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Monday, March 27, 2017

Columns

Bitcoin’s blockchain technology will better record-keeping


The Cook County Recorder’s Office of Illinois announced that it would be experimenting with the implementation of Bitcoin’s blockchain technology.

The county hopes to use it to maintain the county’s public real estate records and transactions. Cook County is the second most populous county in the nation, one spot ahead of Harris County, and includes the city of Chicago.

A blockchain database continuously records a list of transactions that are immutable and can serve as a ledger to record transactions of value. The technology is built around the premise that transactions can be authenticated by a massive number of computers globally. Once a transaction has been registered, it is rendered irreproducible and unable to be modified with an accompanying time stamp.

The rise in the technology’s popularity can largely be attributed to the rise of bitcoin as a cryptocurrency. The world of cryptocurrency is both lauded with praise and fraught with concern.

The government and business still relies heavily on the use of paper contracts for filings such as “chain of title” transactions and derivative trading contracts. Human intervention always carries with it the burden of human error. Although the disparity may be small, the difference between the future and present values of contractual filings, such as title transactions and trading contracts, fluctuates constantly.

By accounting for transactions in real-time, especially with land records, the chance for the value to fluctuate between signing and filing a contract would be virtually non-existent. The maintenance of the land record system using a public blockchain ledger would make real estate ownership and property claims more transparent. This would close off avenues for corruption by third party trustees in the process.

Trust must be offered up in most transactions today. Someone must insure that both parties will hold up their end of the deal. The additional person inevitably increases the costs of transaction as well as the room for mistakes.

A number of businesses and foreign governments are investing in blockchain technology for a variety of reasons, and its use for governmental purposes seem apparent. Anything that encourages an increase in the efficiency of decentralizing information to the public can only improve the degree of accountability the population expects from its institutions.

Cook County has broken ground with the pilot program to transfer land records onto a blockchain database. This poses an interesting proposition to Harris County, the third most populous county in the nation. The land throughout Harris County and Houston is a hodgepodge of residential, commercial and industrial real estate brushing shoulders with one another. Houston is a city with no zoning laws.

The adoption of a public ledger utilizing blockchain technology could provide greater accessibility to the average person. The evidence of irrefutable title ownership in a city with such complexities as annexed master planned communities and municipalities districts would fill a major need in Houston.

It would be a progressive step into the future if Harris County looked into a pilot program of their own.

Opinion columnist Nicholas Bell is an MBA graduate student and can be reached [email protected]

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