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2016 called, it wants its software spaghetti back

Mobile! APIs! Tesla! Oops. I just gave away the outline of this entire article. Do not stop reading, though. Many people (like, a lot) ramble on about the importance of software integration, mobile friendliness, and application program interfaces. What they tend to forget, however, is explaining why these concepts are so important. We all seem to know we should do something with data collection and APIs, but only a few of us seem to know why. I have a theory, and it has everything to do with customer trends, IT developments and my favorite car manufacturer in the States. In this article, I gladly share my view on the future of IT, which will be filled with exciting new services for both techies and consumers.

“Big data is everywhere, but we need ways to capture and translate it into useful information.”

Upside-down

APIs have conquered the world and have turned many industries upside down, like those in the IoT space. Thermostats transformed into personal assistants, cars changed into data centers on wheels. The latter was mainly due to the many ideas of Elon Musk and his people. They equipped the new Tesla cars with CPUs, cameras, many sensors and an equal number of APIs. This way, drivers receive real-time information on the weather outside, the driving behavior of others, the braking distances based on road conditions and the fuel efficiency of their own vehicle. Today, cars do not just bring us from A to B; they are starting to become true life companions that safely lead us through traffic, autumn storms and busy work days. They can, but only because of APIs. Big data is everywhere, but we need ways to capture and translate it into useful information that can be properly analyzed. This is the job of the API, which speaks all the device languages in the world and makes sense of the input that sensors and cameras gather. This sense-making is the reason behind the API popularity, as they pave the way for better services, smarter devices and real-time decision making.

“Why would we spend our evenings wandering around the city looking for that perfect pair of jeans, when Google already knows what we want and where to find it?”

Go where the people go

APIs have also set in motion another interesting development. Now that industry disrupters (Tesla, Uber, Netflix) use them to improve their services, suddenly everything seems possible. Customers carefully monitor all the innovations in IT land and are impatiently waiting for the next big invention. It has made them more critical, more demanding and more outspoken. Why would we use our precious time to walk to a bank and wait in line, when an online app can do the trick? Why would we spend our evenings wandering around the city looking for that perfect pair of jeans, when Google already knows what we want and where to find it? Today, consumers go their own way and all companies can do is follow them. I do not think this is a bad thing. I am a consumer myself and I believe IT should serve the end-user rather than trick him into buying stuff he does not need. At the same time, in a society where technological developments happen so rapidly, many companies are having a hard time surviving. Luckily, APIs have not only created a highly competitive environment; they are also the perfect weapon to gain a competitive advantage.

Getting APIs to work

APIs are just like revolving doors, meaning their success depends on many other factors. Thanks to recent developments in the field of battery duration, memory storage and digital antennas, they can now function to their full potential. This is where it gets very interesting. The internet of things is the perfect example (I recently launched an IoT book co-written by John Mathon, founder of Tibco). Now that IoT sensors (and their APIs) are equipped with powerful batteries, they can be deployed by pretty much everyone, meaning even small companies can join in the IoT and API revolution. This also means that a worldwide Wi-Fi network is within reach, just like faster networks, as devices can now choose between a couple of thousands of bandwidths (thank you digital antenna!). These are all major changes that will most definitely change both the world and your business. Think about it. Now that you have APIs, you can integrate all internal processes, your communication with chain partners and even with the government. One of my favorite examples is a Swiss transport company that uses APIs for online goods declarations. Whenever its truck drivers pass a border, information about the company, the driver’s personal details and the truck’s cargo is being sent to customs automatically. This is made possible by APIs and license plate recognition and it saves truck drivers a lot of time. It is so simple, yet so efficient.

“If you really want to disrupt your sector, you have to bring it.”

Success formula

Best practices like Tesla, Uber and the Swiss transport company suggest that API usage is a guarantee for more efficient production processes, more innovate products — and more ROI in the long run. But obviously, you need more than APIs. If you really want to disrupt your sector, you need to bring it. By this I mean that you should find ways to make sense of your software spaghetti and make it flexible, scalable and easy to integrate. To do this, you need three things:

  1. The cloud, so that you can easily store and exchange data
  2. API and identity and access management to monitor and secure everything you own
  3. Full stack automation, to automate your software development (because why spend time on building software when you should put all your time and energy in optimizing every single element?)

These three things are not nice-to-haves; they are essential to your success formula. Another concept I highly recommend is container technology, like the one by Docker, which packages everything you have in a way that you can build every application anywhere and at any time. You will need it. Partners, customers and end-users do not wait for you to finalize your applications, they want them now and they want them to be perfect. So if you want to shorten your time-to-market and still deliver perfect quality, you need to automate wherever you can. Yet again, APIs are your only option to do so. Our VP of Strategy John Mathon wrote a nice blog about containers and Docker: Containers are becoming the Lingua Franca of the cloud.

“When you do not delight your customers with new and better products, you should consider doing something else.”

Big ideas

Quite a challenge, this digital era! I personally do not mind it; I love the current innovation pace and I am impatiently waiting for new exciting things to happen. It inspires me to come up with better products and better services so our own customers can disrupt their sectors (and who knows, the entire world). To be honest, I do not think there is another way of doing business. If you do not innovate, fail to integrate your services and wait for your competitor’s next move, you will not survive another five years. What was good in 2016 is outdated by the time you read this article. It is the new way or nothing at all. When you do not delight your customers with new and better products that make their lives easier, you should consider doing something else. If you do have big ideas about your sector, the world and your end-user, on the other hand, you have a chance of success. All there is left for you to do is connect them to an API!

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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