Imagine the Potential of Connected Data
After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:
- Explain how the value of data and functionality improves with API-led integration.
- Explain five key attributes of API-led connectivity.
Change What You Know About Connectivity
Let’s talk about connectivity. It’s what the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and other modern technologies have in common. In this sense, we’re not talking about everyday Wi-Fi or mobile phone signals. Instead, this connectivity is a form of integration that involves the exchange of rich data and functionality. It’s repeatable, contextual, scalable, and the value of the data often improves with each new integration.
For example, some of the most popular devices in IoT are fitness bands and smartwatches. These devices can generate a lot of data about your activity, sleep, elevation, heart rate, location, and more. In most cases, as that data is generated, it’s stored on the device until the device can connect to a smartphone. Then, that data goes to the cloud for longer-term storage. But it doesn’t stop there, and it shouldn’t.
While it sits on your wrist with no connection to a smartphone or the cloud, you can review the data, but usually with some limitations. Once the data is synchronized with your smartphone via API, it gets more valuable.
Through a smartphone app, you start to get an overview of your activity, along with some useful visualizations and suggestions depending on your goals. You can answer questions such as: How is my sleep this week compared to last week? Is my activity improving over time? How is my heart rate trending as my fitness improves? What should I do next?
Once that data is synchronized with a larger database in the cloud, an ecosystem involving other services starts to take shape. You can use APIs to make that data available to other platforms. For example, share the data with your healthcare provider for tailored guidance, or with your insurance company who gives you a discount based on certain fitness achievements.
While the entire process may have started with your personal contribution of fitness data associated with one event (a workout, or a night’s sleep), it can evolve into an ecosystem with a lot of value. Most importantly, the integrations across that ecosystem have been very deliberately designed, and then enabled by APIs. The smartwatch manufacturer finds more success than it ever would without this API-driven customer experience.
- The manufacturer's products become best in class, attracting new customers.
- New customers equates to revenue growth.
- Customers get a better overall experience and are more brand loyal.
- New avenues of partnership are open between the manufacturer and healthcare/insurance providers.
- More innovative opportunities present themselves, with gyms, financial institutions, and other stakeholders interested in finding ways to connect.
And so on.
Discover Five Key Attributes of API-Led Connectivity
Let’s review the key attributes of this scenario.
Connectivity-in-context: Unlike a generic, any-purpose Wi-Fi connection, there’s a specific context for connectivity that has to do with the generation, storage, transmission, and retrieval of fitness data. In many cases, the same data and functionality can serve multiple contexts—the same set of healthcare data is useful in both a caregiving context and an insurance context.
Repeatable: Within the context of fitness, the value of the API-led connection is quickly and easily repeated across the ecosystem’s many stakeholders. But on a much broader level, while this fabric of applications, data, and things is an example for a specific context (fitness), it’s also an easily repeated process for other contexts. The ability to apply connected-fabric-type thinking is one of the keys to the mindset of Trailblazers who see the transformative potential of API-led integration. These Integration Trailblazers should intuitively ask themselves what sort of connected-fabric of capabilities will result in the best possible outcomes regardless of whether those capabilities are core competencies of the organization or not.
Purpose-built: The connectivity between devices and services is built with a set of agreed-upon and purpose-built standards. In the example above, the connection is built for the purposes of tracking and using fitness data to help improve health. This helps with the flow of data from a fitness band or smartwatch, to a smartphone, to charting software at the doctor’s office and so on.
Scalable: There should be no technical limitations to the number of providers or consumers of value who can participate in the ecosystem. For example, as long as companies make fitness bands and smartwatches, anyone can buy one and participate without affecting the ecosystem’s performance or value.
When aided by citizen integration tools that understand the various purpose-built contexts to which the data applies (fitness, healthcare, etc.), non-programmers can design and build their own integrations using clicks instead of code. This further scales the reach of the ecosystem and expands the opportunity to democratize innovation.
Reciprocal: While not required, there is often an exchange of value among all people and services in the ecosystem. Everyone profits in a meaningful way. In this use case, you’re improving your health, and your doctor and insurance company can help you along in that journey. In another use case, it can be a coffee farmer using blockchain to ensure their beans are traded at fair value, cafes can ensure their customers get the best coffee on the market, and coffee drinkers know exactly where their coffee is coming from. And so on.
The API-led connectivity that enables this network of applications, also known as an application network, is a foundational element of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.