With a bevy of patent filings, Walmart is focusing on improving the in-store experience and the technology that powers its stores behind the scenes. CB Insights said the retailer has filed a little more than 1,400 patents since 2009, CNBC reported.
One patent, for example, is for a smart shopping cart that is connected to a sensing device. In another filing, Walmart describes a wearable device that could keep track of a user’s activities — a technology that could help increase employee productivity. (That idea comes two years after Amazon filed for a similar device to track employees.)
Through another filing, Walmart described in-store inventory trackers that could determine inventory levels. Additionally, Walmart filed a patent for in-store drone technology that could provide services such as “navigation assistance” and “price verification.”
Last fall, the retailer drafted two patent applications that reference a platform powered by blockchain technology for vendor payments and digital shopping, CoinDesk reported. The applications were initially filed in October 2017 and were reportedly drafted by the same team at Walmart. While the retailer wants to give customers access to their own payment histories through the applications, it doesn’t want to give the same type of access to third parties.
In the first patent application, the Walmart team referenced a vendor payment system that would “automatically process payment for a total amount due for the products and services related to obtaining and delivering … products.” It would encrypt and divide the payment using blockchain technology. Beyond vendor payments, the Walmart team described a digital shopping system that also uses the blockchain to encrypt payment data.
The news also comes about a month after Walmart, which is competing with Amazon on multiple fronts, revealed another blockchain initiative. Digital Journal reported in March that Walmart plans to launch a blockchain-based shipping solution to enable product tracking, citing a patent filing by the company for a “smart package.”