United Parcel Service is the world’s largest package delivery company and like many other firms in the logistics and transportation area, it is taking advantage of the opportunities created by blockchain technology.
UPS (NYSE:UPS) has actually gone one better, filing a patent for a blockchain tracking system it hopes will one day also be able to accept crypto currencies. At the same time it is tying that technology together with artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT) using drones to deliver medical supplies.
According to documents published by the US Patent & Trademark Office, the UPS patent uses distributed ledger technology to route packages throughout an international supply chain that may include multiple carriers.
Once a package has been scanned at a packaging facility, the software will choose a route based on the fastest delivery using its network of shipping providers. As the package travels to its destination, information about the shipment will be recorded in a shared ledger.
By one estimate, international shipping is a $1.5 trillion a year global industry, fuelled in part by the growth of online retailers like Amazon. This has increased pressure for faster more reliable delivery and a reduction in fraud. In the US alone, the FBI estimates that approximately $30 billion in goods are stolen each year.
UPS hopes blockchain will help in this area because it creates a tamper proof record of the journey of a package. UPS is one of the world’s largest customs brokers and the patent also includes the promise of accepting virtual currencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum.
UPS is combining blockchain, AI and IoT to deliver drugs in remote parts of Ghana. The UPS Foundation is expanding a medical drone network partnered with Zipline, a California-based automated logistics company.
Zipline will use drones to make on-demand, deliveries of such high priority products as emergency and routine vaccines, blood products and medications.
The service will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from four distribution centers—each equipped with 30 drones—and deliver to over 2,000 health facilities serving 12 million people across the country.
UPS supported a similar initiative in Rwanda using drones for just-in-time delivery of blood products at hard-to-reach clinics. These experiments encouraged UPS to team up with a drone startup Matternet to test medical supplies North Carolina.
These are a few examples of how blockchain, AI and Internet of Things technology are converging to energize business processes and create new products and services.
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