Mon, Jun 12, 2017 - Page 6 News List

EDITORIAL: Taiwan must expand into AI sector

This year’s Taipei International Computer Show (Computex), which ended earlier this month, attracted 41,378 industry professionals, up 1 percent from last year, organizers said.

Several sectors and themes were in the spotlight this year, such as Internet of Things (IoT) applications, business solutions and gaming and virtual reality.

The InnoVEX exhibition — which served as a venue for start-ups, manufacturers and venture capitalists — drew increased attention this year thanks to its focus on artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, attracting 14,977 visitors in three days, up 36 percent from last year, organizers said.

Many vendors introduced their new products, focusing on improved specifications, better hardware and innovative design.

However, while this year’s Computex focused on the theme of building global technology ecosystems, the applications and innovations related to AI, robotics and IoT attracted the most attention.

Home care robots, chip products for IoT and digital home devices, and AI solutions for servers were the main attractions.

The technology sector deems AI “the next big thing” after smartphones and expects it to play a crucial role in technological development in the coming decades.

Local businesspeople have been discussing whether AI development can find a foothold in the nation, considering Taiwan’s dominance in hardware manufacturing.

Venture capitalist Lee Kai-fu (李開復) of Sinovation Ventures (創新工場) told an interview ahead of Computex that he doubted Taiwan’s ability to compete in the AI sector, citing a lack of technology, funding, application scenarios, a regulatory sandbox and capable venture capitalists, as well as a lack of big data and a market large enough to drive AI development.

However, others have said that Taiwan can capitalize on the approaching AI wave as long as local tech firms can find themselves a strong niche.

By putting the spotlight on AI and robotics applications at this year’s Computex, the organizers showed their ambition to transform the nation into an AI hub, although Taiwan is still far from achieving the goal.

The event also provided some clues about the state of AI development in the nation.

As the finance, healthcare and manufacturing sectors are rapidly adopting AI, and as machine learning is expected to help increase production efficiency and convenience in daily life, Taiwan should venture into this field.

However, most local vendors still focus solely on hardware and need to catch up with their global peers in the field, which requires higher integration between hardware, software and services to optimize consumer experience.

Taiwan does not have a large population, a diverse industry mix or the big domestic market necessary for the collection of large amounts of data to drive AI development. However, local firms have expertise in hardware manufacturing and a technological edge in certain industries.

Taiwan’s small and medium-sized firms have a vast knowledge of the local and regional markets, and many have certain advantages over their larger global peers in terms of flexibility and speed of decisionmaking.

However, Taiwan needs significant investments in AI research and the cultivation of AI talent, and it must build AI awareness among local businesses from big tech companies to traditional industries.

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