Walmart Wins Patent for Crypto-Powered Electrical Grid
The U.S. retail powerhouse Walmart has been awarded a patent for developing an on-demand electrical grid that would be powered by digital currencies, like Bitcoin. The company applied for the patent in December 2017 and was awarded on Thursday by the US Patent and Trademark Office(USPTO).
This new and innovative system will allow for an increase in the efficiency of energy consumption as well as regulate demand on the electrical grid. Even though this new idea has the most potential to be utilized by companies, the idea of powering residential households is still on the table.
The official document goes on to explain that “each unit of cryptocurrency may represent a unit or a portion of a unit of energy.” This new relationship between cryptocurrency and energy facilitates a new medium for transactions in between devices.
In the past, we have seen companies like Ford patent technology that enable cars to communicate with each other through cryptocurrency transactions. In the same way, Walmart will enable their company’s smart appliances to communicate with each other. Each device will communicate to the others how much electricity is being consumed through transactions on the electrical grid network.
Each transaction on this new electrical grid would be recorded and stored on a distributed and immutable ledger called a Blockchain. By storing these transactions on a Blockchain, energy providers can allocate an exact amount of electricity that a household or company needs. Because each device’s history of energy consumption is stored on a Blockchain, this data can then be used to estimate how much electricity that device will consume in the future. If an individual electronic device ends up consuming more energy than what is prepaid for, another device within the network would be able to share the needed amount of cryptocurrency to ensure the first device remains online.
The patent then states that energy providers end up sending electricity to areas that “inefficiently use the energy, which leads to increased energy costs for consumers. The increased costs result from various appliances and devices that consume energy at higher levels than the appliance or device may actually need to function or perform certain tasks.” Utilizing this new patented technology, Walmart will be able to accurately track the energy cost of each device.
For businesses, this system is an energy consumption tracking tool which utilizes microtransactions which are device specific. This way, companies will be able to track how much energy freezers, coolers, registers, lights etc. are using individually, rather than an entire store’s energy cost being clumped together. Using this system, businesses will be able to pinpoint energy cost per specific unit down to the penny. In turn, this allows them to reduce energy costs where needed.
If developed to reach consumer households, this technology could prove to be the most efficient way to bridge the gap between energy provided and energy actually consumed. This imbalance has led to inflated electricity costs on a global scale. This residential household system can be summarized as an “Appliance Allowance system”. In a household, this system allows customers to purchase a capped total amount of cryptocurrency to purchase units of energy from providers. A metering system would measure the energy consumption of each device, and households can then allocate energy-use allowances device-by-device.
This is not the first time we have seen Walmart trying to experiment with Blockchain technology. The company also has applied for patents to integrate a distributed ledger into a supply chain management system. Walmart has made claims that this new system has enabled them to shorten the time it takes to track produce from six days to two seconds. Whether it’s their supply chain management system or electrical grid patent, Walmart is saving money and living better with Blockchain.
Alexandre, Ana. “Walmart Awarded Patent for Crypto-Powered Energy Consumption Management System.” Cointelegraph, Cointelegraph, 17 June 2018, cointelegraph.com/news/walmart-awarded-patent-for-crypto-powered-energy-consumption-management-system.
“Energy Costs 'Deliberately Inflated' by £150 per Household.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 2 Jan. 2014, www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/household-bills/10546861/Energy-costs-deliberately-inflated-by-150-per-household.html.
Investopedia. “Cryptocurrency.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 15 May 2018, www.investopedia.com/terms/c/cryptocurrency.asp.