Application programming interfaces, or APIs, are not just something tech-minded folks like to discuss while drinking IPAs. They form the backbone of modern connectivity, providing the key data-sharing link among disparate applications.
Have you ever wondered how online restaurant reservations work? Or how mobile payments are processed so seamlessly? Or how your favorite online store can tell you what’s in stock immediately? It’s all APIs. Working behind the scenes, APIs and API integration are critical for just about every industry.
Which Industries Benefit from APIs?
Every sector out there today depends on APIs in some capacity, both big and small. Here are just a few examples:
APIs in Finance & Banking
Many of today’s leading banks and financial institutions have been around for over a century, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t embraced 21st-century technology. As these institutions adopt mobile apps, digital payments, blockchain technology and more, APIs help to make all this a reality.
- Thanks to digital portals, online lending and investing is now a reality. Of course, these portals can function effectively with APIs behind the scenes to retrieve and update information from a myriad of databases. These same digital portals also rely on APIs to help customers find nearby locations and exchange currencies.
- Peer-to-peer payments transfer programs like Venmo and Chase QuickPay have taken off recently, especially among younger customers that prefer cashless payments. By linking bank accounts to these platforms through APIs, financial institutions can go a long way towards making their customers happier.
- Last year, more than 60 percent of Americans primarily checked their bank accounts digitally, according to numbers from Bank of America. Whether someone wants to check their balance on their smartphone, pay off a credit card bill online, see what loans they qualify for or transfer money between accounts, they’ll need APIs behind the scenes to make it happen.
- As banks and other financial institutions face increased pressure from fintech and alternative providers, many organizations are turning to advanced analytics to better meet the current and future needs of customers. For example, many use fraud analytics solutions to better pinpoint theft, and similar technology can help predict the upcoming needs of current customers. But, this kind of advanced analytical action relies on APIs for gathering a wide variety of data from many difference sources and databases.
“While most banks are leveraging APIs internally to improve information flow between legacy systems, many are still in the early stages of using them to incorporate functionality from business partners,” a recent Capgemini report explained. “However, APIs have the potential to strategically deliver innovation and functionality to the business by making their systems and data widely available to outside third parties, as well as creating new revenue streams for both organisations.”
APIs in Media & Publishing
In 2016, newspapers in the U.S. had a weekly circulation under 35 million. For comparison, circulation was more than 63 million in 1973, according to the Pew Research Center. While print is not dying, it has been declining for decades. To stay afloat, publishers and other media firms have embraced API-enabled technology to better meet the needs of today’s customers.
For starters, many publishing companies now rely on APIs to get content out the door:
- More effective ordering and communication with printers is facilitated through this technology.
- Most online publishing platforms rely on APIs to receive content from publishers and creators.
- Content syndication is dependent on APIs, with major publishers like The New York Times now creating their own custom APIs.
- Many people use mobile devices like tablets, smartphones and e-readers to receive and see content, and APIs help to bring content from the publisher or creator directly to the consumer’s hardware.
This is just the tip of the iceberg too, as everything from paying freelancers to distributing content across a variety of channels and offering customized suggestions for additional viewing options. Many modern media mavericks, like the founders of Netflix, owe their success in large part to APIs. Indeed, Zachary Seward, Executive Editor of online media platform Quartz, even once described the firm as “an API.”
APIs in Retail & e-commerce
Close to 80 percent of Americans have purchased at least one item online, the Pew Research Center has found, as e-commerce and mobile devices forever change the retail space.
- Most point-of-sale (POS) systems today have internet connectivity, with APIs helping to connect the POS with internal databases and bank-owned systems. APIs also help POS terminals accept payments from a wide variety of sources, including cash, cards and mobile devices like smart watches.
- Shops—both brick and mortar stores and e-commerce sites—use APIs to keep track of inventory. This technology ensures that customers can see if a desired item is in stock beforehand and that businesses can proactively keep supplies full.
- With e-commerce, a lot can go wrong in the process of getting an item to a customer’s front door. APIs help customers and companies track shipments and stay on top of packages.
- APIs also underpin much of what happens inside a physical store, including software that handles employee scheduling and analytics solutions that help determine when to stock seasonal items.
APIs in Education
Today’s students are more likely to be familiar with tablets than they are with Scantrons. As technology permeates the classroom at all levels, educators increasingly rely on APIs to power their tools and lessons.
- Grades and tests are now all done online, and APIs connect answers and scores to central databases for storage and analysis.
- As computers replace attendance rolls, student profiles, directories and other necessary housekeeping information, APIs ensure that software used always has the most accurate information. This is especially critical at the district level, with APIs forming a bridge between school-specific data and higher-level district oversight.
- In higher education, signing up for classes is now as easy as making a restaurant reservation or finding flight deals. APIs connected to these kinds of platforms provide students with up-to-date information on which classes have space for them and prerequisites.
- APIs also help teachers share lesson plans and develop curriculum collaboratively, serving as the engine powering file-sharing software and digital collaboration.
APIs in Healthcare
From diagnoses and care to billing and insurance, APIs are helping to power significant changes throughout healthcare.
- How medical facilities care for patients has changed dramatically over the past few years due to API-enabled technology. Databases of diseases and symptoms make it easier for doctors to diagnose patients, for example, while electronic health records allow medical facilities to keep track of vaccine records, previous tests and more with greater ease. Plus, through APIs, doctors can glean vital patient data from mobile devices like wearables to see how patients are doing outside of medical facilities.
- Hospital and medical office administration has been streamlined and made more efficient with APIs. Online portals make it easy for patients to find in-network care providers and book appointments. In medical facilities, APIs help administrators see where open beds are located and if a patient needs additional care before discharge, for instance. In addition, API-enabled technology creates a common platform through which multiple doctors can coordinate on the care needed for a particular patient.
- Insurers have benefited from APIs as well. The technology allows care providers to more easily pass along billing and care data and insurers to more consistently bill accurately. APIs, when created and implemented correctly, also help to alleviate any potential non-compliance concerns, allowing all medical data transfers to be protected and critical information to be easily retrieved.
APIs in Manufacturing
Manufacturers have been quick to embrace new technologies like robotics and automation, and APIs make much of this new technology possible.
- The modern factory floor now relies on APIs. This tech allows manufacturers to effectively track and oversee every part from start to finish, and to ensure machinery is working efficiently. This kind of API-enabled connectivity can potentially impact close to half of the global economy, according to GE.
- APIs have reshaped the entire supply chain. Through APIs, it’s now possible for manufacturers to track to the second incoming parts and outgoing final goods. This enables manufacturers to spot potential supply chain disruptions before they happen. Learn more now: Odyssey Logistics Delivers Real-time Transportation Management
- On an administrative levels, API connectivity allows manufacturers to do more with fewer resources. For example, this kind of technology can better guarantee accurate accounts receivable and accounts payable, and link together the financial records of many supply chain partners. API-facilitated oversight makes compliance easier too, helping to ensure that conflict minerals remain outside the supply chain and that sanctions and international law are followed to the letter.
How to Make API Integration a Reality
While APIs now power critical functions in just about every industry imaginable, getting this kind of connectivity in place is no easy feat. The number of open APIs is growing, but many businesses find that they lack the needed bridge between legacy systems, applications and partners. Getting a new API created typically requires significant time and effort from a technically capable team. So, what’s a business in need of improved API integration to do?
With a modern API integration platform in place, companies get the connectivity they need without much hassle. By choosing a platform that enables companies to extend their systems by creating APIs from existing integrations, organizations can acceleration innovation, develop new revenue channels and reap all of the benefits that come from API-enabled connectivity to help ensure the continued success of their enterprise.