Blockchain – more than just Bitcoin in facilities management
When we hear the term blockchain, our first thoughts are usually centered around cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin that use this technology, but it also has a wide range of applications that are streamlining and simplifying facility management.
A blockchain is a digital ledger where all transactions made using these currencies are stored chronologically, publicly and permanently which means there is no margin for error and full accountability along the entire path.
But this technology is not isolated to just digital finances, as blockchain recording can be used to generate accountable and trackable ledgers for contract management, work order processing and tracking, payment processing, and facility management with full transparency.
Here is how blockchain is already revolutionising the facilities management industry and how we can use the technology to transform the way we record data. This is especially important as facility managers experience a deluge of data in the modern world, which can lead to challenges that include; retrieving information quickly, managing and recording changes, coordinating vendors, handling faults and meeting compliance guidelines.
Contracts are one of the most important aspects of any industry yet the technology behind them has remained stagnant for decades.
Disputed contracts can deliver a hammer blow to productivity with time-consuming and expensive mediation or court time used to find a resolution.
But what if there was such a thing as an unbreakable contract? That is the promise the blockchain technology brings.
The migration of data into the cloud is already changing the way we process contracts, with paper contracts being replaced with dynamic, smart agreements.
Blockchain takes the process of contracting to a whole new level. Not only are these contracts watertight, as every process is recorded in real time, and may include self-executing workflows.
Contracts are meant to assist governance between parties and with blockchain this goal can become a reality. That means once all parties have agreed, the digital contract will track every detail, ensuring every process has been met and then signed off accordingly – saving time, money and preventing disputes.
Work order processing and tracking
Blockchain testing programs have already advanced from testing to real-life applications in supply chain management.
Maersk and IBM announced a joint venture to deploy a blockchain-based electronic shipping system in January, 2018 that has digitised supply chains and track international cargo in real time.
It replaced a EDI and paper-based system that could leave containers sitting in yards for weeks on end.
As well as speeding up the process through automation, former president of Maersk Line in North America and CEO of the new company Michael White said it also improved security.
“With blockchain, the improvement in security is significant with the double encryption,” White said.
“And one of the advantages of blockchain is the immutable record and trust people can have in it. If anything changes in a document … it’s immediately apparent to all.”
This is especially important as Australia leads the world in cloud adoption which makes data security vital when it is being stored in off-premises servers.
Since the advent and popularisation of Bitcoin, traditional payment platforms have been exploring ways to use blockchain technology.
Mastercard has launched its own blockchain network for the business-to-business (B2B) space and cross-border payments, while companies like Ripple are also providing efficient cash transfers through the application of blockchain technology.
These are just two examples of payment platforms using blockchain technology with more being rolled out all the time to remove the third party, provide near-instant payments and deliver the security of everything being stored in the blockchain.
What is most likely to excite facility managers, though, is a blockchain revolution coming in the energy industry. With high volumes of money spent on heating, cooling and energy bills this revolution will change the way we pay for all of these services.
As more homes and businesses take up solar, Peer-to-peer (P2P) trading is becoming more common in Australia with people buying and selling electricity without the need for a retailer.
Blockchain will provide markets for the average person (and facility managers) to set their buy and selling rates and potentially save enormous amounts of money.
Australia’s facilities and workplaces can extract greater transparency from blockchain technology, but a common question is “how can privacy and transparency co-exist?”.
With blockchain offering a public record of all transactions, it is a valid question as this record provides complete, indisputable trails of transactions.
The privacy component comes in through powerful cryptography used to link public addresses to individual users, which means anyone looking at the record won’t know who individual users are.
If an authorised party has access to the user’s public address, though, they can clearly see their influence on the blockchain. So therefore the transactions are completely transparent although there is security measures in place to prevent unauthorised people from identifying individuals on the record.
Want to learn more about blockchain in facilities management? Discover the latest trends and FM insights at Total Facilities, 20-22 March 2019, ICC Sydney. Register for your free entry here.