Digital Street: HM Land Registry tests blockchain for property conveyancing

Digital Street: HM Land Registry tests blockchain for property conveyancing

The Land Registry is partnering with digital transformation software company Methods to examine the potential use of blockchain in property conveyancing and land ownership registrations in the UK.

The partnership will use R3’s blockchain platform, Corda, for the second phase of HM Land Registry’s research and development project, Digital Street, which is designed to explore the use of smart contracts, distributed ledgers, and related technologies, in buying and selling property.

According to an announcement from the government, Methods will be supported by a team of global experts from enterprise blockchain supplier R3, dedicated public sector consultancy Blockchain Digital, and their wider partner network.

The government believes that, enabled by the technology, the Digital Street programme has the potential to synchronise and optimise the way that all participants in the property market interact, from solicitors and banks to surveyors and estate agents.

Big ambitions

While few more precise details are forthcoming, Graham Farrant, chief executive of HM Land Registry, explained: “Our ambition to become the world’s leading land registry for speed, ease of use, and an open approach to data requires HM Land Registry to be at the forefront of global innovation in land registration.

“By working with Methods on Digital Street we are taking another step toward that goal, as we explore how new technologies like blockchain can help us to develop a faster, simpler, and cheaper land registration process.”

HM Land Registry manages land ownership worth in excess of £4 trillion, including around £1 trillion of mortgages. The Land Register contains more than 25 million titles, showing evidence of ownership for more than 85 percent of the land mass of England and Wales.

Methods CEO Peter Rowlins said, “When we read the HM Land Registry requirement, we recognised that the unique features offered by Corda in terms of security, privacy, interoperability and the smart contract flow framework – originally designed for financial services – would be an excellent fit.”

The Corda platform is being used in industries from financial services to healthcare, shipping, insurance, and more, to record, manage and executes institutions’ financial agreements.

R3 CEO David Rutter said, “We are pleased to see another innovative deployment of Corda in the public sector and look forward to working with the world’s most well-recognised land registry, HM Land Registry.

“Blockchain holds the potential to transform land registry services by improving speed, simplicity, and efficiency. We will be working closely with HM Land Registry, Methods, and our partners over the coming months to turn this potential into reality.”

Digital Street

In the coming months, the government said it aims to announce “a programme of innovation and collaboration events” that enable all stakeholders in the property conveyancing market to join the Digital Street Community.

Now in its second year, the project is exploring the use of blockchain and smart contracts to bring greater transparency, speed, and trust to property transactions.

Digital Street has already created a digital register for a small selection of properties, which is a first step towards establishing one that is fully machine readable and “able to be updated instantly”, according to the government.

Internet of Business says

Digital Street is just one of many projects being developed by HM Land Registry as part of the organisation’s Business Strategy. For example, the first digital mortgage was signed in April using HM Land Registry’s ‘Sign your mortgage deed’ service.

Meanwhile, the recently launched Local Land Charge Register brings together data from 326 local authorities into a central database, removing the need for manual searches in overworked local offices, and removing weeks of potential delays from each sale.

Homebuyers themselves can use the ‘Find property information’ service to locate detailed information about properties they are interested in at the start of the transaction.

Chris Middleton
Chris Middleton is former editor of Internet of Business, and now a key contributor to the title. He specialises in robotics, AI, the IoT, blockchain, and technology strategy. He is also former editor of Computing, Computer Business Review, and Professional Outsourcing, among others, and is a contributing editor to Diginomica, Computing, and Hack & Craft News. Over the years, he has also written for Computer Weekly, The Guardian, The Times, PC World, I-CIO, V3, The Inquirer, and Blockchain News, among many others. He is an acknowledged robotics expert who has appeared on BBC TV and radio, ITN, and Talk Radio, and is probably the only tech journalist in the UK to own a number of humanoid robots, which he hires out to events, exhibitions, universities, and schools. Chris has also chaired conferences on robotics, AI, IoT investment, digital marketing, blockchain, and space technologies, and has spoken at numerous other events.