It might be something of an over-hyped industry buzzword, but blockchain is exciting academic and investor interest, with London-based Ehab an early beneficiary.
When I wrote recently about blockchain for construction contracts, I was also reading a little more widely about blockchain in preparation for a technology lecture I gave to students at Middlesex University. This included some discussion of ‘smart contracts’ versus ‘Ricardian contracts’, and underlined that blockchain has far wider potential than cryptocurrency systems.
Researchers at University College London are looking at how blockchain can be applied in the construction sector. UCL is also home to the Construction Blockchain Consortium (CBC), a joint industry/academic initiative looking to support knowledge transfer, drive research and development and support education and training on blockchain-related technologies. The CBC’s themes show considerable diversity in how blockchain might be applied – under culture and change, for example, it talks about collaborative behaviours:
“The construction industry has become notoriously litigious as projects have larger sums at stake, and as a consequence of being a buyers’ market where contractors and sub-contractors are forced to price their services more competitively. Blockchain has the potential to reverse the current trends by creating a ‘Panoptican effect’, where all parties’ behaviour is moderated as they known that there is the possibility that their conduct will be properly observed at a later date.”
… enter Ehab
Blockchain R&D is also being funded by investors. In London, for example, the world’s first dedicated blockchain accelerator, StateZero Labs, announced its first, seven-strong, cohort of potential disruptors in February 2019. One of the applicants (receiving £50,000 in the form of an equity-free grant, cost-free office space in Kings Cross, mentoring and one-to-one technical support) is Ehab.
According to StateZero Labs, Ehab: “aims to disrupt the construction sector by building a data and process management tool that ensures sustainable and efficient operation of projects; from inception, to completion and post-lifecycle.” The startup was recently profiled on StateZero Labs’ website, where its founders (Josh Graham, Filipe Moura and Matheus Salvia) explained why distributed ledger technology, DLT, is applicable to construction industry processes:
“DLT is used to enable a variety of organisations to more fluidly and transparently work with each other. It is the much greater flexibility in permissions, data access and transferability which makes DLT useful for what we are trying to do. It is also very relevant to construction in general as having exact traceability of when tasks happened or products delivered is crucial for optimising the completion of projects.“
Clearly, the construction industry is a vast sector, so – as the company’s name suggests (Ehab is short for Ehabitation) – its initial focus is on housing. It aims to “empower people to come together to collaboratively create affordable, sustainable and customisable housing projects, and share in the profits from these developments.”
Update (28 March 2019) – Also in housing, another blockchain pilot is set to be trialled in relation to affordable shared home ownership in either Berlin or Kiev this summer – reports BIMplus.