A proof of concept of the integration of blockchain with an ISO 19152:2012 based land administration system

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In this paper we proposed a model and a Proof of Concept imple-mentation on how to integrate blockchain technologies to land administration system that relies on ISO 19152:2012 Land Administration Domain Model

Attoumane Tahar

Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar Dakar, Dakar, Sénégal

Gervais Mendy

Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar Dakar, Dakar, Sénégal

Samuel Ouya

Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar Dakar, Dakar, Sénégal


In recent years, we witnessed extensive study of the integration of blockchain technology in Land Administration System. It is believed that it would enhance transparency and trust. Besides, since 2012 and the publication of the ISO 19152 Land Administration Domain Model we have evidence of it increasing adoption as the de facto domain model to use when creating new Land Administration System or refactoring existing one. To allow a broader implementation of blockchain technology in Land Administration System, we propose to blend those two trends to create a system that would integrate major technological advancement (blockchain) with international standards on effective land administration. Merging these two techniques have the potential to create a Fit-For-Purpose land administration framework that would meet land administration requirements while improving transparency. The main contribution of this paper is the proposition of a Proof of Concept of integrating blockchain technology in a land administration system based on the ISO 19152 Land Administration Domain Model


The United Nations Land Administration Guidelines [30] state that land is the ultimate resource because without it life on earth isn’t sustainable. It also has an important impact on the economy, in fact, at least 25% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product(GDP) can come through land [30]. For instance, in most sub-Saharan countries, the agricultural sector contributes between 25% and 40% of the GDP [39]. Adding to this direct implication there is an increasing contribution of land in other economic sectors such as tourism, nature conservancies, oil and mineral revenues.

However land is a litigious subject and its administration faces many challenges. In order to lessen the burden, the organization in charge of its administration relies upon various information systems.

Building such a system is a tedious task, therefore to ease the process, an international ISO, namely ISO 19152 Land Administration System(LADM), has been proposed and is used as the basis for new systems. As there is evidence of the adoption of LADM by more and more countries [17], it is only a matter of time before most countries wishing to build new land administration system, or even refine existing one, base those systems on the standard. Information Technology integration in land administration can improve the effectiveness of its procedures, by making the process simpler, cheaper, faster and more transparent[41].

The impact of the usage of Global Positioning System (GPS) and Geographic Information System (GIS) technology for cadastral and land use mapping is arguably the best example of how technologies can improve land administration[40, 41]. Blockchain is one such technology. It is a disruptive one which has the potential to revolutionize the way value is stored and exchanged [26]. The introduction of blockchain technology in land administration would allow to add some much-needed transparency [2, 21, 36]. Land administration system of developing country would benefit the most [29], as in most of those countries, we notice a loss of trust in land administration offices.

Given the existence of a standard upon which Land Administration System(LAS) can be built around and it increasing adoption[5, 17]; And witnessing the growing evidence, through diverse studies[2, 26, 29, 37], that the land administration would largely benefit from an introduction of blockchain technology. We propose in this paper to pose the bases of implementation of blockchain on a land administration system that is built upon LADM (ISO 19152:2012).

This work is structured as follows: After this introduction, in section 2 we first introduce some basic knowledge regarding Land Administration System and the standard mentioned above. Then we review the literature on integration of blockchain technology in LAS. In section 3 we describe our designed model and it Proof of Concept (PoC) implementation. We further give, in section 4, a comprehensive discussion around transaction handling, the type of blockchain that we deemed suitable, the identity management layer and further subjects that require specific investigation. The last section concludes this paper.

Background and related work

Background: LAS and LADM

Land administration is best defined as the process of recording and disseminating information about the ownership, value and use of land and its associated resources, further includes restrictions and responsibilities related to rights, land value, land use and impact of development processes[30]. Stig Enemark [4] states that land management can be subdivided into three main components: Land Policies, Land Information Infrastructures, and Land Administration Infrastructures in support of sustainable development. The operational functions of land administration include [30]:
• Land tenure — it is the way in which right in land is held, it determines how rights are secured and transferred;
• Land value — it encompasses the valuation and taxation of land and properties; • Land use and planning;
• Land development in regard of infrastructure and utilities implementation.

