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沃尔玛提交两项区块链技术专利

根据美国专利商标局披露,零售巨头沃尔玛已经于上周提交了两项专利申请,旨在将使用区块链技术的计算机系统自动集成到网上购物的导购服务中。

沃尔玛“深挖”区块链技术

沃尔玛区块链技术团队由五名美国程序员和一名英国程序员组成,在他们的“导购系统(Courier Shopping System)”和“供应商付款共享系统(Vendor Payment Sharing System)”两项专利申请中,希望将分布式账本技术整合到旗下购物网络里,覆盖所有运营商、供应商和客户。通过一个许可区块链,可以收集,分配和支付供应商和运营商之间的付款。不仅如此,该网络还将允许参与者之间进行点对点购物和导购服务,并且包括信誉/评级系统。

但奇怪的是,这两项专利似乎技术性较差,反而更像是白皮书/概念证明。

监控用户的日常行为?

有消息称,这些专利背后的技术可能是为了实现用户行为监控。通过在较长的时间段(可能是整个购物生命周期)内,监控每个消费者的行为和选择。沃尔玛这个全新的购物网络希望能够构建出客户的价值体系,以了解他们喜欢什么样的产品和服务,以及他们希望如何被交付到自己手上。

该专利中提到:

“该专利技术可以获得关于一个人的旅行、生活方式、随时间消耗的卡路里、饮食、习惯、兴趣和亲和力等信息。随着时间的推移,通过监测一个人的行为,可以建立该用户的日常行为意义。”

此外,该专利还提到了利用人工智能技术和物联网技术的整合。现在的问题是,这份区块链点对点速递服务系统专利难道会监控一个人的一举一动,以便预测其行为?不得不说,你越深入研究这些专利,就越让人觉得毛骨悚然。

当然,就目前而言,该专利在很多细节上还不清楚,也缺少实际的编程概念和技术规范来说明如何在区块链上实现行为监控。

Retail giant Walmart submitted two U.S. Patent Applications on April 19, 2018, claiming the invention of computer systems utilizing blockchain technology for automatic integration of courier services into the online shopping experience.

Walmart Wades Further into ‘Blockchain’

The Walmart blockchain tech team consists of five programmers from the U.S. and one from the U.K. In their patent applications for a Courier Shopping System and a Vendor Payment Sharing System, the Walmart team hopes to corner the market on distributed ledger technology that weaves together vendors, customers, and couriers into one shopping network where payments are collected, divided, and paid out among the vendors and couriers using a permissioned blockchain. This network would also allow for peer-to-peer shopping and delivery services among participants and include a reputation/rating system.

Strangely, the patents are less technical and read more like a white paper/proof of concept. They dive into philosophical theories of human psychology and spend several paragraphs of fancy wording to prove obvious points and establish a basis for what is already considered common sense.

For example, the following excerpt tries to explain that people prefer things to be convenient, “The conventional forces working in each person’s mind are typically more-or-less constantly evaluating the value propositions that correspond to a path of least effort to thereby order their lives towards the things they value. A key reason that happens is because the actual ordering occurs in material space and people must exert real energy in pursuit of their desired ordering. People therefore naturally try to find the path with the least real energy expended that still moves them to the valued order.”

Monitoring Your Daily Routine

And it goes on, and on… and on like that. However, the method behind this madness seems to be to justify the proposed behavior monitoring that the technology in these patents hopes to achieve. By monitoring each individual’s behavior and choices over an extended time period (possibly an entire lifetime), this new Walmart shopping network hopes to map out its customers’ value systems to know what products and services they prefer and how they want it delivered to them.

“Depending upon what sensors a person encounters, information can be available regarding a person’s travels, lifestyle, calorie expenditure over time, diet, habits, interests and affinities, choices and assumed risks, and so forth. This process will accommodate either or both real-time or non-real time access to such information as well as either or both push and pull-based paradigms.”

The patent continues:

“By monitoring a person’s behavior over time a general sense of that person’s daily routine can be established (sometimes referred to herein as a routine experiential base state). As a very simple illustrative example, a routine experiential base state can include a typical daily event timeline for the person that represents typical locations that the person visits and/or typical activities in which the person engages.”

Wait a minute, what do we have here? A blockchain peer-to-peer courier service or an Orwellian-type blockchain for monitoring an individual’s every move so that his behavior can be predicted? The further you dive into these patents, the more creepy this new Walmart system becomes. The patents also reference the intended use of Artificial Intelligence and integration with the Internet of Things.

Patents Unclear on Many Details

What the patents are missing is the actual programming concepts and technical specifications on how this behavior-monitoring on the blockchain will be achieved. It seems that Walmart’s main concern is patenting the concept of monitoring customer behaviors in order to be a sole collector for this valuable profiling data which would create an in-depth snapshot of every person who uses this system and store it forever on a blockchain.

With the recent, rather laughable inquisition of Mark Zuckerberg, where the US government, in a classic “pot calling the kettle black” scenario, accused Facebook of violating the public’s privacy, it is quite disturbing to discover that much more sinister violations of privacy are brewing in the US patent offices and at Walmart headquarters as we speak… buyer beware!


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