Articles, Construction

Blockchain Shmockchain – How UK construction has beaten the future to it.

Blockchain revolutionises any industry which relies on contracts to specify work – so that’s your Surveyors, Project Managers and Snagging teams – right?

If you are not up to speed with blockchain here’s how Blockchain works and why everyone is so breathlessly excited for you and the transformation of the UK Construction Industry.

And what you should do instead of buying the hype.

Swerving the nerdspeak — Blockchain is a network of computers having an identical copy of the database and changing its records by a common agreement, based on pure mathematics.

It means, that there is no need for any central server or agent to trust to. The blockchain is the technological base for all those names like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Hyperledger. There – I went and said it. Bitcoin. Is your heart beating any faster right now? Well stop it. I actually want you to focus on Ethereum.

Ethereum introduced so-called smart contracts and a way to perform actions by the rules defined in the contract. Simply speaking Ethereum is an engine for applications which can be run without a need of trusted third party (some central server).

I personally like the analogy of the Ethereum as a global computer to which anyone has access to. Sounds useful and I am sure it will be. Let’s have a quick look at these smart contracts then and see how breathless you get.

A smart contract — is a piece of code which is stored in the blockchain network (on each participant database). It defines the conditions to which all parties using contract agrees. So if required conditions are met certain actions are executed.

As the smart contract is stored on every computer in the network, they all must execute it and get to the same result. This way users can be sure, that outcome is correct.

Sounds complicated? It’s not.

Let’s simplify everything using an example.

Let’s say you want to ship a pallet of goods to your friend Bob.

You trust Bob, but you don’t trust trucker Tom, who will carry your pallet. On the other hand, Tom does not trust you as well, maybe you won’t pay him?

Therefore, you have to sign an agreement with Tom that you will pay for the shipment in a few days after delivery. Usually a third party is involved in this process, legal papers, contracts are scanned, printed, signed and all that rigmarole.

Can we simplify the process? Yes! We can do that with the help of smart contracts. We could define those rules in code.

You make a payment for shipment to smart contract on a day of loading. It holds payment till shipment delivery is confirmed by Bob. Then the smart contract releases the payment and money is transferred to Tom automatically.

Let’s move a little bit forward. What if we would have a GPS tracker attached to the pallet? Then we simply could eliminate Bob from this process and just release the payment automatically, when the location rule is met.

Using it in construction – to say, make sure the snagging was actually done, before payment was released, well that could be a candidate for futuristic automation.

However don’t we have this sorted already? Our software partners Elecosoft have a nifty app which pretty much does the same thing – and for a lot less money and hassle than a Blockchain Developer! (Elecosoft are not the only solution – to make sure we are scrupulously fair, other construction app providers are also available 😉 )

Elecosoft’s Site Progress Mobile application used alongside the Asta Powerproject software to link those working on the ground with those planning back at the office is a breeze. I should know – we’ve used it on our rugged smartphones and tablets (you don’t want to take a fragile iPad or Samsung on site – those things break! Use a Conker device instead – much more reliable) What I like is how simple they’ve kept this application – telling the site staff what they are supposed to be working on and allowing them to report back how it’s going. The tick-box design means this app doesn’t get in the way of delivering the work, but does give a quick method of recording actual progress on the site – even if they‘ve got no internet signal at the time. Plus it links to the device camera to allow photos to be recorded to help prove the point!

I know it’s already being used by firms such as Wates and Bovis Homes who are making Site Progress Mobile use standard across their sites. Here at Conker we think Elecosoft have solved the problem of tracking project progress in real-time and improved the chances of spotting potential delays before they snowball.”

“Whilst there are applications similar to this on the market, none provide the direct link between the project plan and the staff on site delivering the job.”

So – there’s your choice. Smart Contracts from the future, or common sense from, well, now. Elecosoft are at www.elecosoft.com and you can find us at www.weareconker.com Rugged Phones and Smart Apps equal clever you.

 

Find out how much you can benefit at www.weareconker.com now.

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