In order to manage all those aspects, many systems are used to create an integrated system for the land administration offices. Those systems are comprised by at least a Cadaster component (often backed by a GIS) and a land tenure, registry-like, solution [13]. Those two components may be loosely coupled or strongly integrated. The Land Administration Domain Model or ISO 19152:2012 is the first successful standard in land administration. It attempts to conciliate social drivers and technology design approaches by providing global standardized vocabulary for land administration. It emphasis that the main characteristic of land tenure is the reflects it has of a social relationship regarding right to land which leads to a certain relationship, legally recognized, between people and land. This means that there’s a registration component of the mentioned right for it to have legal meaning [16]. The LADM focuses on the part of land administration that deals with rights, responsibilities and restriction affecting land(and what is above and below) and the geospatial components[16, 24]. At its core LADM is an abstract, conceptual model comprised of three packages, and one subpackage:
• Administrative package: comprised of the basic administrative units (BAUnit) which is the subject of registration; the Rights, Restriction and Responsibilities (commonly addressed as the RRR) on a BAUnit.
• Party package: contains the classes used to represent the people and organization linked to RRRs
• Spatial units package: used to represent the physical expansion of the BAUnit, the parcels, building (their legal space) or utility networks.
• Surveying and representation subpackage: comprised of spatial sources, geometry and topology(spatial representation) classes

The main classes of each package are related to each other through association which give a coherent model (Fig. 1 gives an overview of those relationships). Fig. 2 is an example of how instances of the main classes on Fig. 1 relate in a use case. In this case the instance of LA_BAUnit to register is called the Wayne Manor, the owner is Thomas Wayne represented by the LA_Party instance. It relationship with the LA_BAUnit is represented with the instance of LA_Right of type ownership. In the overview diagram (Fig 1), the class LA_Right wasn’t visible. It is a subclass of LA_RRR which is itself an abstract class. The last class involved is LA_SpatialUnit it is the physical extension of the manor. The additional information it provides here is the area of the manor. To go one step further we could use the Surveying and Representation subpackage’s classes to represent its geospatial extension.

In many aspects, the standard approach only allows a rather general description, for instance in the case of interests in land, it’s classifying them as right, restriction or responsibility. These RRR can be classified according to short code lists.The code lists enables us to distinguish, for example, if a right is an ownership rights or a leasehold; if a restriction is a servitude or maintenance of waterways[16]. The LADM is, therefore, a very good basis for designing and structure information system. It flexible nature by design allows for adaptation to national context. This is done through ISO 19109: Generic Feature Model concepts mainly by specialization of feature class to add additional attributes, operators, and associations; creating new data types for complex attribute like address; Refinement of code list fixing the possible values of a feature class attribute. A specialized model to a national context is commonly addressed as a country profile. The standard provides in it annexes some of those country profiles as examples.

Therefore, most countries willing to base a system upon LADM, proceed in creating country profiles of the LADM. They would have, among other objectives, to define the specific RRR applicable to that country by specialization of the main RRRs classes; Redefine the various code lists to be compliant to their laws and regulation on land administration; Review the attributes of each class and add new attributes when needed; Extend BAUnit and spatial unit classes to create new specific ones as per local land administration services requirements.

It is worth noting that the standard is in revision phase[23] for its second edition. In this process it is planned, among other major changes, to add guidelines on how to create a country profile and on how workflow would be implemented[22, 23]. According to [23], the use of a transaction model supported by blockchain technology will be likely discussed. The United Nations initiative on Global Geospatial Information Management, through it Framework for Effective Land Administration—FELA[5], refers to the LADM as a standard for land administration, thus giving it a broader acceptance as the de facto domain model.

