality in a way the current industry does not.