The concept of automation is one of the key driving factors that shaped the world of today over the previous decades. While this technology slowly seeped into practically every industry, it has recently touched upon a domain that would be seen as science fiction only a decade ago – automated delivery of goods from businesses to end-consumers.
The idea is tightly connected to autonomous copter drones that would be an integral part of this process. In other words, this represents the idea of using delivery drones to pick up products and provide them directly to the buyer, right on their doorstep (or lawn). While it is not revolutionary in any particular part, this combo of advanced technologies just shows how far did the 21st century take the IT tech.
However, it appears that now the same combo is getting the addition of the blockchain technology. It has so far been applied, at least in test environments, in many fields, ranging from medical data keeping to eSports. Up to this moment, the actual success of these project had is limited and inconclusive. But, the latest application has creators that are both serious business venture and a company that could take the idea from a hypothetical domain into reality.
The company engaged in this venture is none other than the US shopping and retail giant Walmart. The chain of supermarkets is experimenting with a number of patents that are designed to allow it to setup and operate an autonomous flying delivery service. The latest filing shows a new focus on making the actual system that would allow these autonomous delivery drones to actually conduct the objectives as individuals and as a wider system.
The patent application was published recently and it details a system of a communication network. Inside of this system, autonomous electronic devices communicate with each other using wireless connections. They are also supposed to pass objects they are transporting among each other and utilize an identification process that determines what goes where. Clearly, the identification process is related to the blockchain technology.
Basically, Walmart recognized that individual drones have a really limited range. This is true for unloaded models, but any vehicle that travels with a cargo would be even more limited, even with a special design, large battery and so on. This is why the system utilizes a chain of drones that would do the job.
Linked Delivery Setup
The process of the patent goes like this. A drone picks up a package and travels to a specific spot. There, the second drone is waiting and the two exchange special signals. These would be authentication signals that would be using the blockchain keys. If the first drone recognizes the second one as its co-worker, it would immediately transport the package to it. The drones would be using the database with their delivery information that would be a blockchain system. Any company would be able to use their own blockchain for this.
In theory, current blockchains like that of bitcoin could be used for this device recognition process, but more likely, the company would develop their own. The process of identification could use a variety of different means. These could include QR codes, ultrasound or RFID codes – each of these would suffice for the transmission of the data.
Not only this, but any of the drones would be able to have its own features that would allow other drones to easily identify. In this regard, even cameras and visual data could be used for the same purpose.
The Vision for the Tech
The Walmart filing envisions the tech as a way to lower the times that are needed to verify the different elements of the delivery system. Every one of these blockchain “handshakes” becoming faster means the entire network ending up faster as well.
By speeding up the trust process, the drones would be able to fly faster to their end destination, even if an individual delivery has dozens of drone “changes of hands”. This fast plurality of nodes, as the filing describes it would generation proof of record and chronological order that is of exceptional integrity.
Similar to current exchanges taking place and a peer-to-peer network, the individual nodes of this drone delivery network would allow for the proof-of-work process. Not only that, the system would be able to introduce smart contracts, like those of the ethereum network, which would allow for an even higher level of functionality.
Walmart Technology Drive
Walmart might not be the first company that comes to mind when it comes to high-tech innovation and development. Yet, in recent years, the company has been working diligently on different technological applications, including blockchain,
This tech, in particular, has been on the drawing board for some time. The same technology is being experimentally used to help in the management of delivery control and smart appliances. Clearly, the company plans to do much more with its tech and the drone delivery process shows the same.
Just one successful application would be able to produce a huge return on investment for Walmart. The same is true for both tech that it can use directly and solution that it can sell to other companies. Maybe not everyone could have imagined Walmart as a tech exporter, but the 21st century has strange ways of changing and evolving the business landscape.
There is also another implication of this process that has to be taken into consideration. Walmart is a company that has an estimated net worth of over $360 billion. Those are some exceedingly deep pockets and they can allow for far-reaching exploration into fringe technological fields, including blockchain.
It is certain that most of these will fail to result in direct profits, but these high-tech experiments usually end up this way. When it comes to direct application, Amazon is certainly further away when it comes to drone deliveries.
But, with the blockchain tech, Walmart can still profit immensely by potentially being second with a much more versatile tech that networks the same drones. In the long-run, this could end up even more profitable than a traditional drone network.