Literature review

The application of blockchain technology in land administration, although relatively young and in its early stages have had its fair amount of study.

Among the literature we find a lot of case study piloted by government or land administration authority. The first such project is believed to be the joint effort of Honduras’s government and Factom to create a pilot project for using blockchain technology in land administration[21]. The proposed implementation is based on Factom blockchain solution which is anchored on Bitcoin blockchain [34]. Anchoring in another blockchain is usually done by inserting the hash of the state of the blockchain or of independent block as a transaction on another one. This anchoring method allows the anchored blockchain to inherit part of the trust of the anchor blockchain. This method is believed [32] to allow keeping sensitive data private while removing the trust needed in the administrator of the blockchain.

A similar albeit different method is used by Ubitquity and the Municipality of Pelotas, Rio Grande do Sol, for the Brazilian pilot project [9]. Ubitquity proposed a cloud Colored Coins based solution with Bitcoin as the underlying blockchain solution. It’s worth noting that although in this pilot Ubitquity solution was configured to work with public BitTorrent solution, it’s supposed to support referencing data stored on IPFS (InterPlanetary FileSystem) or a centralized storage.

The republic of Georgia NAPR (National Agency of Public Registry)[12, 32] who associated with Bitfury Group will move, in the second stage of the project, to using a Bitfury developed blockchain solution called Exonum anchored on Bitcoin blockchain. However, in the first stage of the pilot, which was successfully conducted between April 2016 and April 2017, the focus was guaranteeing safety and non-repudiation of the property title document[32] using Bitcoin blockchain. The Sweden case study which associated Lantmatriet (The Swedish Mapping, cadaster and land registration authority), Telia company, ChromaWay, Kairos Future, Landshypotek Bank and SBAB, [19, 20] was evaluated to save over 100 million euro of taxpayer money per year. This was achieved by enabling smart contract in key land tenure processes (such as sale registration, transfer of ownership and mortgage registration) which eliminate a lot of paperwork and significantly reducing fraud.

Other government initiatives namely, the city of Dubai, the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh[38] or the Chicago Cook County Recorders of Deeds in Davidson County (Tennessee, United States of America)[36] have been studied. Other studies that are pilots by academics on the application of blockchain on land administration add up to those reports and gives a deeper study of the implications. In a nutshell, we can distinguish three approaches on the integration of blockchain technology on land administration.

Document validation layer. – In this case only the document needing the highest level of security is encapsulated on a transaction and submitted to the blockchain. It was the case for the land title in the phase 1 of the pilot project of the Republic of Georgia [12, 32].

Add-on. – When using this approach, the blockchain is used to enhance the transparency of the existing system. It is added on the system as a way to keep data safe from tempering by adding another layer of protection of transactional data either by adding it finger-prints or actual data on the blockchain. It is the method adopted by Kombe and al.[18] for the integration on the Tanzanian LAS called Integrated Land Management Information System (ILMIS). In this case they proposed to add the fingerprint of the transaction on ILMIS to Factom blockchain. Actually, the ILMIS solution is built upon Innola solution[27], who has worked on the integration of Factom blockchain on their LAS solution[2]. To do so they added a step on the usual workflow named sign and seal dataset which once executed submit to Factom network the fingerprint of the core attributes of the transaction.

Rebuild around blockchain. – Another solution is to integrate blockchain at the core of all land transaction. With this approach the sole focus is to take advantage of all the benefits that would come with a blockchain-based application. The implementation proposed in [38] using Hyperledger Fabric and IPFS for document management would be one such implementation. To a certain extent, the distributed architecture with the use of dApp proposed by [33] is an analogous strategy.

