• Yeah, sure, absolutely.

  • We have half an hour.

  • Got half an hour? Awesome.

  • Yeah, we’ve got half an hour.

  • That’s good, because I only asked for 20 minutes. That’s a bonus for me. If you don’t mind, I’m going to move this.

  • Yeah, of course. Just do whatever. [laughs]

  • How did the event go?

  • Pretty good, pretty good. Brent was here as well, Christiansen, so the three ambassadors.

  • Three ambassadors, yeah. You pick it up. Say something again.

  • Something again. Something. Something again.

  • I think it’s picking it up. I think what we’re interested in knowing is which companies here, what types of companies, could help make things, design things, create maps, or create hardware that can help anybody with a disease outbreak or the post-COVID recovery?

  • The more specific you could be, the better, because everybody’s talking about it. We’re looking for real stories, real people, and real companies who are active.

  • Sure. Just recently, there was an announcement – I think it was just yesterday – that [indecipherable 1:18] , the company that makes the medical mask, Champ Mask, is exporting this whole manufacturing system, along with most of the other part of the Made in Taiwan mask national team.

  • So that any place with sufficient amount of water supply, land use, and things like that – and that’s pretty much it – you can build a micro factory that manufactures 24 hours a day that churns out two million medical masks a day, which is 1/10th of Taiwan’s daily production.

  • The PPE will actually have three [indecipherable 2:02] in extra per day. That’s so that you can make other personal protection equipments, including the clothes, coverings, and things like that for your medical.

  • We’re happy, and this is open innovation. We export the entire technology, so you own the technology. You can repurpose that for N95, R95, or things like that. I think this is just a microcosm of the kind of things that we’re offering.

  • We’re offering medical masks dedicated by Taiwanese people for their uncollected mask order for international humanitarian aid for the people who are doctors and nurses. That serves as our first case, so that the international community can understand that our medical mask and other PPEs don’t degrade so quickly with time.

  • It’s high quality. If you’re interested in providing them to your ordinary citizens, not only your nurses and doctors – which is an old concept – the advantage is that you can wear this all day.

  • Is that one of their masks?

  • Yeah, that’s right. This is a designer covering on top of it to make it more beautiful.

  • (laughter)

  • This is also good for creative industry. What we’re getting at is that this builds a new culture, because it’s a social signal that I’m watching my hands properly, I’m not touching my face, and it reminds other people to do the same.

  • This kind of social innovation is backed by the Made in Taiwan infrastructure that we’re heavily exporting to the entire world. I think that will lead not only to the ordering of the masks themselves as products, but actually the know-how of how to build such a logistic chain in a way that is essentially fully automated.

  • This is the sort of technology that helped the PRC to, after the late ‘80s, to gain their own logistics chain. That is largely from Taiwan. The original designers, they’re all still around. They’re still in Taiwan.

  • They’re helping to make other jurisdictions more interested in this kind of self-sufficient, smart machinery for strategic supplies and things like that. We’re very happy to share that as well.

  • You said it’s Kan? What’s the name of the company before?

  • It’s [indecipherable 4:28] .

  • [indecipherable 4:29] .

  • [indecipherable 4:30] , Champ Mask, as in champion mask. Champ Mask.

  • Yeah. They work with many other companies. Of course, we already got inquiries from the US, Germany, French, Spain, South Africa, and so on, but the whole idea of exporting this whole micro factory, I think, will elicit an even higher response.

  • Even though they are many jurisdictions that already got coronavirus in control, they would probably not want to rely on overseas support all the time if the next wave happens, especially now that we have not yet designed a vaccine yet.

  • This kind of micro factory, I think, will reach an even wider international audience, compared to the medical masks themselves.

  • What’s unusual about this would be that the design is being exported along with the production?

  • Exactly. You own your own production.

  • Do know what they’re selling it for?

  • I don’t know. You would probably have to ask Champ Mask.

