Newly published patent filings from retail giant Walmart hint at a plan to store payments data using blockchain tech.
The two applications – published on Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) – both reference using a blockchain-powered platform to secure the payment data, ensuring that private information can’t be access by unauthorized parties. The same Walmart team drafted both applications, which were initially submitted on October 13 of last year.
While neither filing explicitly references using a permissioned blockchain (which allows only certain parties to operate nodes), the system as described would effectively operate as such. Both applications specify that customers must be able to see their payment histories – but that third-parties need to be restricted from this degree of access.
The first patent filing, which describes a vendor payment system, proposes creating a network that’s able to automatically conduct transactions on a customer’s behalf. The payments would be received by one or more vendors – depending on what services are provided and who provided these services – according to the document.
The application continues:
In one aspect, provided is a vendor payment sharing system, [which would] automatically process payment for a total amount due for the products and services related to obtaining and delivering the products; automatically dividing the payment between parties that provided services related to obtaining and delivering the products; and encrypt the payment and the division of the payment with a blockchain.”
The second application focuses on digital shopping systems and describes using a blockchain to encrypt payment information in a similar fashion.
As the filing notes, one part of “the vendor payment sharing system also includes an authentication system for valuable digitized items … In an exemplary embodiment, the authentication system utilizes one or more aspects of conventional [blockchain systems].”
The twin applications are the latest intellectual property play from Walmart. As CoinDesk previously reported, the company is seeking a patent for a “smart package” that would use blockchain as a way to encode information.
Beyond that, Walmart is also pursuing applications of blockchain for supply chain purposes, particularly for tracking shipments of food.