Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT) or more commonly referred to as Blockchains, are being hailed as the next big industrial revolution. This technology has the potential to have a bigger impact on business and society than the internet has had, even when taking into account the huge technological advances we have seen over the last 20 years.
To evaluate the potential benefits of Blockchains to the built environment and infrastructure sector, an interactive workshop was created to run during Digital Construction Week 2017.
This workshop was designed to challenge how this new technology could support or accelerate the industry changes sought by the introduction of Building Information Modeling (BIM) and other transformative digital technologies aimed at increasing productivity within the construction sector.
The challenge areas for the Blockchain technology workshop covered:
Design teams – Create a network effect for accelerating BIM use; BIM Level 2 design development version control; securing design data and access to common data environments; and integration with COBie to create data standards for Blockchains.
Manufacturing – linking design data to manufacturing processes and to payments through automated smart contracts; tracking and authenticating the origins of all materials; life-time traceability of all materials and equipment; shipping and logistics; and B2B payments for goods and services based on smart contracts linked to programmes.
Construction – Reducing carbon footprint through just-in-time logistic management of materials and plant; improving openness and speed of supply chain payments; real-time audit trail of ownership for off-site materials; real-time validation of safety training and ability for specific people to work on sites; automated timecard processing; automated smart collateral warranties; and witnessed commissioning and handover processes moved to Blockchains.
Client – Cyber security; security of IoT devices; history of design development; controlled shared data feedback from IoT devices; defined BIM produced data access to third-parties such as emergency services; automated smart contracts, including warranties, collateral warranties, insurance contracts, proof of ownership; better integration with lifecycle management and maintenance tools; better oversite of payments throughout supply chains.
The industry experts and software experts from IBM, SAP, Oracle Gold partner; in addition to professional standards bodies such as The Building Services Engineering Association and The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, worked together to identify and then present processes that they would want Blockchains to disrupt.
The general view of the 40 experts from the construction and infrastructure sector and from several of world’s largest software vendors was that Blockchains do have the potential to accelerate the use of BIM, as well as streamline the unstructured and disparate supply chains within the construction sector.
Three areas in particular were highlighted as starting points for Blockchains within the sector:
- Circular Economy. Traceability of materials from original digital design, through to manufacturing, installation and eventual recycling.
- Smart Contracts. Breaking down big complex contracts into smaller automated rule based contracts that could attach payments, insurances and multi-party sign-off to actual provable supply chain events in real time.
- Project Accounts. Making payments and cashflows more open to speed up payments to suppliers, sub-contractors and third parties.
Overall, the consensus from the workshop was that Blockchains do have the potential to bring to fruition that holy grail business transformation that the sector has been desperately seeking for the past 50 years.
In order to demonstrate the impact on existing processes and demonstrate the benefits that Blockchains can bring several pilots were deemed necessary.
Thanks to the financial technology sector, the Blockchain technology already exists to start these construction sector focused pilots.
As an action oriented workshop, the first pilot looking at creating a circular economy and logistics handling of steel is already underway.
The use of smart contracts within construction was by far the biggest topic discussed and work will shortly begin to bring together industry experts with contract experience and Blockchain experts to identify the full extent of the smart contract processes that could be adopted.
This is the first follow-up post following the workshop. As we gather and analyse the data from the workshop, we will provide more updates.
The introductory slides can be found here.
Notes to Editors:
This event was sponsored by the Process Innovation Forum (PIF), under their Co-Creation Programme.
The Blockchain workshop content and approach was arranged by the Helium Blockchain Alliance, with PIF support using their established Co-Creation Programme format.
The PIF Co-Creation Programme seeks to build a scalable framework where open innovation can take place and shared freely ultimately adding value to the built environment.