Retail giant Walmart has won a patent for an on-demand electrical grid that would be powered by bitcoin or another cryptocurrency.
The system, outlined in a patent awarded by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on Thursday, is designed to help organizations better manage the energy usage of individual electrical devices. Walmart first applied for the patent in Dec. 2017.
According to the patent, residential homes or even large, multisite organizations could use a blockchain or another type of distributed ledger to build a network of energy-consuming devices. They could then assign each device a set amount of bitcoin or another cryptocurrency, which it could use to purchase energy from the utility provider over a set billing period, such as one month.
“Each unit cryptocurrency may represent a unit or a portion of a unit of energy,” the patent said, adding that the “cryptocurrency may be a bitcoin, an altcoin, or a derivative of a bitcoin, or any digital currency.”
If an individual device exceeded its allocation of cryptocurrency, another device on the network could share its funds with the first device to ensure that it continues to function during the billing period. However, these transactions — which would be recorded on a distributed ledger — would also demonstrate to device owners that a particular device is consuming more energy than it should.
As the patent explains:
“Currently, energy providers deliver energy to locations that inefficiently use the energy, which leads to increased energy costs for consumers. The increased costs result from various appliances and devices that consume energy at higher levels than the appliance or device may actually need to function or perform certain tasks. Smart appliances and devices are now available to consumers that can operate more energy efficiently, but still consume more energy than needed or economically practical.”
Similarly, if an individual network uses less than its allocated energy consumption, it can be structured to share it with another network (e.g. an HVAC network at one store sharing with a peer network at another store owned by the same company). Alternatively, the network can be programmed to sell the excess cryptocurrency or roll it over into its allocation for the next billing period.
Walmart is not the first company to design a system that uses cryptocurrency technology to manage the efficiency of an electrical grid. As CCN has reported, Australia-based startup Power Ledger is building a platform that allows users to buy and sell solar electricity in real time.