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2017 and beyond: the era of the API- column by Ruben van der Zwan

10 min read

2016 gave us a fine taste of what the future of IT will look like. The IoT market exploded, Tesla -expectedly- continued to keep competition at arm’s length and more and more companies went mobile. Yet, 2017 holds more than that. Trends and technological developments will not just be confirmed; they will explode. We want more, and we all know the sky is no longer our limit. The latter is mainly due to the rise of the API; the force behind practically all innovations. In this blog, I will tell you about them and draw you an image of the upcoming years. A great time for IT and for anyone who dares to join in.

API revolution

We are at the very beginning of an API revolution. They already are the secret weapon of many technological breakthroughs by innovative companies. One of them is Tesla. Their engineers installed 40 CPUs (microprocessors), hundreds of sensors, and eight cameras in each one of their cars, providing the driver with a 360-degree view of their surroundings. Everything (seriously, I mean everything) is being measured: where you are, where you are going, your average speed, the location of your fellow road users, weather conditions. Collecting data may not be that difficult; translating this data into useful information, is. It gets even more difficult when you want this information to put into action certain devices or procedures. Like the data system in your car telling it to avoid that sleep drunk truck driver coming your way. Thanks to APIs, you can automate such processes. Just connect an API to each and every sensor, and it makes sense of everything that comes through.

“If we want to know what the future looks like, we should keep an eye on Elon Musk”

Tesla the trend pusher

Fortunately, the electric car industry did not monopolize the API. Companies in the retail market, logistics, healthcare, insurance, banking: every organization that focuses on mobile applications and the Internet of Things deploys them. But I did not use Tesla as an example for nothing. If we want to know what the future looks like, we should keep an eye on Elon Musk. Not because he makes beautiful cars (the opinions are divided), but because the newest Tesla model is a data center on wheels. It uses Big Data to gather information about its performance, so engineers can carry out improvements in terms of materials, dashboard look and feel and additional tools. This is exactly what we will see at other companies, too: more data collection, more Big Data, more real-time decision making, and more speed. They simply do not have a choice, as everything that Tesla invents, suddenly becomes a possibility. Other players in the market cannot fall behind and are forced to join the innovation revolution. And this revolution goes beyond the automotive industry. The pace at which Tesla innovates has implications for the entire IT sector. Many of our customers in the banking world work 100% online (just like many airlines, by the way). Their work may have little to do with cars; whenever trend pusher Elon Musk comes up with something new, they must, and therefore will, follow.


“Today, companies are forced to put their customers first. And that is a good thing, if you ask me”


Follow the people

Tesla and comparable innovators are not the only driving force behind the leap technology takes. Consumers closely monitor the latest developments in IT and are wildly impatient. They no longer live from nine to five and expect companies to grow with them. We do not want to have to tell them what we want; we demand tailor-made services, preferably without any effort from our side. Therefore, the end user has a huge share in the many technological developments. He decides where, when and from whom he buys. If the company does not meet his expectations, there is an alternative behind the corner, ready to swoop in. As a result, companies are forced to put their customers first. And that is a good thing, if you ask me. IT is meant to serve people and not the other way around. The municipality of Amsterdam got that. For all Amsterdam citizens, moving has become a piece of cake thanks to something that is called ‘virtual moving’. When Amsterdam citizens move, all their data, their TV subscription and their parking permit are being automatically transferred to their new address. Virtual moving has significantly increased the integration of the government and the business world. Hence, more integration of systems, more data ... more APIs.


“I eagerly await the day that a wearable memory card in my jeans tells the washing machine about its washing preferences”


Science fiction

Obviously, the rise of APIs was caused by other technological developments. Because no matter how useful they are, they are only hatches. This makes them very dependent on the quality of the sensors, the network and the ability to store data. The improved battery life, for example, has boosted API quality and has solved IoT’s biggest challenge. Up until recently, replacing the batteries in sensors was a major issue, but now that batteries do not have to be replaced that often, maintenance has become less pricy. In addition, the advent of the digital antenna created thousands of bandwidths to choose from, resulting in less congested networks and faster data exchange. Last but not least, memory cards are now smaller, meaning they can be added to pretty much everything, even clothes! These improvements combined allow APIs to take any device and integrate it with other devices and systems. I will not have to tell you what a sea of opportunities this creates. I eagerly await the day that a wearable memory card in my jeans tells the washing machine about its washing preferences. I also wait for the moment that the whole world is connected to the internet 24/7. Both examples are no science fiction; they are being worked on as we speak.

APIs in business

If you want to anticipate the future of IT, you cannot do without APIs. They are the only way to communicate with customers and they are your only option to offer them tailor-made services in real-time. But you also need APIs internally. Imagine your time-to-market when you could optimize information streams between you, your chain partners and other stakeholders! With the right IAM (Identity and Access Management) you make sure the right people have access to the right data. This is important, as digitalization has reinforced the need to secure personal details. Because the more we connect; the more there is to protect. And do not forget about communication with the authorities either. I know about a transport company that has its trucks pass the border without any stoppage. They send all the required documents to customs so that truck drivers can pass based on license plate recognition. This way, all actions are dealt with online and delays are reduced to almost none. This kind of features (made possible by APIs) provide you with a huge competitive advantage. Certainly not a luxury, in a time where competition is lying in wait 24/7. Moreover, there is always some part of the world where people are awake and impatiently waiting on your products and services. Globalization has enlarged the playing field and keeps up the pace.


“Professionals that know how to separate different software layers are worth their weight in gold”


Full stack is your only option

The API is not the only thing that is on the rise. The number of companies that work in the cloud will grow as well. I even dare to say that in five years, companies that are not in the cloud will be an exception. The question is not whether you go, but whether you will be the last one to make the switch. Companies that work in the cloud have a significant shorter time-to-market and that is worth a great deal. New container technologies such as Docker allow you to pack and move everything you have (your applications, the platform and all related data) from one setting to another. Or as Docker aptly describes it: Build, Ship, and Run Any App, Anywhere. Those who want to be fast, need to automate. Hence, they need full stack automation. This in turn asks for specific skills. I therefore predict that the full stack developer will be a key figure in the upcoming years. Professionals that know how to separate different software layers and set up a completely new environment at any given place, are already worth their weight in gold. I also keep a close eye on Agile Stacks, the first company ever to offer fully automated stacks as a commodity product, including services. If that is not progress, I do not know what is.

“The techie in me enjoys new technological developments, but the consumer in me is just as enthusiastic”

Should we want this?

The power of the API and the skills of the full stack developer will bring lots of good for the future. We are shifting towards a whole new way of doing business, where the established order is unable to keep disrupters like Tesla from seizing their chances. The end user gains more power and happily trades his privacy for comfort. “Should we want this?” people often ask me. “Yes please!” is always my answer. The techie in me enjoys new technological developments, but the consumer in me is just as enthusiastic. Just like the people around me, I get more demanding. I know what technology can do, and what it can change for me as an end user. So, if companies need my details to provide me with better, tailor-made solutions, I am totally fine with that. 

 

IT in 2017 is all about:

  1. API management
  2. Integration
  3. Internet of Things
  4. Identity and Access Management
  5. Big Data analysis

 

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Picture of Ruben van der Zwan
Published December 8, 2016

Ruben van der Zwan

Ruben is CEO and founder of Yenlo. He is an IT visionary from the first hour, and always working on creating better ICT solutions. Ruben believes that with technology, we can bring the people in this world together and bring prosperity to everyone. Ruben is an evangelist of open source technology, integration platforms, and WSO2 in particular. He is a frequent speaker on international conferences.

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