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What is an IoT API?

What is an IoT API?

The application program (or programming) interface, or API, is arguably what really ties together the connected “things” of the internet of things. IoT APIs are the points of interaction between an IoT device and the internet and/or other elements within the network.

As API management company Axway puts it, “APIs are tightly linked with IoT because they allow you to securely expose connected devices to customers, go-to-market channels and other applications in your IT infrastructure.”

Why are IoT APIs important?

IBM called IoT APIs one of its top IoT trends for this year.

“APIs are the market enabler, and Internet of Things devices would be useless without them. By exposing data that enables multiple devices to be connected, APIs provide an interface between the Internet and the things to reveal previously unseen possibilities,” said Chris O’Connor, IBM’s GM for IoT, in a blog entry. “In the year to come, the power and importance of APIs will be at the forefront of the conversation around enabling—and more important—monetizing the Internet of Things.”

What are some market predictions for IoT APIs?

Technavio has predicted that the global API-as-a-service market will reach $965 million by 2020, a compound annual growth rate of more than 30%. That fast growth for a “relatively new IT concept,” according to Amit Sharma, lead research analyst at Technavio for cloud computing research, is due in part to the IoT market as well as demands for data and functional integration and mobile enablement.

“[APIs have] become one of the advanced technological widgets that bring together applications, devices, data, and the cloud,” Technavio said, adding that IoT APIs “[establish] communication among different sensors deployed through multiple devices and also [allow] data analysis in the cloud. APIs are a critical part of the ecosystem for service providers, that build tools and solutions to integrate [APIs] with their products.”

Research firm Mind Commerce has said that it expects telecom API revenue to reach $183.6 billion globally by 2021, but that “carriers continue to miss opportunities for Telecom APIs in Internet of Things.”

What are some of the challenges involved with IoT APIs?

Mahbubul Alam, CTO and CMO of Movimento Group, said that APIs are part of one common pain point he sees in the IoT ecosystem: that vendors offer an IoT solution that is “all or nothing”, regardless of what pieces a company may already have — their own security and databases, for example.

“There are very few who are really mixing and matching,” Alam said. Companies often tout “open APIs”, he added, but this is essentially each IoT application speaking its own language, to which companies must adapt — as opposed to open source APIs where there is more information exposed.

“APIs are causing a real pain point, which is not being really, truly open, and truly thinking about how can can mix and match and let the customer have the best choice,” Alam said.

What are some of the opportunities in IoT APIs?

For one, the market is expected to grow considerably as more and more companies leverage IoT. There are numerous platforms already in existence, for consumer and industrial IoT, and the fragmentation has implications for interoperability and scale of IoT deployments.

However, that fragmentation also offers an opportunity for horizonal platforms that communicate with all sorts of devices and vertical applications, according to Michael Starsinic, technical track senior manager at InterDigital. Standardization is important, he noted, adding that is current, ongoing work for standardizing IoT APIs even as other parts of the ecosystem continue with their own API versions in the absence of an overarching common approach.

Vikram Saksena, with the office of the CTO at NetScout, which monitors IoT deployments once they are rolled out, said that for service providers, there can be potential for service providers in these emerging days of IoT. “This fragmentation and silos create challenges and an opportunity,” he said. “I think one of the values that service providers can provide is by unifying the silos.”

For more information, check out RCR Wireless’ new special report on IoT testing.

Image copyright: aimage / 123RF Stock Photo

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