Taiwan E-Gate: automation done right

Taiwan e-Gate

The awesome lamb hot pot notwithstanding, I can’t say I’m too sorry to have swapped the biting wind of Beijing for the more benevolent climes of Taipei.

On arrival at Taoyuan Airport, I gave my customary votes of thanks to E-Gate systems that let Taiwan citizens and residents pass through immigration in a matter of seconds rather than having to waste time lining up for a stamp from a human Immigration Officer.

E-Gate is an excellent example of automation done right. It provides a highly efficient and low-cost way of increasing the airport’s capacity to handle its growing numbers of passengers, while minimizing stress for people who have only just spent up to fifteen hours caged in a plane. Its recognition capabilities are excellent after a recent upgrade, and it operates 24/7 without complaint and minimal maintenance.

The only major weakness of the system is that, for now at least, it isn’t open to visitors and tourists, who are still required to go through the traditional process. Having wasted far too many hours of my life waiting in immigration queues, I can’t help but hope that in the not-too-distant future automated systems like E-Gate will be tied together with ones from other countries to speed up this time-consuming process for everyone flying around the world.

While some people may object that this would represent a further erosion of privacy, I for one would be more than happy to trade that for the greater convenience such a system would provide.

On the way back to Taipei, this China Daily article on China’s digital transformation caught my attention. Written by Kai-Fu Lee and Jonathan Woetzel of McKinsey, it provides an excellent snapshot of current technology trends in the country – not to mention some mind-boggling statistics on the levels of government investment in promoting AI and the number of jobs that may be affected by it.

These include $27.4 billion in funds to investors, $180 billion in the construction of 5G networks, 82 – 102 million Chinese workers that may need to find alternative employment.

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