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How APIs Unlock Value from the IoT

Aug 26, 2015

WIth the Internet of Things, most people focus on the “things”—they often forget about the “internet” part. After all, devices fitted with sensors that control other devices have been around for a long time: there’s the garage door opener controlled by the remote in your car, for instance.

But what makes the IoT different from traditional machine-to-machine (M2M) communication is the “internet” part of the equation. This makes the IoT vastly more complicated—from a technical, operations, and business perspective. APIs make the IoT simpler and play a pivotal role in accelerating the pace at which we unlock value from the IoT.

Ease software developers into the world of the IoT

Unlocking value from the IoT requires vast numbers of software developers to program devices and build connected experiences using data streaming from sensors and actuators. Traditionally, software developers’ and hardware developers’ worlds rarely collided—until now. For software developers to work with devices requires them to step out of their comfort zone and learn both how hardware works and the protocol it speaks.

Learning this for one thing and one protocol is doable, but doing it for millions of pieces of hardware and hundreds of protocol variants is impractical. Asking hardware developers to step out of their embedded programming specialization to focus on building state-of-the-art mobile apps and experiences isn’t practical, either. Making it easier for software developers to work with connected things without needing to know the its intricacies or protocol will make the IoT more accessible to developers.

APIs solve this challenge beautifully, because they abstract the thing and expose it as an interface, enabling developers to program devices just like they work with existing backend systems when building mobile apps. To a software developer, turning on a light bulb now looks exactly like adding data to an SAP system.

Enable disparate devices to communicate easily

Unlocking the IoT’s value also requires things to interact with other things even when they were never imagined to do so. It’s one thing to design a closed system where the system is built for a predefined list of things to interact with each other, like the garage door opener remote in your car that only communicates with the garage door opener.

It’s much more complex to design a system where any device can interact with any other device, even if it’s something that wasn’t designed when the first thing was deployed. With billions of connected devices expected to come online by 2020, this is the reality we face. APIs not only make this possible, but also straightforward. APIs, by definition, make it easy for devices to talk to one another using simple, well-designed interfaces.

Grow ecosystems

Unlocking the value from the IoT requires the tthings to participate fully in connected digital experiences that seamlessly connect different siloed experiences and blur traditional trust boundaries. This is analogous to authorizing an app to access your Facebook data to enable new connected experiences.

With delegated authorization, devices and mobile experiences can seamlessly blend in with other digital and mobile experiences. APIs make it easy for developers and partners to securely access your devices and build ecosystems around them.

Make the economics work

Finally, operating connected things means additional ongoing costs to manage and operate the new infrastructure. This shift from a “build and forget” things business to a “connect and improve” IoT business represents a major change for most traditional enterprises. To make the economics work requires enabling new business models and revenue opportunities previously not possible.

APIs enable a new digital channel where data streaming from devices can be easily measured, shared, and monetized.

Unlock value from the IoT with APIs

At Apigee, we’ve long been promoting the benefits of an API-first approach to accelerate digital transformation. We see the same benefits with the IoT, and they’re even more amplified given the larger scale of the IoT. None of this is possible, however, without every device having an API, and without it being easy for devices to interact with each other to create new connected experiences. That’s where Apigee Link comes in. Apigee Link provides a built-in REST API for many disparate devices. It makes it easy for any device maker to get a world class REST API for their connected things. Without that API, the connected things are constrained in what they can do, and the IoT remains a dream.

To learn more about Apigee Link visit /about/products/apigee-link. And for a first-hand, immersive IoT experience, visit the IoT Innovation Showcase at I Love APIs 2015, the biggest event of the year dedicated to APIs and digital business strategy.


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