We’ve written previously here at AEC Labs about Dubai’s efforts to promote blockchain technologies across its real estate sector. To that end, last week, the Smart Dubai Office announced winners of its second annual Blockchain Challenge. Three winners were selected from seventeen finalists, who will now have the chance to partner with government stakeholders in Dubai to try and develop their ideas and technologies further.

This year’s competition attracted 200 applications from startups in 44 countries and 85 cities. The purpose of the challenge was to find “the most promising blockchain solutions from the private sector that can assist in the implementation of the Dubai Blockchain Strategy,” which is to make Dubai the world’s first blockchain-powered city within the next two years, moving all government transactions to blockchain, creating a “blockchain ecosystem” within Dubai, and turning the city into a global leader in advancing blockchain technology generally.

The winners of the 2018 challenge were:

  • AID:Tech, from Ireland, which uses a blockchain platform to provide digital entitlements (aid, remittances, donations, etc.) and identities to underserved populations in the developing world.
  • Smart Crowd, from the UAE, a crowdfunding platform for real estate investment in the Middle East.
  • Codex, from the USA, a decentralized title registry for trading art and collectibles.

What’s interesting about Smart Crowd is that it’s not exactly crowdfunding as we’ve known it historically. Instead, it promises investors the capability to invest small amounts (say, 1 percent or less) in Dubai real estate, holding security in a legally registered special purpose entity. The company was incubated at Dubai’s Fintech Hive and recently won the Accenture’s GITEX FinTech competition, as well as first place at the Sharjah Entrepreneurs Festival.

Over 20 government and private sector Blockchain use cases are currently being tested for proof of concept across Dubai. These sectors include real estate rentals and sales, vehicle life cycle management, licensing for medical institutions and doctors, e-prescriptions, student enrollment, and food safety standards, among others.

Indeed, at SxS back in March, the Smart Dubai Government Establishment presented on the city’s plans to go paperless using blockchain and AI, among other advanced technologies. “Dubai has set itself on an ambitious course to fully eliminate paper transactions, digitizing any necessary paperwork required for all government services,” officials said at the time, predicting that the “Dubai Paperless Strategy” will save over 1B pieces of paper across the Dubai government and, accordingly, 40 hours per year per Dubai resident that would otherwise be spent on day-to-day, paper transactions.

Analysis from AEC Labs

As you know if you’ve been reading AEC Labs here in 2018, we are generally very high on blockchain technologies as having real potential to transform not only real estate, but applications across the AEC industry as well. So why are we noting the Dubai Blockchain Challenge if none of the winners directly relate to construction?

We think it’s only a matter of time. As we noted previously, the potential applications for blockchain in construction are myriad. As the price of oil slowly rebounds, construction markets in the Middle East and elsewhere will heat up as well. So Dubai could emerge as a leader in deploying construction blockchain technologies.

Construction has historically been plagued by paper-driven, manual processes. From lending to lien waivers, from payment applications to shop drawings, the industry still does too many things manually for the industry to capture the types of efficiency improvements that world’s built environment demands if we are to meet 21st century infrastructure challenges.

Blockchain could change that. And Dubai’s commitment – via the Dubai Paperless Strategy – could be a fertile breeding ground for applications that might change the way the industry does business. So stay tuned! And, in the meantime, we will be keeping our eyes out here at AEC Labs on similar challenges to Dubai’s for other interesting insights for AEC stakeholders.