If there’s one thing you’ve learned so far, it should be that a complete IoT system requires many different components all working closely together. We’ve explored the hardware that collects data, the connectivity that sends that data, and now the cloud and IoT platforms that ingest that data to make it useful.
However, even at just the cloud level there is a need for systems to communicate and work together and that’s what Application Program Interfaces (APIs) make possible. This is especially important for programs because they can be written in different languages, so APIs provide a means for different programs to overcome the “language barrier”.
In addition, APIs mean that users of your system don’t need to leave your system to use another organization’s application. For example, by using weather.com’s API, you can request current weather data and display it on your site or app for users. That way users can get weather information without having to leave your site or app and go to weather.com.
Also, APIs reduce complexity. When you use an API to request something from an application, many complex processes occur behind the scenes that you don’t have to worry about. You just get whatever it is that you requested in return.
A great example of this is the Alexa Voice Service API. Individual developers can’t build Natural Language Processing like Alexa, but instead they can use Alexa’s API to make tools based on it. So rather than needing to figure out how to take speech and understand the meaning (which is really hard), developers can focus on cool new applications that involve voice control.
APIs are hugely important to the Internet of Things. APIs allow companies to focus on their own expertise, plugging in the tools and programs of other companies as needed to create an IoT product/service that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
And this also means that you can build a business by creating an API that’s extremely valuable for other organizations to use. If you’re a city, you may have data on foot traffic or vehicle traffic that could help local businesses or create new services to provide value to residents.