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Swedish Mapping Authority Pioneering Blockchain-Based Real Estate Sales

The Swedish government agency Lantmäteriet — the national mapping, cadastral and land registration authority — “is likely to become one of the first government agencies to test using blockchain technology for conducting property sales,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

The agency has partnered with telecommunication firm Telia, consulting firm Kairos Future and blockchain technology company ChromaWay to develop a blockchain-based platform for conducting real estate deals.

“From the technology point of view, we are quite ready,” said Mats Snäll, Lantmäteriet’s chief digital officer, as reported by the Journal

The agency is looking for volunteers who want to pioneer the practice of buying or selling property using the blockchain-based platform in the next few months.

Snäll added that the current delay from the signing of a purchase contract to the registration of the sale can be as long as three to six months. This seems surprising, since Sweden is a developed country and an early adopter of digital technology for administration. But even in Sweden, real estate sales and registration are still mostly based on manual paperwork, which represents a bottleneck. It seems likely that only a full deployment of digital automation, which can be enabled by blockchain technology and smart contracts, could significantly speed up the process.

In fact, the process would be much faster with the new blockchain-based system.

“It could be hours,” added Jörgen Modin, chief solutions architect at ChromaWay, per the Journal, noting that a deal could be “signed and registered even when the buyer or seller isn’t physically present in the country.”

The Lantmäteriet has been testing ways to record property transactions on a blockchain since June 2016. “This could save the Swedish taxpayer over €100 million ($106 million) a year by eliminating paperwork, reducing fraud, and speeding up transactions,” according to an estimate by Kairos Future, as reported by Quartz in 2017. The blockchain experiment concluded its second phase of testing, which included the creation of blockchain-based smart contracts to automate transactions, in March 2017.

“[We at] ChromaWay are pioneers of blockchain technology,” said ChromaWay co-founder Henrik Hjelte, according to a quote on the company’s website. “We develop solutions with a proven track record, delivering things that many even did not think were possible. The technology for property transactions we’ve built is a great platform for the future.”

“I’m fully convinced that blockchain [technology] will be the obvious solution for property transactions in the future,” said Magnus Kempe, senior consultant and director of retail and finance at Kairos Future, per ChromaWay’s website. “It’s really fun to see our work inspire projects around the world.”

In fact, governments and agencies in other countries such as the U.S., India and the Republic of Georgia also are experimenting with blockchain technology for land registries, as reported by the Journal. “In the U.S., local governments looking into blockchain technology include the Cook County Recorder of Deeds in Chicago” and the City of South Burlington. In the Republic of Georgia, the National Agency of Public Registry has stored one million land titles on a blockchain.

In India, the state of Andhra Pradesh is building a blockchain-based solution to record property deals.

“Andhra Pradesh has become the first state in India to adopt blockchain [technology] for governance,” Forbes reported, adding that the state has piloted two key projects: managing land records and streamlining vehicle registrations. “Swedish blockchain startup, ChromaWay, has also partnered with the state to provide land registry solutions, leveraging lessons from projects abroad including those with Lantmäteriet, Sweden’s land registry authority, and Kairos Future, a consulting firm.”

It’s worth noting that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently stated that blockchain and Internet of Things technologies will have a deep impact on the way "we live and work" and require "rapid adaptation" of the workplace.

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