Why you need to enter the API economy right now
Avsharn Bachoo, CIO at Comair, talks about the exponential potential of APIs
Innovating at an accelerated rate is the key to succeeding in today’s rapidly changing digital world. In recent years, many organisations have smartly adopted APIs (application programming interfaces) to enable digital transformation. Although there is much hype about APIs at the moment, APIs have actually been around for decades. So why the sudden interest?
Firstly, the explosion of cloud computing has made supercomputing accessible to the masses. Once you have implemented your cloud computing foundation, digital transformation requires the integration of very diverse applications to work in harmony… enter APIs. Simply put, an API is like a waiter in a restaurant. The waiter takes your order (request) to the kitchen (the system) and returns with your food (the response). This is a game-changer for organisations because you simply deal with a waiter and avoid the complexity of running a kitchen. APIs allow different systems to talk to each other in a seamless fashion, without the need for organisations to build their own heavyweight systems.
The potential of the API economy is exponential. APIs create radical ways for businesses to streamline how they engage with multiple partners to deliver innovative and efficient solutions and options to customers. For example, a big challenge in the airline industry is how to integrate information across all customer channels in order to create a smooth and easy customer experience. An airline such as kulula.com uses APIs to allow its customers to seamlessly search for flights, make bookings, check in, select meal preferences, choose baggage options and even book cars and hotels at their destination.
In the past a business could only integrate with ‘the big guys’ because of the complexity of connecting to each other – but that is no longer the case. APIs enable businesses to easily use products and services from other organisations that would otherwise take too long to build themselves. A good example is the Google Maps API, which allows thousands of companies around the world to harness Google Maps data rather than recreating it themselves, which would be extremely laborious and expensive. APIs help level the playing field and simultaneously enable SMEs to scale up.
In addition to cloud computing, complex digital transformation initiatives such as robotics, AI technologies, virtual reality and IOT – to name a few – require APIs to perform the heavy lifting. Behind the scenes, APIs allow different sites and their data to connect and interact with each other. This API architecture ultimately facilitates lower costs, new revenue streams and new innovations for an organisation. One of the most popular API development platforms, Postman, has seen API numbers double over the past year; with now over 50 million API collections, its growth continues to explode.
This is not to suggest that APIs are a silver bullet. No technology is a panacea. The biggest challenge is the complexity of the initial set-up of an API platform. A successful API platform requires meticulous architecture and conscious design, employing technologies such as an API gateway and middleware, not to mention a solid cloud foundation. Selection of API protocols such as REST, JSON or GraphQL also need to be made. Once these architectural building blocks are in place, the sky is the limit. Organisations can truly now design their own futures.