Delivery giant United Parcel Service (UPS) is exploring the use of blockchain technology for its global supply chain logistics. The US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) published documents on Thursday that show how the 110-year-old delivery company may deploy blockchain, distributed ledger technology (DLT) and cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Ripple and Dogecoin to improve its services and streamline complex procedures.
UPS filed the original patent application on February 16. The authors detail how the company could solve issues related to complex logistics of “a shipment unit containing at least one shipment unit through one or more transportation networks corresponding to one or more carriers.”
By using blockchain technology, DLT and cryptocurrencies across its global supply chain, which links multiple carriers, often with different handling instructions, the company believes it could reduce costs and be more efficient.
According to the filing,
“The distributed ledger system may incorporate a single blockchain configured for storing all transactions therein, or the distributed ledger system may comprise a plurality of blockchains, wherein each blockchain is utilized to store information/data indicative of a particular type of transaction. For example, a first blockchain may be configured to store shipment unit shipping/tracking information/data, and a second blockchain may be configured to store value transfer information/data (e.g., via a virtual currency). Accordingly, various embodiments may comprise and/or utilize digital currency/assets represented by ledger entries. Such digital currency/assets (e.g., Bitcoin, Ether, and/or the like) may itself have value that may be exchanged for various shipment units, services, and/or the like. Such digital currency/assets thus may be utilized as a currency in various transactions. Moreover, various embodiments may utilize and/or comprise various digital currencies/assets that may be exchanged for shipment units and/or information/data having a defined value.”
The authors also note that several cryptocurrencies, including Litecoin, Ripple and Dogecoin, could be used in connection with smart contracts that are utilized to transfer value along the supply chain.
“Smart contracts may be configured for execution based on various trigger events, information/data parameters, shipment unit or shipment unit conditions (e.g., as reflected by shipment unit and/or associated shipment unit information/data stored within the one or more distributed ledgers), and/or the like. In various embodiments, the smart contracts may be executed by a transfer of value (e.g., reflected in a separate distributed ledger corresponding to a virtual currency, such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Ripple, Dogecoin, and/or the like), by initiating a particular action (e.g., executable entirely within the distributed ledger and/or at least partially executable outside of the distributed ledger, for example, by initiating a transfer of currency through traditional banking institutions), and/or the like. Examples of such smart contracts for transferring value are described below. It should be understood that such transfers of value are merely exemplary of various smart contracts that may be executed as a portion of a distributed ledger system as described herein, and these examples should not be construed as limiting.”
By using DLT technology, UPS could transform its 110-year-old business, allowing the company to autonomously match a shipment to a carrier based on shipment data contained in a smart contract, streamlining the network and removing friction at multiple legs, segments and junctures of the delivery.
The new system could also help it compete with tech behemoth Amazon.
In February, Amazon launched a new delivery service, Shipping With Amazon (SWA), designed to compete with UPS and FedEx. Pilot tests were reportedly run in London and Los Angeles.