Walmart’s Smart Home is Looking to Utilize Blockchain Technology

Smart Home from Walmart

American retail giant Walmart is seeking to patent a blockchain-powered smart appliances management solution. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has recently published their patent application. This may enable blockchain smart home management.

Smart appliances operating under a predetermined configuration are common in our modern lifestyle. With the Internet of Things (IoT) now an everyday reality, we also increasingly see ‘Smart homes’ where appliances intercommunicate. A modern busy lifestyle with more travel, business, and personal commitments, will make these capabilities even more important. We have the technology which enables smart devices to talk to each other, but we still lack the means to secure the necessary communications.

As technology progresses, so does a hacker’s ability to hijack our systems. When we operate our smart appliances, all messages are transmitted over the internet, leaving sensitive information vulnerable to savvy criminals.

Even though we have the powerful IoT technology, we can only apply limited dynamic configurations to our smart appliances. We set up a series of predetermined actions for them based on triggers. This is because the profile managers handling these configurations are susceptible to attacks. If a technology solution gives us secured control over the profile configuration, we can dynamically configure appliances. We can then set up our smart appliances to talk to each other in our smart home and to act securely while we are away. Walmart proposes blockchain smart home management as the answer to this.

Walmart smart home solution
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Image credit: Random Retail/Flickr

Patently Walmart

Walmarts’ patent application proposes a secure communication mechanism between smart appliances. Smart appliance owners can enter records of their gadgets in a blockchain distributed ledger. Each device has its’ unique identifier. The configuration managers of each smart appliance will receive secure messages from owners. Owners have their secure private key that they can maintain in a wearable device or a device they carry, for e.g. a smartphone.

Using their secure private key, owners can configure actions and parameters for their uniquely identified devices. Transactions and messages are encrypted and their transmission is through a secured network. Users also have a management portal where they can dynamically customize access levels for a device and actions it can take. For e.g. users may set up a kiosk as a home delivery station, and depending on parameters the kiosk may accept or decline a home delivery.

Since users have the ability to integrate their smart appliances and their smart home in the management portal, they can control access from afar. For this integration, the patent proposes to use the IoT capabilities. Walmarts’ proposed blockchain smart home management system would store all configurations and their dynamic changes are stored in a tamper-proof blockchain. This guards the security of smart appliances and home from hackers.

Walmart is investing significantly in the blockchain technology, for e.g. they have filed the following patent applications:

  1. A blockchain-powered “Smart package” system;
  2. A resellers’ marketplace using blockchain;
  3. An electricity grid solution powered by cryptocurrencies.

They have also partnered with IBM for ensuring transparency in their food supply chain. This application of the technology could help the company save money while also protecting the health of its vast customer base.

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Anujit Kumar is a staff writer for BlockTelegraph. He covers market action and the latest in applications and technical development.

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