Taking construction into the digital age

8th August 2018

University links with Hypervine to explore potential of blockchain

A new collaboration aims to develop blockchain solutions to the data recording problems which can jeopardise complex construction projects.

Edinburgh Napier University is teaming up with newly-formed Hypervine Ltd following a series of industry scandals which have highlighted the need for strong audit trails for undertaken work.

A blockchain is a growing list of records or blocks, secured using cryptography and resistant to modification; technology which can reduce the risk of problems like documents being lost or actions not followed up.

The new Blockpass Identity Lab at the university’s Merchiston campus uses cutting-edge blockchain research to drive innovation.

Technology company Hypervine, based in Glasgow, focuses on digitising construction to improve the reporting and recording of data, enabling companies to adapt to fast-changing economic, environmental and governmental policies.

The university’s collaboration with the company will investigate ways in which blockchain can incorporate security into complicated construction processes, create trust, build compliance and boost productivity.

Professor Bill Buchanan, Director of the Blockpass Identity Lab, said:

“The nature of the construction industry is that there are many stakeholders involved, and making sure that each part of the process is working as it should can be difficult.

“A blockchain solution will aim to integrate digital signing into the key parts of the process.”

Liam Bell, the lead blockchain researcher in the lab, said: 

“The application of blockchain into the construction industry – where strong levels of trust in the process are required – is a natural one.”

The collaboration comes after the sector was hit by negative headlines locally and nationally following events like the Edinburgh PFI schools crisis and the Grenfell Tower tragedy in London.

The annual spend due to construction errors is estimated to be around seven times the total annual profit of the UK industry.

Paul Duddy, CEO and founder of Hypervine, said:

“Digitising infrastructure, construction and facility maintenance industries through blockchain technologies will yield significant improvements across the sector that will have wide ranging positive economic and social economic impacts for both private and public sectors.”

Hypervine and the university’s School of Computing were brought together by Interface – which works with businesses to translate their ideas into dynamic briefs for academics – and the collaboration is supported by the Scottish Funding Council’s Innovation Voucher scheme, which Interface administers.

Ruth Oliver, Business Engagement Executive at Interface, said:

“Edinburgh Napier’s School of Computing was a natural choice for Hypervine Ltd; Professor Bill Buchanan is one of the world’s leading lights in blockchain technology and, together with researcher Liam Bell, offers a wealth of experience in supporting businesses and organisations in the practical application of this technology.

“Hypervine is helping construction companies build faster, safer and more cost efficiently through digitising the industry. Exploring how to incorporate secure methods of recording data in complicated supply chains and transactions is a key element of this.”

She added:

“Partnerships with academia can propel companies onto the next stage of their development, enabling them to enter new markets, win additional business and grow their business.”

The collaboration runs until the end of November.