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APIs What are they and how can you benefit?

The term API is bandied around everywhere.  Everyone has heard of the acronym but what are they and what are they for?

What is an API?

API stands for Application Programming Interface.  An API is a piece of software code which allows you to interface one piece of software with another.  API’s are often used to allow you to safely and securely access data from one platform for use on a different platform.  Google Maps API is one example along with twitter, eBay and many others.

If you have data within your organisation that you want to share, you can create an API to let people access your data with their own software.  Similarly you can access data through the use of other peoples APIs

What is an API used for and why use them

API’s allow one piece of software to interface with another piece of software.  The API defines the method for this interface and the interchange of data.  They have risen in popularity as they provide a way of making data available to other programs without exposing the core software of the system.  Their primary function is to provide a safe and secure interface between systems

How do you use an API?

You can only really access an API using suitable software programming languages.  If you are creating your own API you will have one written which defines how you would like people to interface with your information / data and what you want them to have access to.  If you are accessing a third parties API you will need to decide what you want the data for and how you want to integrate this with information and data you may have or how you want to display the data you receive.

An example would be Google Maps API where you can access the mapping software for display of specific mapped areas, you can then overlay your own data on the maps by means of their API.

Realise the value of your data?

You may have some data in your organisation that could be of use to your clients or prospective clients. In this situation your data is valuable to them.  An API to that data may provide your customers or partners access to that information which in return may help their business become more efficient. 

An example would be that you sold products wholesale to a few hundred retail outlets across the country, you could provide the details of your products via an API so that all of the outlets could use this for their own businesses or websites, putting their own branding around the data.

Monetise your API

If you have some real unique and valuable data, you could sell access to your API providing a security and validity check before people can access the data.  This means that you could monetise the valuable data you have and apply one of the many payment options.

Use other peoples APIs

In the main people will tend to make use of other peoples data and APIs to help them become more efficient or to incorporate into their business model

Could I benefit from using an API?

If you think you have some data which you need to share outside of your business or you would like to make use of an API that another business has which can then make your business perform more efficiently in return, please contact me to discuss how I can help you make that API work for your business.

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Blog Author

Mark Carver, Director of Activ-STEP  has over 25 years of technology marketing experience,  with the last 14 years running his own successful technology marketing agency.  Mark prides himself on his attention to detail and the ability to deliver projects to cost and time pressures.  Mark has completed numerous projects over the past 14 years, whilst at Activ-STEP.  Clients have benefitted from his strategic perspective to marketing as well as an excellent understanding of technology and how it can be applied.

Mark is now using his skills to build web based database applications to help businesses improve their data security, accessability, communication and efficiency.  Mark has built numerous websites and associated applications which have taken the data from a spreadsheet and built a web based apps.

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