The potential benefits of blockchain technologies for land administration are summarized by [1] as follows:
• We could gain transparency, eliminating fraud and doubles sales, easy information access, and enhanced high participation by all stakeholders. Thanks to the decentralization nature of blockchain technology.
• Through smart contracts, blockchain has the potentiality of eliminating corruption, reducing the possibilities of human error.
• Through consensus mechanism we could have better data quality, accuracy and integrity.
• Through it distribution property and decentralization, a blockchain based LAS would benefit security and resilience enhancements. • Thanks to it immutability property coupled with a well designed consensus mechanism, we could enhance trust.

Blockchain application in land administration has a huge potential which explains why there’s government initiative on conducting pilot projects on it application on a controlled area. However, our literature review showed that there is little to no knowledge on how the blockchain integration will be done on a LAS that is based upon LADM. LAS being quite complex system, we argue that there is a risk of missing some of the components of a LAS if we don’t consider the existing LAS solution. Among the existing LAS solution, the adoption of LADM based can only grow. As a matter of fact, even some of the prebuilt existing system as ESRI’s ArcGIS for Land Administration and Bentley GIS platform[24], are compliant to it. This study is meant to fill that gap, providing the first step of such an implementation. Given that Blockchain itself is not suited for storing huge amount of data. This approach shall provide ways to deal with off-chain data even in the case where the integration of blockchain technology is done through a complete rebuild.

Proposed model design

Blockchain transactions

Before creating blockchain transaction payload, it is important to define what is considered as a transaction on the LAS. Land administration rely upon legal framework. This framework establish among other things: How BAUnit must be created; How land surveying must be performed; How land ownership can be transferred; How mortgage and liens are created against a property; How they’re claimed; Etc. Those operations are the natural land administration transaction. The ISO 19152:2012 standard doesn’t specify how transactions or process workflows would be handled. The studied LASs (Innola’s[15], Sogema Technologie eLand[11], and ESRI’s ArcGIS for Land Administration) relies on workflow engine for that purpose. If we take a look back at the data representation of an ownership case in the LADM (Fig. 2) we can see that while it represents how data would be stored, it doesn’t provide additional information regarding whether it recording/registration followed the mandatory process. In order to integrate blockchain technology, transaction should be hard-wired on the system therefore we proceeded by first adding to the core classes of LADM a minimal transaction handling.

Almost all the LADM core classes inherit from Versioned Object (LA_ Source being the major exception). The Versioned Object is an abstract class that is responsible of the management of the evolution of the various land component whether it be RRR, BAUnit or Party instances. It allows history management[24]. As the VersionedObject is in charge of providing history and lineage support, we argue that this integration of transaction should be done through it.

As we can see in the proposed model (Fig. 3) transaction will also be associated with the AdministrativeSources(through it LA_Source specialization). This class has an important role on transaction handling, as noted on the standard [16], an administrative source can be the document that describes the rights, restrictions or responsibilities held by a party and affecting a basic administrative unit. The added transaction instance will serve as an anchor for the blockchain transaction. It is apparent that the blockchain transaction should encapsulate at least all the major association of an instance of TransactionInstance : the BAUnit; the RRRs associated to that specific BAUnit version; the party associated to those RRRs; the spatiaUnit(s) and the administrative sources that result or initiated that transaction. In addition, the proposed BL_Transaction class has a processKey attribute which can be used, with its counterpart workflowProcessInstanceId of BL_TransactionInstance, to keep information about the root land administration process type. In the case of the integration of an external workflow manager like Camunda BPMN Engine, jBPMN or ArcGIS Workflow Manager, these fields could be leveraged and serve as anchors. Using that model allows us to store all off-chain data, which would be the bulk majority of them(document, party information, condominium declaration. . .), with a direct link to the actual transaction in the blockchain.

