These are some of the key categories that we will be addressing.
Why Use Blockchains In Construction?
Unlike cars or widgets that can be made in factories, every built asset that is constructed is unique.
Each time a built asset is constructed hundreds or thousands of businesses come together for a period of time and when the project is finished they all move on to other projects.
A construction project is therefore a complex one-off unstructured production line which involves hundreds or thousands of participants that usually know very little about each other.
Each participant in a construction project usually has completely different systems and so everyone relies heavily on email and paper documents.
Trust is also a huge problem and construction projects have a higher rate of litigation than most other industry sectors.
Blockchains solve a significant number of problems in the construction sectors, including the problem of trust, where there is very little basis upon which to build trust. The overall benefit is increased productivity.
But that is just the construction period.
When you introduce blockchains, you have a digital record of what was built, when, by whom and where those assets are located. This digital design data can be used as the basis upon which smart cities can be built.
But once you make digital design data available to power smart cities technology, you create a security problem. That's where blockchains play another role in securing the digital design data using encryption technology.
Blockchains in construction start the process of building a fabric of trust amongst the initial construction teams, but then go-on to make the digital design data available to power smart cities - blockchains become the fabric upon which urban life is built upon.
What is Blockchain?
An internet enabled, shared digital ledger in which data transactions are recorded using time stamping to prove when the data entered the ledger.
Some Blockchain ledgers also allow data transactions to be associated with programmable variables, which can be referred to as 'smart contracts'.
For example, if a task is completed by a certain date and time, then a payment is automatically made. If not, then a payment is not made and a new contract has to be agreed by the parties.
While blockchains can be used to prove when something happened, it can also be used to transmit value, for example, money.
Blockchains work because everyone who runs a particular blockchain gets a near instant update of the ledger that everyone else has, regardless of national borders.
What is BIM?
Built Information Modelling is a defined process to create graphical and non-graphical information about an asset that is going to be physically built - it is a virtual construction of what is going to be physically constructed in the real world.
Without a defined process, BIM, then you simply have digital design.
BIM coordinates information flow around anyone and everyone who needs to be involved and either consumes data created by others or is part of the data creation process.
What is COBie?
You can think of COBie as being the same as a car owners manual. For everything that is built, you get information like:
- Date of manufacture
- Contact details for manufacturer
- When services are due
- When parts needs to be replaced and who to contact
- The materials used in tiles, windows, floors, ceilings, etc
- The geo-location of every item
- Who to email for detailed product information
- The maintenance costs
The COBie concept is already being used as part of the BIM process.
It's primary use is to transmit text meta data about designed components that live inside 3D models. For example, a steel beam will have information about it's size, shape, material specification - but the data will also contain location data such as geo-spatial information.
Adoption is slow and there are many areas where improvements can be made, but what is currently available provides a good starting point for meta data that can be interchanged across different systems using a Blockchain.
Bockchains work best when they carry simple text meta data. COBie provides the basis upon which to create an international framework for built asset meta data (avoiding any graphical data which can increase blockchain bloat).
What is IoT?
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to any device that is connected to other devices through the internet.
A popular example of an IoT device is a refrigerator that can send you a text message or email to let you know you're out of milk, or the milk is past it's use by date.
Heating and air conditioning systems are amongst the more popular uses of IoT technology, primarily because the smart monitoring of energy use relative to heating or cooling needs can save money - but the process of saving money means less energy is consumed less C02 is produced.
IoT devices are, however, relatively easy to hack and there have been examples of wif-fi enabled kettles being hacked to gain access to a home or office network.
Self-driving cars have also been hacked with cars being forced to stop as a demonstration of the security risks that IoT devices face.
If the security issues with IoT devices can be solved with blockchain technology, then IoT devices can help monitor the energy performance of virtually all built assets, as well as being used to plan and coordinate maintenance more efficiently.
ARE YOU LOCAL OR GLOBAL?
We use a lot of UK references when we talk about BIM. That's because the UK government was the first to mandate that all public sector funded projects should use BIM as a process.
This was backed by financial investment into releasing various technical publications and standards. These publications are now being used by governments all around the world as the basis upon which they too roll out the use of BIM processes and 3D technology enabled software.
But to answer the question - we are 100% globally focused.
Blockchains know no borders.
In fact, all local construction projects, regardless of size, rely on materials and equipment that are manufactured and shipped from all over the world.
To a great extent, people resources also come from all over the world.
So by virtue of the fact that all goods, materials and people involved in construction related projects are global, you need to create a global set of requirements and data standards to get the best possible outcomes from blockchains.
WHY HYPERLEDGER OVER ETHEREUM?
Like different modes of transport, there are a variety of different blockchain options.
For now, we're focusing on Hyperledger during the two year R&D road map.
When you look at the construction related sectors, the majority of processes are integrations of Enterprise supply chains that come together on a project by project basis.
The various people involved all have different data access and data transaction needs. To accommodate the variety of data needs and data restrictions, you need to build permissions into various workflows.
This is as much about data security as it is about public access. For example, you don't wan't everyone in the supply chain to know the location of an important regional power distribution hub, but you do want them to have access to parts of the design requirements.
When you look at the end to end processes within a built assets life, you find there are many areas that make Ethereum's computational overheads too big.
Take for example, smart cities. To work with smart cities, you also need a high level of security and interactions with IoT devices. Currently, Ethereum has some scaling limitations that make data transactions with IoT devices challenging.
What we will be doing is focusing on creating connectors and API's to blockchains so that inter operable chains can bring additional services such as payment channels and smart contract channels.