  • Is anybody else doing that out of Taiwan or China?

  • As far as we know, we’re the only one doing this. It’s a good reason, because we want to share this know-how out of international solidarity. Frankly speaking, it’s a good business decision, because then it elevates Taiwan from just a manufacturer to a designer of smart machinery, workflow systems, and things like that.

  • That’s the kind of position, for example, Germany has in many other industries, many other verticals. Taiwan has had that capability for a very long time, but that was not very well internationally known in many verticals. This is a good chance for us to export this design model out.

  • Is there something that’s technologically unusual about it? In my understanding, the face masks, it’s very primitive technology on all this.

  • Of course, using sufficient amount of human involvement, of course, you can manufacture it quite well. To manufacture it so that it doesn’t degrade so quickly with time, that is actually quite advanced technology.

  • That is the main differentiator of the Taiwan-produced masks and PRC and other places-produced mask. Also, the whole automation part of it, that you don’t have to retrain a lot of staff. That is also important.

  • Does that mean a manufacturer overseas that does not normally make masks could easily adapt their technology to…?

  • Which kinds of factories would be able to accommodate that?

  • The thing is that we provide the whole blueprint, and we help to make that happen. All you have to provide is the water, electricity, and land, and that’s it. Then we work with the local partner to transfer.

  • That’s it? Water, electricity…

  • And land. Yeah, a parcel of land. Of course, local police and firefighters, in case of emergencies or raids. [laughs]

  • I suppose paper, like paper pulp or something like that, whatever the mask is made of.

  • This is made out of PPE material, so it’s not paper. In any case, the basic supplies out of the local plastic production line, that is usually no problem, as long as you make any sort of plastic products.

  • That’s a given. The point is that what we are exporting is essentially guaranteed high quality in a very short time frame. Then that is the core competence, I would say.

  • Is the government working with Champ Mask, then? Is it a partnership?

  • It is. Of course, we nationalized their entire production.

  • You nationalized it? Oh, OK.

  • Yeah, [laughs] until tomorrow.

  • Because of the restrictions?

  • That’s right. We banned exports, so we nationalized their entire production line. We worked with many smart machinery companies to optimize this whole manufacturing chain, because previously, we were making not even two million masks a day.

  • In very short time, we ramped it up to 20 million. That is for the smart machinery company to now demonstrate that they can do that to pretty much any other jurisdiction.

  • Do you know what kind of profit they’re looking at what sort of time frame?

  • I have no idea. You would have to ask Champ Mask.

  • Because it’s from tomorrow, they’re on their own again, basically?

  • Yeah. As of tomorrow, we’re still nationalizing, I think, eight million a day from there. The larger manufacturer, like the CSDs still see 45 percent of their manufacturing nationalized for the local economy.

  • Of course, on international market, they can easily sell 5, 10 times that. Of course, they are happy that we’re now allowing exports, but they are now also seeing that it may be even more lucrative for the entire smart machinery industry if they build these kind of micro factory partnerships, instead of just selling masks.

  • Which is still important for the humanitarian part of the response.

  • Is that something other mask-makers here are interested in following?

  • Yeah, it’s a national team. The Champ Mask is just the person who you should interview. Of course, it includes Jaoyi, Sungshen, Chanyu, Chienhu, and so on, and basically, the entire national MIT mask team is in it for the export.

  • Champ is, what, just the first one to do it?

  • No, they came up with the idea.

  • Ah, I see. That’s what you said.

  • Yeah, they called the people together.

  • How many different companies will be doing this, then?

  • At least six or seven.

  • It’s all the same concept, that they sell the design as well as the material, so they last a long time?

  • Yeah. You talk to Champ, and based on the capabilities, they will make this horizontal partnership by themselves. This is what the MSMEs in Taiwan has always been doing.

  • How many prospective buyers have you identified?

