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UPS Could be Eyeing Blockchain Technology to Speed Multi-Party Shipments

UPS has reportedly applied for a blockchain patent that would help route package deliveries around a global supply chain.

The aim behind the UPS patent, according to a report in Bitcoin Exchange Guide News, is to increase efficiency and cut costs by coordinating shipment logistics that often involve multiple parties. The blockchain could help streamline the whole process.

UPS wouldn’t confirm the patent’s existence or details, but told Souring Journal, “We continuously look for ways to improve the efficiency of our operation. We believe blockchain is a disruptive technology that has potential to change many facets of life and global commerce. But we don’t have any specific projects to announce today.” A search and inquiry of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office did not yield any information regarding the patent.

In November, UPS joined the Blockchain in Trucking Alliance, or BiTA, a forum for the development of blockchain technology standards and education for the freight industry. The shipping company said it sees the need to create industry standards and protocols to enable blockchain platforms to operate together with established technologies. In the future, blockchain standards and intercompany collaboration will support the logistics strategies that enable UPS customers to participate in global trade and finance.

“Blockchain has multiple applications in the logistics industry, especially related to supply chains, insurance, payments, audits and customs brokerage,” Linda Weakland, UPS director of enterprise architecture and innovation, said at the time. “The technology has the potential to increase transparency and efficiency among shippers, carriers, brokers, consumers, vendors and other supply chain stakeholders.”

Also at the time, UPS said it wants to leverage blockchain technology to facilitate execution and visibility of trusted transactions between the company, its customers and government customs agencies. Blockchain, a digital database using blocks that are linked and secured by cryptography, can be used to keep record of any information or assets. This includes physical assets, like transportation containers, or virtual assets, like digital currencies.

According to Bitcoin Exchange Guide News, the UPS patent said it could be used to facilitate automatic payments between multiple parties in the supply chain, potentially using Bitcoin, Ethereum or Litecoin.