WALMART, BLOCKCHAIN–According to a recent patent filing published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, mega-retail outlet Walmart has been awarded the rights for a system storing medical records through blockchain. The patent also specifies the use of a wearable device, paving the way for IoT medical integration and health on-the-go.
The report follows on the heels of an article in March by Fortune, that Walmart was in the works to purchase health insurance company Humana, which covers the policies of over 13 million customers.
Language in the individual patent indicates that Walmart is looking to create a system that simplifies the public/private key transaction necessary to blockchain (likely for a senior audience), which would allow for intuitive sharing of sensitive medical information. It could boil down to something as simple as a bracelet, worn by patients, which could be scanned to ease the process of check-in and medical history retrieval.
Walmart and Cryptocurrency
While Walmart has yet to take the plunge into cryptocurrency for its blockchain utility or transactional features, the global company does have a backdoor connection via Ripple. MoneyGram has had a long standing, in-store partnership with Walmart, which was reaffirmed through April’s launch of the Walmart2World program, allowing for international transfers. More pertinent to cryptocurrency investors, MoneyGram is one of three high-profile wire transfer companies to partner with Ripple’s XRapid system in a pilot program. The cost saving measures of using XRP as liquidity in global transfers has already been touted by Mexico-based Cuallix, which was the first international bank to partner with Ripple in October 2017.
Despite the three-way connection between Walmart, MoneyGram, and Ripple, it’s unlikely that the superstore giant will be adopting cryptocurrency any time soon. However, it does provide a convenient pivot in the event that cryptocurrency use goes mainstream, or that the cost-saving measures of Ripple and the established blockchain of XRP supersedes Walmart’s own development. For instance, given the low cost of transfer for XRP transactions (0.00001 XRP consumed), Walmart could adopt a model where medical records can be sent to clinics around the world for a fraction of a penny–all through the secure, documented portal of Ripple’s blockchain. Likewise, access to medical records could be granted by the private key of a Ripple account, allowing a patient total control over their medical information, with the ability to distribute as needed.
Again, connecting Walmart to Ripple (or any cryptocurrency) at this point is a stretch, but the relationship does exist through the common party of MoneyGram. The difficulty with getting established companies to bite on cryptocurrency, particularly one as large as Walmart, is magnified in the current bear market. Walmart, Amazon, etc. are concerned with the health of their own shares, and cannot afford the possible negative impact of being associated with the volatility of crypto. At this point, the narrative surrounding cryptocurrency is inexplicably tied to price movements: when the market’s down, crypto is painted as a highly risky, likely to fail venture. That narrative can flip just as quickly in the event of another market shift.
As interest in blockchain continues to grow (such as the partnership with U.S. mobile carrier Sprint earlier in the week), adoption and acceptance of cryptocurrency as a legitimate technology also rises. Walmart is in the position to dictate its future in relation to cryptocurrency, either through an establish coin or creating its own blockchain technology.