Guest Post: Restlet’s CEO Paul Doscher on the API Economy
How important are APIs in today’s digitally driven economy? They’re plenty important, and Paul Doscher (seen here), CEO of Restlet, has put some metrics on the concept.
Restlet offers a comprehensive and integrated set of capabilities to design, develop and deploy APIs, including doing so in the cloud, easily and hassle-free. We caught up with Doscher, who identifies himself as “old surfer dude” in addition to CEO, for a guest post on the state of the API economy.
Here are his thoughts.
Embracing Speed in the API Economy
by Paul Doscher, Old Surfer Dude and CEO of Restlet
Expedia generates 90 percent of its revenue through its API. Too frequently, though, writers citing that number state it and move on without acknowledging the breadth and variety of professionals who employ APIs to fuel their businesses. Accenture believes that every business, regardless of its field or focus, is a digital business. Every digital business needs APIs to keep up with the speed of technology and customer expectations.
Sixty percent of Salesforce.com traffic arrives through APIs. Netflix receives over five billion daily requests for its public APIs. If all these numbers aren't enough to convince you of the importance of APIs for digital businesses, how about this one? IBM estimates that the API economy will become a $2.2T market by 2018.
Application Programming Interfaces
API stands for Application Programming Interface. APIs basically connect software to other software, serving as a kind of translation and request hub for the flow of data. If you go on your phone and ask for the weather in Beijing, or for census information in Mexico City, an API will be used to process your request and retrieve the relevant information for you. APIs also integrate with hardware to provide the functionality you see in many connected (IoT) devices. When you want to retrieve the data from an IoT device, mostly likely an API will be used to funnel it over to you.
That's on the consumer side of things. And even though the convenience of an API makes data retrieval a breeze for consumers, we should get down to why these interfaces are important to businesses.
APIs allow you to retrieve data, but the manipulation of that data can be put to work in new ways that accelerate the development process for businesses. APIs were previously developed for strictly internal use, or for consumer applications. But now they're being created with a developer-friendly mindset, which is leading to an increase in development speed and reusability.
The closer we get to a truly connected world, the more data there is to sift through. Businesses that recognize the value of APIs are monetizing this data by making responses through APIs fast and clean. Tons of this data is stored in isolated applications within the enterprise, and APIs help satisfy customer demands for the data by unlocking that data and getting it in the hands of customers. These interfaces also extend the businesses' reach by leveraging the development relationships they create, using the relationships to develop new business models and ways to monetize their services. If that seems vague, look at Salesforce's AppExchange Partner Program. They were able to turn developer access to their API into a new business model and solid revenue stream.
APIs are capable of driving business models. They can be leveraged as a product that's the star of a company instead of a worker behind the scenes. At the very least, APIs help customer- and developer-focused companies reduce turnaround time across a wide array of interactions. Agile development and customer expectations are all about speed, and both getting to market and responding to customers' needs can be assisted deftly with smart API engagement.
APIs in Today's Business
Instead of only existing as the by-product of smart business decisions, APIs can also actively change the way businesses operate. Development cycles can be made more agile and companies don't have to be as reliant on their own data as they used to. The API economy is one that's focused on sharing – sharing the APIs themselves, but also giving others access to data they don't own via APIs. This is all part of developing within a developer-friendly ecosystem, and the sharing economy is one that benefits everyone involved.
Those who aren't getting involved with APIs are being left behind. Creating interfaces can be a huge development speed bump, but the reusability of APIs means that these companies don't have to waste time developing from scratch whenever they start a new project. Everyone is trying to speed up the pace of their businesses and APIs are a great way to do it. When businesses open up their APIs, they're no longer reliant solely on their own team for innovation. In a way, it's free R&D, but it's also acknowledging that more eyes on a problem can lead to more creative, diverse, and frequently efficient and agile solutions.
APIs in Tomorrow's Business
In the near future, businesses will have to deal with a massive influx of data from IoT and smart cities. There are currently 6 billion devices connected to the Internet, and Gartner predicts that number will rise to 25 billion by 2020. These devices include smartphones, cars, light bulbs, HVAC and more. The data will come in from all directions and at an ever increasing pace and density. 80% of this data is unstructured, and APIs will be absolutely necessary to manage the retrieval of data.
The amount of data across so many disparate segments and services will offer immense new opportunities in ways to engage the customer. In the connected world, consumers will be retrieving data from myriad devices at all times, and the profits from IoT hardware will come from the APIs that control the retrieval process. Collecting data doesn't mean anything if you can't provide your customers with a simple and intuitive way to access and engage with it.
Cities themselves are getting in on the action with APIs. With the rise of smart city initiatives around the world, city governments have the potential to drastically improve infrastructure and the efficiency of services if they're able to actually parse the data. The current trends in smart parking, smart traffic lights, smart garbage collection, and even bike rental kiosks, all need to capitalize on the access and management that APIs offer in order to be successful in meeting their deployment goals.
Pretty much everyone is embracing APIs – telecom, finance, travel, cities, public works, and tons of other businesses and services are using APIs to drive development, efficiency, and innovation. And the reason for it is the demand of the customer (or in city cases – resident). The connected world and smart cities will insist that companies and municipalities speed up their development times to meet the response and efficiency requirements of the people engaging with them.