On Thursday, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published a patent application that was filed in January by Walmart Inc. It describes the validation, through blockchain technology, of transactions involving smart appliances, such as refrigerators, dishwashers, and dryers.
The inventors outline a process whereby a user makes a transaction request, which triggers a consensus mechanism within nodes in a network. From there, a consensus protocol would be implemented to validate the transaction, allowing the smart appliance associated with the transaction to perform the requested function.
The management of these smart appliance transactions could be part of an internet of things (IoT) ecosystem wherein the transaction data is recorded on a public ledger like a blockchain. The ledger would allow relevant parties in the IoT ecosystem to confirm the legitimacy of a transaction.
Also, within the system could be wearable devices that maintain individuals' private keys, which they would use to authorize the smart appliance transactions. The control and access of such devices could be modified by authorized users as well, like when a new device is introduced or removed from the system.
Moreover, the application provides a broad list of potential uses for the blockchain-based system, including within homes, environmental monitoring efforts, healthcare, and manufacturing. The inventors go on to note that such a system need not be limited to the management of smart appliances.
Walmart has a few patent applications under its belt, including an active one for an electrical grid that uses a public ledger (published by the USPTO on June 14). However, that could merely be a duplicate or a slightly updated version of a patent application that the retail giant filed in December 2016. Another surfaced on May 10, calling for autonomous vehicle deliveries, which may be part of an effort on Walmart's behalf to ramp up its supply chain processes through blockchain technology.