Walmart plans bitcoin-powered electrical grid

June 15, 2018
Chris Wheal

The US retail giant Walmart has been awarded a patent for developing an electrical grid that will be powered by bitcoin or other digital currency, according to a patent application just published by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Walmart is embracing new technology

US retail giant Walmart plans a cryptocurrency powered electricity grid: Shutterstock

Walmart applied last December to patent the system, which is designed to help organisations better manage the energy usage of individual electrical devices.

Building a network

As outlined in the patent, both households and businesses could use a blockchain or another type of distributed ledger to build a network of energy-consuming devices. They could then assign each device a set amount of bitcoin or another cryptocurrency for purchasing energy from the utility provider over a set billing period.

According to the patent “each unit cryptocurrency may represent a unit or a portion of a unit of energy” and the “cryptocurrency may be a bitcoin, an altcoin, or a derivative of a bitcoin, or any digital currency.”

Should an individual device exceed its allocation of cryptocurrency, another device on the network could share its funds with the first device to ensure that it continues to function during the billing period. The transactions would be recorded on a distributed ledger and alert device owners when a device was consuming more energy than expected.

“Currently, energy providers deliver energy to locations that inefficiently use the energy, which leads to increased energy costs for consumers,” the patent notes. “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.

“Smart appliances and devices are now available to consumers that can operate more energy efficiently, but still consume more energy than needed or economically practical.”

The patent adds that “the utilisation of the cryptocurrency may be operated independent of a central database system, such as a central bank, a central management system, or central authority operated by the energy provider.”

Moving suppliers

Walmart has applied for various patents to integrate the new technology into its supply chain cycles, including a system to record a customer’s purchases in a blockchain ledger that would also allow the customer to resell the items on a sales platform using the record of purchase.

Its “smart package patent”employs a blockchain-based tool to track package contents, environmental conditions, location, and other details. The company has also asked its food suppliers to start using the new technology, both to reduce waste and also improve contamination management and transparency.

Walmart’s initiative is not the first to be based on a system using cryptocurrency technology to manage the efficiency of an electrical grid. Australian start-up Power Ledger is building a platform that allows users to buy and sell solar electricity in real time.

Post written by Chris Wheal
Chris Wheal is editor of OpenLedger's news and features service. An award-wining business journalists himself, he runs a team of freelance journalists from across the UK and north America.

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