Proof of concept implementation

To demonstrate the proposed model we built a Proof of Concept implementation. The implementation can be subdivided into two major components :
• The blockchain network: We used Hyperledger Fabric(HLF) [7] as the blockchain layer. This component has at its core the network where the smart contracts are deployed. We bootstrapped a three organization network with two peer organizations serving as anchor peer and one orderer organization. It’s similar to the HLF test network [7]. We wrote a java-based smart contract to allow blockchain data creation and querying the ledger state. The smart contract approval policy and transaction endorsement policy were majority based.
• The LADM based LAS is a Java-based application with an angular front end. It is built to be run on a docker container for easier demonstration. The connection to the HLF network is done through a gRPC connection to the Fabric Gateway. It uses the identity of one of the organizations to interact with the smart contract on the network. For the sake of simplicity, not all subclasses are implemented in this PoC. For instance, RRR subclasses are implemented as Single Table Inheritance.

When the data creation process is over on the web based LAS, We added a seal method that submits the transactionInstance to the blockchain (Fig. 4)1. In listing 1 we present the payload of the transaction. Here we choose to add to the blockchain asset only the ids as anchor for relevance to the proposed model. Further discussion is needed to decide the constitution of the payload( refer to section 4.3).

Discussion and further working items

In this section we’ll discuss the various propositions made in the previous section (3). It’s meant to give insight in how our study relates to other propositions and highlight major remaining research problems in blockchain application to land governance.

Scope of application of the proposed model

The proposed model is based solely on core LADM classes, this allows it to be used in any LADM based system provided that the change and history management are handled through the versionedObject abstract class. However, we believe that some of the countries that have LADM based LAS, have implemented a different way of handling change. This is based on the change handling framework presented for Serbia [33] although Serbia has developed a LADM country profile [31]. This model and its PoC implementation are the major contributions of the present paper as we haven’t found in the literature any such proposition.

Around the choice of the blockchain platform

The choice to use a permissioned blockchain network like Hyper-ledger Fabric is based on the need for such a system to be easily adopted by the stakeholders. Besides, public blockchain like Bitcoin and Etheureum, that would bring the most trust to the application, have a fluctuating transaction cost. This adds a volatility to the land related transactions that could already be expensive as mentioned in the introduction. Many others proposed the use of this platform [8, 28] for implementing blockchain-based LAS or mentioned it as an alternative approach to their proposed blockchain technology [2, 33]. In fact, the flexible permission management can help compliance to the existing legal framework while adding transparency. One other important characteristic of HLF that emphasis its flexibility is the supports of three consensus mechanisms: solo(for test scenarios), Raft (Crash Fault Tolerant) [7] and custom Byzantine Fault Tolerant (BFT) based on BFT-SMART[3, 35] that can be leveraged to implement the most suitable mechanism for a LAS. HLF also supports multiple languages for smart contract and gives various SDK (Node.js, Java, Go and Python) for developers to work with. This gives such an implementation a smoother integration to existing platforms.

Besides Hyperledger Fabric is well suited for implementation model where there’s a hard requirement on identifying participants or to be compliant to regulations such as Know-Your-Customer (KYC)[7]. In fact, while the land transaction themselves are not always financial transactions, land is a taxable property and as such it is mandatory to know who owns which piece of land. We also considered the usage of a private Ethereum network, Factom blockchain, Hyperledger Burrow and cloud blockchain implementation like Quorom.

On blockchain transaction payload

We have identified the various objects that would comprise the blockchain transaction but further studies are required to choose how they would be encapsulated. In fact, at a high level the maximum transaction payload would be comprised of the objects on their JSON format in the blockchain, which would allow maximum accessibility and distribution of those data. The minimum payload would contain the ids and the fingerprints of the objects involved on the transaction. While this approach seems the most in line with the idea that blockchain shouldn’t serve as a storage but rather as transaction ledger, we could argue that they would be performance and security issues in the case of relying on existing data store as presented by [14].

We propose an add-on implementation model to integrate blockchain support on LADM based LAS. To do so we expanded the LADM based model with transaction support. While it could be argued that we could forge the transaction and submit to the blockchain network without this addition, we deemed this approach more convenient. These table serving as anchor, the LAS is made aware of the blockchain integration. Bear in mind that element being added as part of the transaction are versioned object and the system have to expand effort to keep track of the history. Then this anchor allows us to rebuild the history.