  • Other than the five jurisdiction that I just mentioned for the medical mask part, there’s also N95/R95 asks, but I don’t think even the MoFA have the full list. You’ll have to ask Champ Mask for that. I got my information from MoFA.

  • Is China allowed to buy them?

  • Uh-huh. When we say we allow exporting, we’re not putting any restrictions. Considering we’re only the second-most largest mask exporter, and they’re the…

  • (laughter)

  • They’ve been that way for a long time, just considering the scale of the country.

  • That’s right. I really don’t think [laughs] that they’re in dire need of this kind of manufacturing device info, because in their part, they make more amount of mask by essentially there’s more human staff involvement.

  • They use it up very quickly, so they don’t have to care that much about the degradation time, expiration time. It’s optimizing for a very different use case, so I think it’s differentiated market.

  • Is there anything else that Taiwan can do in terms of technology…?

  • We were just talking about the coronavirus hackathon, that co-hack, that we’ve done. We’ve partnered with the international community on, for example, privacy-enhancing technologies, on making sure that people who keep a diary of their whereabouts don’t have to share it with a surveillance state or surveillance capitalism.

  • But rather, can just share amongst their friends and families, the people who care about their health. When the contact tracers need the information, they only share the part that’s useful for contact tracing, but not sacrificing or inadvertently reveal private, other details of other people.

  • This is privacy-enhancing technology, or PET. I would argue this is now of essential importance, because there will be no adoption from the civil society, from the general citizens, for any contact tracing app if they think that they will invade on their personal privacy.

  • Just like mask, unless a majority of people adopt that technology, it’s not useful. Even though Taiwan is not in the stage of community spread, perhaps, not in any foreseeable future.

  • We understand that it’s primarily only useful for the jurisdiction currently in community spread stage who still devote a lot of time working with the international research and development community on both developing these ideas and also popularizing these ideas.

  • What kinds of information would be given out, and what kinds would be withheld?

  • Cohack.tw has the five champions of the, that’s an AIT-Tecro joint coronavirus hackathon. It includes the one that I just told you, which is called LogBoard. There’s also Autonomy.

  • Also, US companies such as Gemini explore, which allows for this kind of statistic information to be turned into digital storytelling products that can be more usefully communicated to decision-makers who are not epidemiologists.

  • In Taiwan, we are very fortunate we don’t have that problem, but in many jurisdictions, there is a problem of that. There’s also a team that focus on this. All of those teams receive an electric rice cooker and some rice as [laughs] award.

  • I actually, in my next “Businessweek” column will start writing about some of the winners. That’s my promised collaboration with these people.

  • From a users, from a…

  • Citizen perspective.

  • Yeah, what sort of information are they worried about giving out?

  • People are very worried about GPS data.

  • It’s very fine-grained. It can locate you to even centimeter vicinity, like which room are you in in the house, and so on. That is not something that people are usually comfortable giving out.

  • In Taiwan, we’ve not ever used that data for contact tracing purposes. We use much coarse-grained, statistic level data. For the home quarantine, we use cellphone tower signal strength data that they’re already collecting, anyway, and so on.

  • I think these more privacy-enhancing alternatives, either time-limited or only autonomously shared between friends and families, these are the kind of technology that can be more accountable over time.

  • Otherwise, people will have to rely on essentially goodwill of the state to keep things going. I don’t think that’s a winning proposition.

  • Is it your view that people will be more willing to be traced in an epidemic area if they knew their personal data wasn’t going to be…

  • Be transmitted anywhere on the cloud. It’s going to stay in your phone. They only keep this app running for the purpose of getting notified if they have been in contact for long exposure time with already confirmed cases, and they know, but nobody else does.

  • It’s designed in this way, so that you don’t have to trust any trusted intermediary. This is unlike the Singaporean Trace Together, in which case the National Health Authority still knows something about this.

  • The Australian one, as well as the Taiwan AI Labs one, is designed so that even the health authority has no idea, and you make your own decision.

