The concept of an API (application programming interface) is not a new one, yet it is only in the past decade or so that they have risen to prominence and spread their influence over a huge range of digital systems and services.
In principle, APIs simply offer a means of allowing separate systems to communicate with one another, sharing data to enable and enrich a range of features. So how are APIs impacting the digital transformation strategies of modern businesses and what might the future hold for this technology?
Perhaps the most potent aspect of modern APIs is that they allow businesses to tap into existing resources so that they can turn their concepts for digital services into functional apps without having to go to the trouble of building every single aspect in-house.
For example, it is easy for third parties to take advantage of the geocoding capabilities of the Google Maps API, harnessing them to add location-based facets to a mobile or web app that makes it easier for customers to find and navigate to their locations. For smaller firms it would be impossible to generate, store and organize all of the relevant mapping data on their own, but with the help of an API it is the work of milliseconds to call up important information and leverage it effectively.
This is the kind of powerful tool that has allowed start-ups like Uber to grow rapidly, since they can essentially take existing services and use them to fulfil their ambitions, rather than having to start from scratch. The speed with which prototypes can be created gives small organizations and even individual entrepreneurs an amazing amount of agility and flexibility, putting them on a level playing field with much larger rivals.
It is not just purely digital products and services which can be facilitated through API technology; a growing number of industrial processes are being transformed thanks to the interoperability of disparate systems that it affords.
One of the most important ways in which APIs are fuelling automation is through the combination of cloud-powered artificial intelligence solutions like IBM’s Watson and the kind of processes and data that are generated and associated with the manufacturing industry. Since developers can reliably tap into vastly powerful AI ecosystems, it is straightforward to derive actionable insights from data and in turn optimize or even entirely automate aspects of production, combining the digital with the manual in a fresh, efficient way.
Improving project management
With a wealth of digital tools at its disposal, any modern business can overhaul its approach to the projects that it takes on and ensure that team members are able to communicate and collaborate with one another unhindered, whether they share the same office space or are working from different parts of the world.
At the heart of this digital transformation of project management and communication you will find API technology, since it is often necessary to ensure that the apps which catalyze collaboration are able to easily share data from different sources without butting up against any complications related to compatibility.
From voice calls and instant messaging to file sharing and progress tracking, almost anything can be achieved more quickly and with fewer obstacles to overcome in the digital age. Most importantly of all, it is the job of an API to make sure that the experience for the end user is as seamless as possible, even if under the surface there are actually a multitude of different services being orchestrated at the same time to deliver the desired functions of an app.