- UPS applied for a patent to use blockchain technology to plan package routes and track them globally, as they are handled by multiple carriers, according to a filing made public on Thursday.
- The application describes storing data regarding point of origin, destination and shipment parameters, generating a transportation plan, tracking and completion of the shipment, including payment, using blockchain technology.
- Just a few months before submitting the patent application, UPS announced that it had joined the Blockchain in Trucking Alliance (BiTA) in order to improve transactional efficiency and increase trust between parties completing transactions.
At the time UPS joined BiTA, the company said that its main intention for integrating blockchain technology was to facilitate the company's customs brokerage business, but that lens is looking much wider now.
The patent application submitted by UPS explains that as consumers demand faster, cheaper shipping while also demanding more visibility into the path of their shipments, new tools are necessary to track international shipments that involve multiple carriers.
A key phrase in the patent application is "automated determination" — UPS intends for the software to not only track a package through multiple countries and carriers on a blockchain-based infrastructure, it will also determine the optimal route for each package, seemingly without human intervention.
The patent also explains that as a package is tracked on its path, necessary payments can be triggered throughout each step. A major benefit of blockchain technology is the supposed ability to inextricably link delivery and payment, allowing for instantaneous transactions with delivery, triggered by the delivery itself and not a secondary action by the carrier.
The patent also mentions that "virtual currencies" such as Bitcoin and Ethereum may be acceptable forms of payment in this system.