Retail giant Walmart could be working on issuing a fiat-backed digital currency, similar to Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency, according to a new patent filing.
The filing, published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on Thursday, outlines a method for “generating one digital currency unit by tying the one digital currency unit to a regular currency,” meaning a fiat-pegged stablecoin.
The blockchain-based digital currency “may be pegged to the US dollar,” the filing adds, and maybe available for use “only at selected retailors or partners.”
It could also provide households with low income that find banking costly with a choice to “handle wealth at an institution that can supply the majority of their day-to-day financial and product needs,” according to the filing.
Facebook’s planned cryptocurrency, Libra, has similar stated ambitions. It intends to serve the unbanked and facilitate low-fee money transfers globally. Libra is expected to go live sometime next year, but it has already faced scrutiny from central banks and politicians around the world. Facebook has itself recently said in a risk disclosure filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission that Libra may never launch due to “significant” regulatory scrutiny.
Walmart’s patent filing further indicates that its digital currency looks to provide a free or inexpensive place to store funds. “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.”
It goes on to add: “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 embodiment, be tied to other digital currencies.”
Elsewhere, the filing also mentions that digital currency may remove credit and debit cards without requiring cash, as well as could be used for food payments.
Walmart is one of the most active players in the blockchain space, having filed at least 54 blockchain-related patents to date. Most recently, Walmart China launched a blockchain platform to trace food products ranging from fresh meat to rice to mushrooms. The retail giant also took part in a second pharmaceutical blockchain trial recently to track supply chains alongside IBM, KPMG, and Merck.
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