Writers who want to emphasize the slowness of border processing describe the e-passport reading as a two-step process, using two distinct pieces of equipment. Firstly the MRZ (Machine Readable Zone) is read using an optical reader, and then the chip is read using a Radio Frequency (RF) reader. While this scenario is possible, there are a number of combined readers (optical and RF) on the market, which would carry out the two reads in a seamless manner. Use of the single combined reader is the preferred way for implementing e-passport reading.
See also, What happens at border control?
Courtesy the Keesing Journal, 2009