FS Fives: Friday, May 27

Welcome to the latest FS Fives – FutureScot’s lunchtime round-up of Scottish digital news.

First up, we bring you news of a nifty new tool from the developers at Skyscanner, who have integrated their flights search function within Facebook’s Messenger app.
People will be able to access the information via the Skyscanner Facebook page – by sending a PM – before being able to chat with its ‘clever bot’; even if you’re not sure where to go the bot will throw up ideas based on flight routes available from your nearest airport.
Once an option is selected the bot will send a link which routes users to the main site where they can book the flight. The move is part of a growing ‘services integration’ shift within social media, which has taken off massively in places like China, where you can book taxis and cinema tickets via their equivalent to What’s App, WeChat.
Skyscanner is thought to be the first travel search engine to officially launch a Facebook Messenger Bot. With an average of 50 million travellers searching flights on Skyscanner each month, the Edinburgh-headquartered firm believes it is the “next step towards making travel as hassle-free as possible for everyone”.
The firm said on its site: “With more than 900 million monthly active users, it’s easy to see the potential in Facebook Messenger and why Facebook has made developing these clever bots a high priority for developers – some people are even saying that messaging bots are the biggest innovation in the tech since the introduction of the Apple App store.”

Next, we bring you news of a rather disturbing (for humans at least) industrial relations story from China. Foxconn, the controversial factory which manufactures the iPhone – among many hardware devices – has revealed it has replaced 60,000 workers at its production facilites and replaced them with robots. The Taiwan-headquartered company, whose labour practices came under scrutiny in 2010 following revelations about the high suicide rate among workers at its plant, has “reduced employee strength from 110,000 to 50,000 thanks to the introduction of robots”, according to government official who spoke to the South China Morning Post.
Thirty-five Taiwanese companies, including the Apple supplier, spent a total of 4 billion yuan (HK$4.74 billion) on artificial intelligence last year, said the Kunshan government’s publicity department.
“The Foxconn factory has reduced its employee strength from 110,000 to 50,000, thanks to the introduction of robots. It has tasted success in reduction of labour costs,” said the department’s head Xu Yulian.

Aridhia Informatics, the healthcare analytics firm, has announced that it will take part in research trials in one of the Netherland’s ‘most prestigious’ university medical centres.
The Edinburgh-based company has revealed plans to take part in a consortium-led study with the aim of facilitating biomedical research on an “unprecedented scale”.
According to the firm’s website it will join ICT service provider Vancis and clinical datasets experts MGRID as they embark on a three-year project to deliver their Research as a Service (RaaS) platform to Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre (UMC).
“The RaaS platform will provide a data management and biomedical analytics environment for up to 1600 clinical research projects over the next 3 years enabling Radboud UMC to accelerate the delivery of clinical research studies into clinical practice. The goal is to help researchers rapidly extract value and meaning from multiple data types, improve collaboration, reduce risks to data security, and deliver fast time to insight, all while lowering costs, and ensuring reproducibility and scalability of research,” said the company.

Are tech stocks overvalued? With the video sharing social network Snapchat raising $1.8bn in its latest funding round, and observers saying the firm’s valuation could rise to a mind-blowing $20bn (off the back of just $60m in revenues), we’ll leave that for you to decide. That would mean Snapchat is now worth more than 250 times its revenues, when Facebook is only worth about 17 times its annual revenues, according to Fortune. The news was broken by TechCrunch which obtained a leaked pitch deck revealing the Los Angeles-based company’s revenue and forecasts. The data revealed that the company projections will be between $250 million and $350 million for 2016, and between $500 million and as much as $1 billion for 2017.

And finally…Ian Rankin, the well-known Edinburgh author of the Rebus crime novels, was involved in a somewhat bizarre mixup with the Amazon complaints forum. We’re not quite sure how but his novel, The Complaints, has apparently been mistakenly used by customers for official moans to the e-commerce giant, according to a Times diary story. “Please be advised, this is a discussion forum for Ian Rankin’s book, The Complaints, and not an Amazon complaints forum,” said the site. “If you have a query regarding Amazon, please visit our help pages.”