UPS files patent for blockchain-based shipment tracking

UPS has filed a new patent describing a distributed ledger that can track a package’s destination, movement, and transportation method.

In a new patent application filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), shipping colossus UPS has outlined a new, distributed system for its shipment that will leverage blockchain technology.

Titled “Autonomous services selection system and distributed transportation database(s)”, the system is designed to store several data types within a distributed network – namely lodging a package’s destination, movement, and transportation method.

The patent describes a system in which more than one distributed ledger may be present – elaborating that each ledger may “provide varying information/data regarding respective asset types (e.g., shipment units and/or associated shipment units).”

The patent elaborates that “certain embodiments enable tracking of a first set of shipment units and a second set of shipment units associated with the first set of shipment units separately, thereby enabling the use of various smart contracts relating to shipping services and shipment unit handling in a bifurcated manner”.

The move is another indication of UPS’ interest in blockchain. Late last year, the company joined the Blockchain in Trucking Alliance.

Notably, UPS is not the only company toying with blockchain-driven shipment tracking; earlier this year, retail giant Walmart outlined a new blockchain-powered system that would refine a new ‘smart’ package delivery system.

Interestingly, Walmart’s ‘smart package’ would not only record the contents of a package on a blockchain, but would further detail environmental conditions, its location, and more.

Chiefly, the patent describes that a blockchain component would be encrypted into each smart device, while each package itself will have “key addresses along the chain of custody, including hashing with a seller private key address, a courier private key address and a buyer private key address.”

Further afield, the US Postal Service has outlined a potential view to adopt blockchain technology with the intent of ‘establishing digital trust’ through the deployment of digital identities and new logistics tools.