Stakeholder interview: Salim Ismail, Chairman of ExO Works

SH Salim Ismail

Salim Ismail is an investor, speaker, advisor, entrepreneur and strategist. He is author of the bestseller Exponential Organizations, founding executive director of Singularity University and founder and Chairman of ExO Works. He is also co-founder of Confabb, PubSub Concepts and Angstro.

‘Digitalisation is just getting started’

What is the most important catalyst for further digitalisation in construction? 

‘There are two of them. First, new materials, which come from all of these new technologies. New technologies allow us to radically create new materials very quickly. Second, the business model starts to get really affected in construction in an unexpected way. If you look at the way we traditionally do planning and projection of construction and how we deal with strategic planning, we kind of look out a few years and think we will need, for example, a certain amount of hotel buildings. But then appears Airbnb. Suddenly those hotel buildings are not needed anymore. So, there are unexpected facts that will affect the business model of utility, even the one on the surface. It seems like a hard industry to disrupt.’

How do we ensure digitalisation will continue to be a theme? 

‘I think this is a very profound effect. We are only just getting started. For example, ten years ago we had half a billion internet connect devices in the world. Now we are up to fifteen billion and we will be in a trillion in the next few years. That means we are only one and a half per cent of where we will be in a few years. That impact is very profound.’ 

What role does digitalisation and innovation play?

‘Digitalisation is just getting started. There will be profound innovation across all sectors as many the technologies start multiplying, accelerating and intersecting at the same time. Each intersection has a very dramatic consequence when you think for example of the impact of drones in construction, prefab and 3D printing. They become more and more effective and impactful.’