How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Could Turn the Construction Industry on its Head

8 April 2019 Kingspan Group
What is “Blockchain”? Many of us associate it with stories of anonymous genius coders and cryptocurrency fortunes won and lost. However, when the noise is tuned out, we are left with something more akin to an accounting method - and far more useful in the construction process, to boot.

The Blockchain (a “distributed ledger”) is simply a way for two or more parties to share constantly matching data in total confidence. Brian Glancy, head of BIM strategy at Kingspan says Blockchain needs to be on a construction industry professional’s radar because it promises to make better use of the “staggering” amounts of data “consumed and transferred on a construction project.”
A lot of the industry’s inefficiencies lies in moving [data] securely, ensuring there are no data drops between stakeholders and allowing trust between all parties. 
Consider the following benefits of the Blockchain:
 
  • Distributed ledger (record) data is owned by no one party; a copy of the exact same data exists on a number of nodes. Everyone with access privileges will see a verified copy.
  • Once data (record of a transaction) is entered into this ledger it creates a tamper-proof “block” in the “chain.” This chain grows longer and longer creating an immutable, time-stamped list of transactions.
  • This means no third-party verification of the data is needed: no accountant, central bank, industry body, buyer or seller. This boosts trust and diminishes fraud.
  • There is no per-transaction cost, meaning many transactions can be carried out as part of the business of doing business.
With every member of the supply chain having its own, separate copy of the record of the construction process, every interaction and transaction, “the complexity of project control and the risk associated with it could be reduced significantly, and by as much as the cost of administration,” the authors Institute of Civil Engineers’ exhaustive December 2018, report, Blockchain Technology in Construction, write.

An immediately promising area are smart contracts in which automatic payments could be triggered when all parties sign off on a section of a construction project. These don’t have to be made at the traditional payment stages but could be incrementally released.

Troy Norcross, founder of Blockchain Rookies, a consultancy that helps companies understand the technology and develop strategies around it thinks Blockchain can provide real value in traceability and transparency in the supply chain by ensuring the right product or quantity of product is delivered, resulting in more efficient project timelines and ultimately less delays.

There are many further potential applications of the Blockchain. IBM associate partner, Timothy Rook, thinks that the power of Blockchain lies within BIM. 
Internet of things (IoT devices) autonomously transact with digital and other physical systems meaning Blockchain provides an immutable record that creates trust between organisations. For BIM, this means digital twins can update on a continuous real time basis, which is a foundational block for the predictive and AI solutions of the future. 

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