Local blockchain solution shortlisted for global award

Blockchain construction contract management solution Sherlock, developed by DoshEx, has been selected as one of three shortlisted candidates for the Blockchain Trailblazer category of the 2020 IBM Beacon Award.

An enterprise-ready smart contract management and administration solution, Sherlock combines Internet of Things (IoT), Distributed Document Management and Blockchain to improve the management of construction contracts.

The IBM Beacon Awards recognise IBM business partners around the world who create spark innovation using IBM products and technology.

Sherlock can be used with existing construction contracts for capital project builds, as well as custom fit-for-purpose smart contracts, DoshEx CEO Alex de Bruyn says.

Sherlock provides a smart contract management network, using blockchain and distributed technology to increase transparency and reduce the reliance on trust in a network and IoT to create a trusted device to gather accurate data on real-world events. This network runs on the IBM Blockchain Platform, underpinned by Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Fabric.

“The smart contract makes certain data transparent to everyone involved across the project, while protecting confidential commercial agreements between specific parties. Data is captured in the field and is reported in near real-time immutably, on Sherlock,” De Bruyn explains.

This ensures that everyone working on a project has a single view of the truth. There are no longer issues of version control on drawings, questions around sign-off or disputes regarding payment processes.

Robust in-field biometric devices are used to capture data such as milestones, compliance checks or sign-offs, while IoT devices are used to monitor specific events to self-execute contractual agreements. For example, once a specific contractual milestone is captured, a related payment instruction process can automatically be triggered.

The solution was developed with the construction sector in mind, but has potential applications in industries ranging from mining to pharmaceuticals and agriculture, says De Bruyn.

With his background in banking, he became convinced of the value blockchain technology could offer. He wanted to find an industry where the trust deficit was large enough for the technology to make an impact – a problem big enough for blockchain to solve.

De Bruyn partnered with Richard Creighton, a former MD of Honeywell Africa, and now commercial director at DoshEx. Together, they saw the potential for using blockchain technology to overhaul contract management in the construction sector, which has many trust issues.

“I have been involved with numerous large-capital builds and what always struck me was the amount of waste,” says Creighton.

“Let us say there were ten parties involved. That meant ten people keeping a set of the project’s profit and loss records, ten sets of the master programme (which defines the project schedule), ten registries for document control, and so on. It was obvious to me that if we could put a system in place that would allow everyone to collaborate and access a shared ledger that represented a holistic picture of the job, we would all save time and money and be far more efficient. This is what Sherlock is designed to do,” he says.

De Bruyn and Creighton started by examining trust issues endemic to the construction sector, ranging from a lack of trust between participants in the value chain (such as between developers, contractors and subcontractors) to a lack of transparency of a project’s true health. Compliance – with designs and codes or standards, and with health and safety requirements – is an ongoing problem.

Other challenges include scope creep and a lack of accountability that results in disputes or even mismanagement.

Sherlock provides transparency and auditability of project health in real time, improved quality control and compliance and removal of the trust deficit between parties to achieve adherence to contract terms. Additionally, it provides accountability for sign-offs, a complete set of records from the start of the project to completion and improves efficiency.

“Being recognised by IBM as one of the top three blockchain trailblazers globally really validates the credibility of Sherlock. It demonstrates our capabilities and gives us recognition and publicity globally, which helps us as we look to scale beyond South Africa,” says De Bruyn.