  • What’s unique about the hackathon? What do they have that nobody else has?

  • About the hackathon, the topics is collaboratively designed by a scalable listening device called Polis. We ask people from different jurisdictions about how to make a smooth transition post-coronavirus, how to protect vulnerable populations, and how to communicate the risk, and things like that.

  • For each and every topic, there is different social norms going. We can read this, like for example, let’s see. There’s actually many very interesting ideas here. Like this is actually a GPS, so within a city, we update in the city degree so that the individual fine-grained epidemic level cooperation…

  • Incorporating historical data, to make sure that people can, at a glance, see how many people infected are nearby you, essentially.

  • Is this a building, a site map of something?

  • Something like it. Group A likes the idea. Group B doesn’t like the idea at all. There’s different social norms. In some other group, there was a proposal from, I think, Bill Gates that basically said, “We need to triage people who come to ICU and calculate through artificial intelligence their potential remaining contribution to the society.”

  • Instead of on a first-come, first-serve basis, we need to prioritize people who have more remaining contribution to the society. That, again, is very polarizing.

  • Sounds very Orwellian.

  • Very polarizing. [laughs] The unique thing about this is that those polarizing ideas, there’s no reply button, so you can’t have a fight over it. We’d only take as our call for hackathon only things that managed to convince people across the aisle, the things that has a broad social consensus.

  • For example, this one about mental health recovery and logistics, and making sure that we can connect the mental health helpers with the people in quarantine or people in isolation to identify what they need from the community support. This is something that everybody agrees and so on.

  • What I’m trying to get is that there’s different social norms at work here. What is working in the US may not work in Taiwan and vice-versa, but what works in the coastal states in US doesn’t necessarily work in other states in the US.

  • We only look at the various different opinion groups, but even though some may have as few as one person. Then we just make sure that we only address as common topics, as winning topics.

  • All the winning topics need to provide both why it’s solving a commonly identified issue, and also, importantly, that there is no legal violation, that it doesn’t run against the Taiwan privacy…

  • Yeah, personal data protection laws. For example, there was a proposal that says there should be an app that enable contact tracers to walk door-to-door to identifying the highly risk people and forcibly quarantine them.

  • That actually is against the law here in Taiwan. Even though there may be consensus, we don’t do that topics. If things are greenlight, it means that no legal dispute. If there’s yellow light, then the authority need to step in and say that only within this strictly confined legal interpretation do this technology become legal, respecting of privacy, and fundamental human rights.

  • Even the very simple thing of having those like light bulbs, it’s very important so that you can see the consensual ideas are somewhat guided by those blue, green ticks, meaning that this is validated, as there’s no legal disputes involved.

  • This is still very important, because we want to emerge from this even more democratic and even more respecting of human rights.

  • How many hackathon participants so far?

  • It’s done. We gave our awards. It’s about 200 innovators, 53 proposals, from seven countries, in a very short time frame, like a week.

  • Is there a single winner?

  • No, there’s five winners, and each one of them received the prize.

  • Are you going to take their ideas?

  • Yeah, and developing it. This is essentially just making sure that our CECC, whenever they need something of that sort to solve that sort of issue, they now know who already have a proof of concept.

  • Or even in the case of Gemini Data, this entire product that already fits the bill, and it’s crowd-approved, like this is something that our society is willing to accept. The social acceptance is even more important than the technical capability. These are the six winners.

  • It’s Co-hack Taiwan.

  • OK, .tw. I can find myself, then. Which of these, who’s from Taiwan?

  • I think Gemini Data is US. Autonomy is Bitmark, which I think it’s based in Taiwan, but with international team. Lockboard, I think, is entirely Taiwan. Interdisciplinary Laboratory, I’m not so sure about their combination. White Advance is a Taiwanese company.

  • Nice. Thanks for that. Anything else that’s worth pointing out?

  • No, that’s pretty much. All right, thank you.

  • Cohack.tw. OK, thank you.