APIs: The Gateways to the Connected World

Ever wonder how you can share music with your friends on Facebook through Spotify? Or how your Salesforce deployment can collect data from your enterprise resource planning application and compare it to historical customer purchases?

Welcome to the world of APIs
All you software development gurus out there know what's making the magic happen - application program interfaces. While people new to development would appreciate how amazing establishing such a succinct connection between two Web applications like Facebook and Spotify truly is, this type of cohesion only scratches the surface in regard to what an experienced software engineer can do with a versatile API.

Going one step further 
What if you enabled a piece of software - say, Salesforce - to go one step further? For instance, suppose you had an ERP program that sent a request to Salesforce asking it to compare projected sales data with the cost of manufacturing and delivering ski and snowboarding jackets to e-commerce customers and brick-and-mortar stores located in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming?

Obviously, a task of this magnitude requires the API to facilitate more function calls. Not to mention, the protocols needed to allow Salesforce and a run-of-the-mill ERP application to use the other's analytics functions become more complex if the ERP is written in a different code than Salesforce. If this is the case, messaging services middleware is required to allow the two solutions to interact.

APIs and the Internet of Things 
APIs are playing an integral role in the development and support of technologies associated with the IoT. Slash Gear's Chris Davies noted that French electronics developer Archos recently added IFTTT support to its Connected Home system, which is comprised of devices such as smart plugs, weather tags and motion sensors.

How does IFTTT add value to this system? For one thing, the API will enable Archos to add a smart function that allows its Smart Home solution to automate basic tasks like switching on a connected thermostat when a homeowner enters his or her house.

The real added value comes from IFTTT's ability to synchronize Archos' system with Foscam's wireless IP camera offering, which can be distributed as a security solution. For instance, when a person enters the home, a Foscam camera will automatically turn on and then send a live feed directly to Archos' Connected Home app.

While this particular solution is for the B2C consumer, the concept is just as applicable to smart factories. Imagine being able to use IFTTT to connect a production facility's smart operations solution to Google Docs, which would automatically register item output data, equipment malfunction information and a list of other insights.

Social media's use of APIs 
Many marketers may not realize just how important APIs are to their social media strategies. Every time a professional shares a blog about distribution management on LinkedIn or a teenager tweets a funny Christmas-themed video from a retailer, APIs are allowing such instances to occur.

Social Network SharingEver wonder how it's so easy for your customers to share your blogs on Facebook and LinkedIn?

Business 2 Community contributor Jason Bowden noted that social media platforms use APIs that enable companies to construct Web apps that will complement their own programming structures. In other words, the program on which your website functions can employ an API to establish a connection with a particular social media network, making information transfers between your website and Facebook, for example, incredibly easy.

FriendShuffle is one app that uses APIs to show users what their friends on Twitter and Facebook are watching and reading. Once FriendShuffle connects with one of the two social media platforms, you can click the "Shuffle" button to see the content your peers have "liked" or re-tweeted.

APIs arguably provide the backbone of the connected word, especially given the fact that they remove the boundaries imposed by different social media networks. Supporting and enhancing their capabilities will only allow business professionals to further take advantage of these assets.