Category Archives: Blockchain

Blockchain puts surveyors, town planners and estate agents under threat

Some industry jobs currently done by human beings are to be taken by machine

Surveyors, town planners and estate agents … do they have anything in common? They are middlemen. For example, general practice or estate surveyors specialize in land matters. They verify titles and ensure all other details in the property deeds are accurate and up to date. They also make sure the required legal administrative procedures and formalities are fully and properly complied with. Town planners advise clients on town planning matters that are too complicated for ordinary people to understand and follow in an cost effective way. As for estate agents, they look for buying / selling opportunities on behalf of home purchasers / landowners.

Essentially, these professionals match the demand and supply or act for others to carry out duties with higher degree of complexity.

Yet, in the awake of Blockchain, their current roles are being challenged. 

How does Blockchain operate?

Blockchain, the technology that underlies cryptocurrencies, is a database of computers that enable automated recording of transaction, as well as verification of identities and the associated information. All the administration about the transactions is decentralized and open to the public. The whole process is without central authority, but to dispense with the need for each users to trust one another.  It is impossible to commit fraud as the underlying technology is secured with strong cryptography.

Watch the following BBC’s explanation for more about Blockchain:

 

Blockchain’s immutability and distributed nature look like an ideal intermediate that bridges buyers and sellers, who can use the same database to track transactions or any changes in their records instantly and accurately.

Here are a few examples of Blockchain in built environment.

Example 1 (since 2016) – Blockchain of lease agreements

The City of Rotterdam, the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC), a US startup hub network, and Deloitte Netherlands, have worked together and developed real estate Blockchain that monitors lease agreements. Lease information such as land ownership, tenancy terms, financial obligations attached to lands and physical conditions of the subject premises is centrally recorded. As a result, identities and details of lease documents can be verified instantly at low cost whenever there is transaction or when a property is to be revalued or refinanced.

This enables contracts to be concluded faster and easier. Eventually management of real estate will be more efficient and transparent.  “[I]t enables decision makers to use data analysis for making future investment decisions on selling, buying and constructing real estate” said Jan Willem SANTING, manager of Deloitte Real Estate.

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Picture: Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) in Rotterdam, Netherlands

 

Example 2 (2018) – Blockchain in construction 

The São Paulo state government has been working with an engineering and construction company Construtivo for a Blockchain project. Headed by Marcus GRANDEIRO, the company integrated Blockchain technology into its SaaS (Software as a Service) platform called Collaborative. The platform tracks changes in its contractural documents using blockchain. The technology, powered by the cloud management system, also records all pieces of information of the construction process, such as diaries, surveyors, pictures showing the progress.

As a result, especially for projects of large size or complication, e.g. subway or hydroelectric plant, revisiting the erratic parts of the process become time- and cost-effective.

The benefits of adopting blockchain are obvious. In addition to reducing time and cost, it increases productivity and reliability, and brings more transparency. Besides, it restores the industry’s credibility from investors to root out corruption and money laundering scandals. “With Blockchain, a tiny change in the project, such as change of date, would have to break the encryption of all blocks in the chain on all computers in the network. This helps to ensure the data reliability and security and avoid fraud, guaranteeing more credibility” explained Mr GRANDEIRO.

 

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Picture: The Collaborative developed by Construtivo.

 

Example 3 (2018) – Blockchain-based green energy trading platform 

WePower, a company based in Lithuanian, aims to fuel renewable energy production by enabling developers to raise capital by selling their energy production upfront in the form of tradeable Smart Energy Contracts, or energy tokens. The company uses Blockchain to bridge end users and investors of energies, enabling them to trade energy at below market rates. Its Ethereum Smart Energy contract tokens standardizes, simplifies and globally opens currently existing energy investment ecosystem.

Nikolaj MARTYNIUK, the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder, introduces the company:

 

 

In July 2018, the company launched its first its Alpha product, which allows traders, investors and energy consumers to participate in auctions of electricity produced from renewable energy sources. Many users were found to be individuals looking to cut electricity bills. They would buy a smart contract now, running on Ethereum’s blockchain, that will provide them with power later.

Blockchain is still immature

In highlighting the benefits of Blockchain, one must be aware of What blockchains may be able to do for your business, and what they can’t? The built environment professionals however should alert to, and be prepared for, the rising uses of technologies, no matter it is blockchain, robots or artificial intelligence, that are threatening to take over their professional jobs in one way or another.

 

Blockchain and the built environment: how far are they connected?

How Blockchain helps with efficient use of electricity

Answer: could be closely.

Efficient use of energies especially electricity is a major concern for building’s life cycle costing, in particular in this era when everyone is talking about saving the earth’s resources for a sustainable growth of economy and for our next generations.

From the economists’ point of view, the most efficient way to achieve optimum use of energies is through trading in free markets. The question is: how can this happen?

What is Blockchain?

Blockchain is commonly linked to cryptocurrencies. It is a network of individual computers or digital ledgers, that enable each transaction using cryptocurrencies, e.g. Bitcoins, to be checked. Inside the network, the computers that record transactions are operated separately and independently, hence ensuring accuracy and no forgery in transactions or anomaly occurred.

Blockchain provides the medium through which individual energy users can interact with one another and trade to pursue their respective best interests. The Blockchain network creates a free market for the participants to exercise the greatest freedom to determine the right prices for goods and services, and thus proceed with buy-and-sell. Such medium is conventionally involved a lot of middlemen who track each transaction. These middlemen now become the computers who are considered more efficient and reliable than human beings.

TEPCO to decentralize electricity distribution

Electricity is traditionally dispatched to consumers through a central grid system. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) however has been making itself to be the pioneer of applying the Blockchain technologies to decentralize the distribution of electricity. By investing in Electron, a UK energy technology company that harnesses the Blockchain technologies to establish more efficient, flexible, and reliable systems for the energy sector, TEPCO is exploring the potential to change the existing centralised structures to decentralised systems in energy transactions by using Blockchain.

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Picture (above): Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO).

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Picture (above): Electron, a UK energy technology company that harnesses the Blockchain technologies to establish more efficient, flexible, and reliable systems for the energy sector.

Paul ELLIS, CEO of Electron, foresaw that the vast physical grids that form nowadays utilities system would eventually be replaced by a more robust shared infrastructure. The new infrastructure can identify and record the properties of these assets, enabling peer-to-peer trading of electricity and carbon credits, for example, similar to trading cryptocurrencies.

This prediction is partly supported by the drastic increase of household energies in the wake of the technology boom in the last few decades.

Some hesitations ….

Looking forward, the way to go may not be as promising as the advocates projected. First the Blockchain is still an immature technology, at least for the time being. Second the virtual network of Blockchain is not intended to completely get rid of the physical presence of grids and poles of electricity distribution. Third, intriguingly, Blockchain itself is energy-consuming, contrary to the ultimate aim of using Blockchain to promote energy-saving.