Walmart, the largest retailer in the U.S. is seemingly taking a page from Facebook, working on its own cryptocurrency that would be pegged to the U.S. dollar.
Known as a stablecoin because it's attached to fiat, Walmart is among a growing list of companies that view digital tokens as a viable way for consumers to purchase things.
In a filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office late last month, the retailer discussed the idea of tying one digital currency unit to a regular currency and storing the information of the one digital currency unit in a block on the blockchain. It's similar to the vision emanating from Facebook.
“The digital currency may be pegged to the US dollar and available for use only at selected retailers or partners. In other embodiments, the digital currency is available for use anywhere,” wrote Walmart in the patent application.“The digital currency can provide a fee-free, or fee-minimal place to store wealth that can be spent, for example, at retailers and, if needed, easily converted to cash. Such accounts could even earn interest. Digital currency may be tied to a national currency, such as the US dollar, so funds can be added or taken out easily. The digital currency value could, in some embodiments, be tied to other digital currencies.”
Walmart argued in the patent application that the coin could help people who are shut out of the banking industry. Millions of people around the world do not have access to banking services or credit cards because the fees associated with it are too costly. Digital tokens are seen as a way to bridge that gap. It's one of the reasons Facebook, the social media giant, pointed to in its own white paper detailing plans for Libra, its digital token.
“Using a digital currency, low-income households that find banking expensive may have an alternative way to handle wealth at an institution that can supply the majority of their day-to-day financial and product needs,” Walmart wrote in the filing. Outside of serving the unbanked, Walmart envisions its digital coin being used to save consumers money. The retailer said its digital token could store the purchasing histories of users on the blockchain and offer savings to future purchases similar to how a rewards program works. It could also be used to replace credit cards and could be used to restrict what can be purchased.
This isn’t Walmart’s first foray into blockchain technology. It already uses the technology to track packages, improve food safety and even automate delivery drones in the future. Walmart China recently announced a new blockchain initiative aimed at tracing food items on the VeChainThor blockchain.