Blockchain has taken center stage in many industries and sectors such as financial, supply chain, logistics, governmental and others, yet one of the most prominent industries, construction has not seen much action.
One of the biggest issues facing the construction industry is the high number of claims and disputes which occurs frequently between different contracting parties such as owners, designers and contractors. The UAE has one of the most vibrant construction sectors, yet experiences a high level of disputes and claims.
According to a paper published by MDPI, entitled, “Construction Disputes in the UAE: Causes and Resolution Methods”, It was found that the top five sources of disputes in the UAE were with regards to permits and approvals from municipality and other governmental authorities, material changes and approvals during the construction phase, slowness of owner in decision making and the short time available during design phase.
The paper adds that these construction disputes impact project objectives and strain relationships between contracting parties and impedes the success of the project completion.
Michael Lawrence, Founder and CEO of Bloqwork Technology FZE with long standing experience in the construction industry decided to try and solve the problem of disputes and claims as well as better streamline the construction process using Blockchain. As he stated, “ When I was at a seminar and heard about blockchain and smart contracts it peaked my interest and so I carried out a course in Oxford to learn more, subsequently I came up with a solution for utilizing blockchain in the construction sector.”
He adds, “One must consider two things about the construction industry first it is a relatively conservative sector, and secondly each project is different than the last. However just as digitization is permeating across others sectors it has started to do so in construction.”
Lawrence explains, “Conflicts and disputes are resource consuming, expensive, and disruptive and result in additional costs, and delays. As such I came up with Bloqwork to utilize Blockchain for documentation of the construction project transparently, securely across all parties involved. The next phase will be automating of payments and approval process, introduction of Internet of things, utilizing sensors to ensure on the ground implementation in real time.”
The Bloqwork, blockchain as a service platform, will compete with existing Cloud based Project Management Information Systems, utilized in the construction industry today, making documentation or hashes information available to all parties and ensuring trust and transparency, ownership as well as democratization of vetted information. As for the future, Lawrence says, “Once you start there is so much that can be added to a blockchain document management platform. With Smart contracts you can ensure payment is made when the job is done correctly. Contractors, subcontractors, laborers can be paid automatically with no delays, thus decreasing disputes as well.”
Bloqwork has been built using Hyperledger Fabric as a blockchain as a service platform. As Lawrence states, “It is usually expensive for an owner or main contractor to place all parties on a Project Information System, but this can be resolved with a blockchain as a service platform Bloqwork, where all parties share in the cost based on the number of parties involved or the number of documents uploaded. This way we not only ensure that all parties are privy to their data and information but also we resolve documents being lost or falling through the cracks.”
Bloqwork chose Hyperledger Fabric because it is a permissioned based blockchain which is more accepted by the construction sector than a public one.
Integration with IOT AI and more
Lawrence believes that once the construction industry starts to utilize Blockchain for document management, it will then become easier to add smart contract capabilities and even integrate IOT sensors and Artificial Intelligence solutions. As he explains, “For example if we have sensors across the construction site, and even in RFID tags for employees we can automatically track their work, linking it to salaries and payments. In addition on a construction site there is so much data to be inspected, and provenance of material, components and such could also be tracked. Even Environmental sustainability requirements such as looking into construction waste and CO2 footprint could also be tracked.”
Search for pre seed Investment
Bloqwork is at the stage where it is looking for pre-seed investment as well as partners to develop the MVP (Minimal Viable Product). As Lawrence states, “We are negotiating with cloud service providers as well as a Project Information management system provider to integrate our blockchain as a service platform with. We are also looking for seed investment of no more than 250,000 USD.”
Lawrence has already discussed how Bloqwork could assist Dubai Municipality in their inspection process, where inspections could be carried out remotely using time stamped geo tagged photos that authenticated by third party inspectors. This would speed up the inspection process and lessen the number of visits to a site.
Bloqwork has also been in talked with Abu Dhabi governmental authorities as well as technology partners to trial a project.
Bloqwork will be exhibiting and participating at the Future Blockchain Summit during Gitex 2020 from 6th to 9th December 2020.