Changing the world, one block at a time

With all the hype – and subsequent bad press – Bitcoin has been receiving the past few months, it’s easy to overlook the most fundamental and game changing aspect; the blockchain technology.

Cryptocurrency Is Not The Only Game In Town
As we all have probably heard by now (and if not, start here), Bitcoin is a decentralised alternative to fiat currency. It is currently receiving a lot of attention due to its dizzying returns as an investment product. The trouble with this is that everyday investors are going into cryptocurrency with the same principle as any investment, which is to say, they see money instead of the technology. This blockchain technology enables private and centralised (read: non-governmental or corporate) record keeping on asset transfers, and has the potential for a new concept known as “smart contracts”.

The blockchain principle that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency is based upon, however, is one of the biggest advances of technology of our time. It has applications in a myriad of industries, currency is only one of the more prominent examples. Not too many have noticed, beyond that, the potential for any industry where reliable, secure and transparent transaction history is needed to be completely transformed. Blockchain technology is a way of keeping a ledger or transaction history on asset transfers, not just currency but of anything of value, such as stocks, other investments and particularly real estate.

Software As A Service
One of the pioneering companies using this technology outside the cryptocurrency niche is Ubitquity. Their blockchain-powered (based on Bitcoin’s own pioneering blockchain technology) service has taken advantage of the potential of the platform. Ubitquity is implementing a secure, transparent and decentralised cloud recording and tracking system for real estate asset transactions. This will be extremely helpful to entities such as municipalities, real estate agencies, title companies, and others with interests dealing in real estate, including individuals.

The land title systems in use are currently decentralised and fragmented. Particularly in developing nations, the access of records is a painstaking and difficult task, even for real estate professionals, let alone individuals with limited resources. Blockchain-powered record keeping can be used to reduce red tape, make accessing records easier, data sharing between agencies simplified, reduce costs and streamline the process of real estate asset recordation every step of the way.

Paving The Way For Freedom
This streamlining of real estate asset recordation Ubitquity facilitates is idealistic yet achievable, enabling individuals to work towards freedom from corruption, and allowing individuals more control of their real assets. When a property is purchased while this technology is in place, the property receives a unique identifier number or token. Currently, this is being used alongside the traditional paper title deed, though the potential for paper deeds to be phased out entirely is certainly on the cards as the technology is more widely adopted.

Simply put, the work done by real estate agents and property owners is made much simpler, and even accessible to individuals with no bureaucratic experience, rather than being reliant wholly on a team of professionals for their real estate dealings. Future title search and recordation essentially becomes open source, allowing access to all, a reliable, transparent history of the property records, and be secure in that knowledge; a very important step forward for developing nations to aid growth via private ownership, and by extension, individual liberty.

Digital Revolution 2.0
Another benefit of potential smart contracts is that funds can be held in escrow – that is, funds only to be released when the transaction has been independently verified – as each user has a unique identifier, just as the properties do. This speeds up and increases security in asset transfer, as the financial record is held for both parties, securely and transparently. All of these benefits will have a huge impact on real estate agents, property lawyers and escrow companies, some of whom are feeling the squeeze on their industries already..

Just as the industrial revolution eventually created more jobs than it made obsolete, humans will adapt and all of that human capital will be free to take on more meaningful and fulfilling roles. We have seen this before, both industrial revolutions and the digital revolution worried millions about job security. We must remember that when one job is replaced, another is created. Embracing this change and looking towards a future where brilliant people are no longer mired down by manually searching property history in a fragmented system is key. They will be free to pursue more meaningful contributions to society, albeit in new and possibly more innovative ways.

Bringing Power To The People
The implications of this, especially in countries with endemic corruption or antiquated land title systems, are of great importance. In some countries, for example, land titles are almost non-existent, as land has been passed down from generation to generation. In others, the system is so fragmented one could be chasing up the official records on a property for much longer than desirable due to files being lost, documented and filed by hand or simply held hostage by corrupt officials.

When a corrupt authority comes along to seize the asset – their home, business or land – the chance for legal recourse is very slim or tediously drawn out. With this technology, property owners would have proof of ownership, not held in, for example, one local title office or by the corrupt officials leaving it prone to tampering or loss but in a blockchain-powered system. Their record of ownership would be held by a network, with no affiliation to corrupt authorities, easily accessed and therefore, making legal recourse simplified and available to individuals with limited resources.

Even in cases where corruption is not such a large problem, having proof of ownership history of your real estate asset without relying on a fragmented system is highly beneficial. Blockchain-powered technology helps facilitate liquidity on assets (such as real estate), due to the transparency and the open platform, enabling ease of access and integration to all real estate related interests in a currently disjointed system. This potentially means that clerical errors and other errors won’t leave one with no proof of ownership, due to the decentralised yet coherent network. The smart contract platform will ensure one is not left without their real estate asset, due to fault in the archaic, fragmented systems, without a clear path to resolution.

Blockchain: Changing The World, For The Better
The hype of cryptocurrency has turned many into sceptics, comparing Bitcoin mania to the dot-com bubble. While there may be some truth in that, the real value of cryptocurrency is in the blockchain technology itself. While it may be foolish to run out and invest in any company with a name related to blockchain, the fact remains, the technology is here to stay, and here to change the world for the better.

Codie Neville