Reno Is Moving Its Building Records to the Blockchain

Reno Is Moving Its Building Records to the Blockchain
Photo: Lómelinde/Wikimedia Commons

Reno, Nevada has jumped on the Web3 bandwagon. The Biggest Little City in the World is rolling out a new pilot program that promises to use blockchain technology to store digital copies of historical building records.

It’s the highest-profile city yet to begin storing records using blockchain technology. Officials hope the project, cheekily dubbed Reno’s “Biggest Little Blockchain,” will improve “clarity and transparency” in the city’s record-keeping systems, according to a press release published Thursday.

What does that mean in real-world terms? Basically, the city has launched a website that will allow residents to more easily interact with government records. In the hopes of keeping those records accurate and trustworthy, the site tracks their provenance with the blockchain. After all, the blockchain is considered to be a giant, immutable “ledger.” In reality, the blockchain is less a digital scroll than a giant database — one that continually updates and records its progress using encryption, allowing for the secure storage of information. Reno’s platform will initially be used to improve access to the city’s Historic Registry records system, allowing users to file requests for repairs or modifications to historic buildings via the portal, which will then record and validate said requests as well as the government’s responses. As time goes on, officials hope to add more city processes to the network, including other permitting and licensing services.

In other words, it’s a modernisation effort, powered by blockchain and designed to ease the burden of interacting with the local government. The project is built on the platform STRATO, an application produced by the Brooklyn-based company BlockApps, which was offered to the city free of charge for their pilot.

“I’m excited that the Biggest Little Blockchain showcases the usefulness of blockchain technology for all Reno residents,” said the city’s mayor, Hillary Shieve, on Thursday. “Citizens deserve transparency and accountability from their government, and this new pilot project empowers every Reno resident with easy access to information, and how fitting that we are starting with the historic buildings that are the heart and soul of our community.”

The city has dubbed its experiment “the first city-run and resident-focused blockchain platform” in the country, though it’s far from the first community to trot out a chain-connected pilot. Blockchain technologies have been sold to governments before as a mechanism for improved transparency and record-keeping. Chains are also generally supposed to be open and their entries fixed, meaning that the information added to them is publicly visible and unchangeable. Whether all chains are actually “immutable” or not is up for debate. In general, though, blockchain technologies are considered to be very efficient record-keeping systems.

According to Reno’s press release, STRATO is “purpose-built for permanent recordkeeping and is not a significant source of energy usage or greenhouse gas emissions.” Jeffrey Powell, with BlockApps, further told Gizmodo that the platform was a private chain and that the information on it was controlled and distributed by the city.

Reno is one of several Nevada communities that have hitched their wagon to the Web3 star. Some counties are using blockchain for marriage and birth certificates. Cities across the country have likewise begun to pivot to crypto for various reasons. Shieve, the mayor, has made it known in the past that her administration plans to invest in a host of cryptocurrency and blockchain-related initiatives, with the hopes that the new tech brings the city investment and revenue opportunities.