APIs: What they are, where they come from – and why they are important! - Image by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are, quite literally, everywhere! They are used when booking a ticket to your favourite holiday destination, accessing an app on your mobile phone, social media, streaming platforms or making payments online. APIs are an indispensable and exceptionally large part of our digital footprint and an intrinsic part of our everyday lives.

What are they?

APIs are an extremely reliable and secure way to communicate effectively between two disparate systems. APIs allow certain applications to access data and services from external entities – be it third party consumers, internal users or simply systems looking for data. Please do not confuse them with the source of information itself. Rather, an API is a ‘software intermediary’ that acts as a messenger. It receives incoming requests and passes them onto the appropriate system or software that then completes the request.

Where do APIs come from?

Dating as far back as the start of the World Wide Web, APIs have been around for many years. However, the key difference today is how they are now used. Originally they used an XML-based data exchange standard (known today as Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP)). This method dictated a specific format required for data communication over the web. Today, APIs have become increasingly intertwined with web services, allowing them to function more intricately with the established network of interactive interfaces constantly looking for data. The result – a myriad of different systems, applications, and platforms able to connect and share data, in turn, enabling a myriad of different functions.

Five reasons why APIs are transforming the business landscape

  • Improved Collaboration
    APIs help organisations build better connectivity with other businesses. It improves collaboration, thereby providing companies with additional options and opportunity. These offer the potential to reach new markets and innovative strategies. Without APIs, connectivity is difficult – resulting in a far more siloed work environment and a far smaller world.
  • Secure Data Transmission
    APIs are essentially responsible for opening safe gateways to a wide range of systems. The simplicity and security of data exchange with APIs are almost unparalleled, with APIs designed specifically with security in mind to ensure far more reliable and effective data handling.
  • Easier Integration
    Compatible across different applications and systems, APIs allow for cross-platform integration. This enables a diverse data-driven environment capable of executing various tasks and processes in real-time.
  • Improved Automation
    APIs can automate a substantial portion of manual processes. As a result, companies can eliminate manual workflows allowing them to improve the transition between linked applications and services.
  • Enhanced Customer Experience
    We live in an increasingly customer-driven world, with a growing demand for a faultless customer experience. APIs enable organisations to offer a personalised, one-stop digital experience geared to not only improve customer relationships but, by so doing, aid customer retention.

Types of APIs

Currently, web APIs are the most widely used, with some examples of the most common types included below:

  • Open APIs have defined endpoints, requests, and response formats for developers. As the name suggests, an Open API (also known as public APIs) allows external users access securely with few restrictions.
  • Partner APIs are only accessible by business partners. These are not publicly available, and users require proper credentials and authorisation to access them.
  • Internal APIs are strictly intended for use within company limits, with no access granted to any external parties. Internal APIs help improve a company’s communication and operational processes.
  • Composite APIs combine multiple data sources and services and can access several endpoints in a single API call/ exchange. This makes them well suited for requests involving data from multiple sources.

Essential Protocols

For systems to effectively exchange information, there needs to be an ‘agreement’ as to how the information will be structured and how each side will send it. These protocols (sets of rules or procedures) have been defined to standardise the specifics necessary for using APIs:

  • REST (Representational State Transfer) is one of the most popular protocols that API architectures need to adhere to. It includes certain specifications such as client-server architecture, statelessness, and a layered communication system.
  • SOAP is a communication-neutral protocol and can be used over HTTP, SMTP, TCP and more. It makes data transfer and sharing between components running in different environments much easier and is independent of any single programming language.
  • XML-RPC and JSON-RPC are both simple remote procedural call protocols, with one using the XML format and the other JSON. Even if the call contains multiple parameters, only one response or result is expected.

APIs – today and tomorrow

APIs are evolving quickly. They provide the means by which organisations can connect information sources to end-user devices. With improved connectivity, organisations can leverage their data assets to provide timely data to consumers using APIs. Monetising these APIs is also arguably the biggest contributor to the API economy.

Contact Symtrax today to find out exactly how to monetise your data using APIs.

symtraxAt Symtrax, we help businesses accelerate its transition towards the digital future it envisions and needs!

We realise that digital transformation is about so much more than simply upgrading a single piece of technology for one process. The combined effort of multiple technologies able to work together, albeit on disparate systems, is what truly contributes towards effective (and holistic) digital transformation. And it is here where the value, and the sweet spot, lies.

Our collaborative approach allows organisations to harvest the most out of its resources, improving efficiencies without comprising security. Using automation, our document management services help to reduce manual dependences – making data management easier (cloud and on-premises).

Further, our direct integration with ERPs (API-based) ensures a direct communication channel with the system, delivering automated data conversion that allows you to toggle between the data formats best suited to your business processes.

Our solution is powered with RPA capabilities and an integrated modern EDI solution for standard-specific document transmission.

As your business grows, scale your initiatives to match your changing requirements – maximising the value of digital document transformation.


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