Blockchain technology and identity management

Our study focus on integrating blockchain support to LADM based LAS, it is obvious that we will need flexibility on the identity management and blockchain technology. LAS being themselves permissioned system, we propose to use Hyperledger Fabric (HLF) platform.

Hyperledger Fabric identity management relies on public key cryptography. In practice Certificate Authority (CA) would emit certificates for each actor and nodes that need to access or perform any operation on the ledger. Those issued certificates will be used to leverage permission and grant access to the various actions on the LAS. Some CA Server, such as the built-in Fabric CA, can be configured to rely upon existing identity provider services such as an internal LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol). We suggest this approach for the Land Administration Office Department employee’s identity handling. Other major stakeholders in the land administration are organized as orders(e.g., surveyors and conveyancers). Therefore their member are all known individuals. Each group could have its own CA accepted in the blockchain network.

As for citizens, we can divide them in two groups depending on the type of operation they perform. On one hand, we have people that would need to query the state of the ledger, they could do so through a designed portal. The portal would act as an authenticated entity and forge the query impersonating the citizen thus preserving anonymity while accessing public data. On another hand, we have the various holders of RRRs on a BAUnit these would need to be enrolled and have their digital identities (pair of keys) emitted. How exactly should the enrollment take place can be expanded to the broader question of identity in a smart city. For transparency reason, we propose to add at the application level (or smart contract level), a notification through mail or SMS to all the RRRs holders if a transaction occurred on the associated BAUnit thus allowing them to lodge a complaint if needed, as proposed by Indian Andhra State government implementation[6].

dApp access to off-chain data

The add-on approach has some drawbacks. One of the major drawbacks of such an integration is the opposite model of implementation between a distributed application architecture and a classical web application architecture. The verification of transaction through the blockchain will be an added burden on the existing servers [14] of the LAS. In this case, the data that comprise the transactions in the blockchain are stored on the database and other sorts of traditional storage like EDMS (Electronic Document Management System). This further expand the questions regarding how off-chain data will be referenced on the blockchain transaction and if the storage of those data should evolve to be available from the various blockchain nodes.

On process workflow and smart contract

One of the non-addressed requirements in this implementation is the one regarding the usage of smart contract. As mentioned above 3.1 many major modern LAS handle process through workflow engine. Most of the process could be handled with the help of smart contract as proposed by many studies before [19, 28, 29]. We propose a progressive migration to smart contract. As the BPMN 2.0 processes embedded in the workflow engine are created with the help of the various stakeholders, rather than building the smart contract from scratch we could leverage Caterpillar methodology[25]. This method relies upon many technological layers. One of the most important one is the BPMN to-solidity compiler which translates the standard BPMN model to a solidity smart contract. This approach still requires further investigation.

As we can see through this discussion while we give the bases of implementation, many requirements and implementation questions still need to be addressed. Including but not restricted to:
1. How will data stored off-chain and referenced as part of the transaction payload be referenced and retrieved?
2. Will these off-chain data need to be distributed as well or can we keep them on a central storage?
3. Are the existing data stores from existing LAS suitable for such a system?
4. How will the geographical data be handled on the blockchain transaction will it be stored as GeoJSON using protocol like FOAM[10] or other method?


In this paper we proposed a model and a Proof of Concept implementation on how to integrate blockchain technologies to land administration system that relies on ISO 19152:2012 Land Administration Domain Model. This model is to be implemented directly to the core LADM therefore it can be used on any LADM based LAS providing that they rely on the versioningObject for the history management. In the process of assessing the model, we listed a number of requirements to be addressed in order to implement blockchain backed LAS. In future works, we plan to investigate on how to use smart contract alongside workflow manager 4.6. We also plan to study how geographical data will be handled in such a system. Those upcoming studies are designed as building bricks of a blockchain-based LAS alternative to traditional solution .


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