To Get Value From the IoT, Take APIs Seriously

By Abhijit Kabra

Everybody’s talking about the Internet of things (IoT), and rightly so. It’s bringing about a revolution in the way we live and work, and the potential it holds for not only running businesses more efficiently, but also creating new revenue streams and models for enterprises, is enormous.

However, in order to get the full benefit of the IoT, enterprises must have some vital technological and infrastructural elements in place, including a well-thought-out strategy for the Application Program Interface (API). Businesses are starting to realize the impact that connecting previously “dumb” physical objects with embedded sensors and data transfer capabilities could have on their futures.

To truly realize the value of the IoT, they will need to make the data being collected accessible and useful. Because of this, APIs are starting to move out from the shadows of the back office and into the forefront of an enterprise’s digital strategy.

Data Makes the World Go Round

It’s unlikely that a business can become truly digital—and, by doing so, take full advantage of the IoT and the additional data it will create—without an ecosystem. As the “Accenture Technology Vision 2015” noted, pioneering companies are tapping into a broad array of other digital businesses, digital customers, and digital devices and platforms, to create new digital ecosystems.

Having a comprehensive API strategy will help to develop such an ecosystem, by allowing external developers, as well as internal teams, to have access to potentially valuable data on which new services can be built, and/or real-time insights can be generated through APIs.

APIs make application development agile and cut down the time to market. They also make the application make decisions intelligently and suggest the “next best action” to its user.

For example, many mobile apps that help people find their way around a city are based on data made available by local transportation organizations and authorities. They have the potential to significantly improve a user’s experience of a transportation system in a city, but could also become revenue streams for organizations other than the data-owning business—as well as enterprising individuals with access to the relevant data sets.

Up to now, APIs have proved useful for mobile apps to operate in an efficient, seamless and real-time manner. Increasingly, as IoT-based products and services become more widely used inside enterprises, it is becoming important for businesses to build a healthy developer ecosystem (whether internal, external or a combination), in order to offer an excellent and often innovative experience to both consumers and enterprise users.

Enterprises looking to derive the most value from the IoT will need to decide if and how they are going to ensure their data is accessible—not just to themselves, but to partners who might create valuable services for their ecosystem. To ensure that this is possible and a long-term capability, a comprehensive API strategy must be in place.

APIs Empower and Expand a Workforce

Internally, APIs enable product teams to develop and maintain apps, and to get the best results for their users by ensuring constant access to the most up-to-date information, wherever those users may be. Externally, offering open APIs can enable a workforce greater than a business’ own, bringing all the benefits of crowd-sourcing innovation and an audience that wouldn’t be possible if APIs weren’t made available to developers outside a business.

Enterprises need to be asking and answering the right questions as they look to address APIs as part of their digital strategies. However, knowing which questions to ask and determining how to go about getting the right answers may not be that simple.