Decentralized Package Shipment System

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How To Build a Decentralized Postal System

Rob Kohr – Dec 2011

The Problem

A package needs to be able to travel from point A to point B.

Elements in the System

There are 3 types of elements that make up this system

The Information Network

This would be based off of a fork of the bitcoin protocol, and be similar to namecoin. It would have its own unit of accounting called meters. You can spend these meters to get a package to a destination. These meters would be mined using the normal methods.

Using these meters, you can create a package, and set the destination for the package, and set the total handling fee to get the package to the destination. This handling fee can have more meters added to it by the shipper as time goes on to force the package along its way.


Hubs are individuals that set up drop locations for packages. These drop locations will have changeable combination locks on them. Perodically a hub will change the combination lock code and update them in the datastore. He will receive meters from the package for the time that he holds a package. Spokes that pick up packages will be able to get the combination from the network.


Spokes are couriers. Using a mobile phone application they will be able to see what hubs have packages, what the next hubs in the route are, and how much they can earn by taking these packages to the next hub.

Spokes are reward on how much closer they can bring the package to the destination and the speed at which this is accomplished.

Reward Payouts

The rewards may be paid out upon delivery, and the hubs and spokes that contributed to the delivery are paid in proportion to their help in getting the package quickly to their destination. The expectation is that a spoke will chose the best path for success, rather than just fulfilling distance and time metrics.

Package Labeling

The package would have an easily typed identifier on it with a matching QR code.

Practical Considerations

There are plenty of technical data questions that have been glossed over. The more important question is whether this whole system would be effective and competitive against the current systems.

Mailing a package with UPS, FedEx or your government postal system can be done cheaply since they are working on a large-scale operation where the cost per package is incredibly low.

To compete with this, the system would need hubs and spokes working with a similar volume of packages. Initially this would not be the case, and the motivating factor would be anti-government and anti-corporation individuals handling small shipments.

This would look like someone picking up something on the way to work, and dropping it off at someone near work. Or a trucker or vacationer picking up something before a long trip, and dropping it off on the way.

This may also take hold in countries that don’t have an effective way to ship packages themselves.


Managing the rewards for the participants as well as minimizing the risk and the time in transit will be key goals in this system. This may fit well with a branch off of bitcoin, or it may simply be easier to implement as a centralized web server that doles out rewards and manages all routing.

See also