APIcon UK: Innovation Showcase Points to the Future of the API Economy

Closing out APIcon UK this morning was a main stage showcase of API innovation, hand-picked by ProgrammableWeb’s editor-in-chief, David Berlind. Innovators chosen included Hydra inventor Markus Lanthaler; David Johnston, the creator of a bitcoin-fueled API discovery platform; and IoT connected-device problem solvers Hugo Fiennes (Electric Imp) and Stefan Zanetti (QIPP).

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Above: David Berlind, editor-in-chief of ProgrammableWeb, opens the APIcon UK Innovation Showcase on the main stage at MuleSoft’s CONNECT14.

Berlind opened the showcase session, introducing each of the innovators and explaining why they are on the “bleeding edge of API technology.”

JSON-LD and the Hydra Web API Language

Lanthaler is a W3C Invited Expert and presented on the power of linked data at APIcon UK. “If we integrate with APIs, we download an SDK and increase dependencies,” Lanthaler started, explaining a key pain point in integration for API consumers.

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Lanthaler unpacked the difficulties further:

The more we integrate with APIs, the more complicated our systems become. If you look at the number of potential integrations, the potential translations grows exponentially.

We need to rethink how we build and integrate with Web APIs. The solution is quite simple. JSON-LD is a simple specification, a small set of standards that makes messages self-descriptive. The Hydra language allows you to generalize solutions and create completely generic API consoles for JSON-LD.

Linked data, Lanthaler believes, is the solution for not only integrating APIs but for speeding up access to the possibilities that APIs can manifest. Lanthaler gave an example where a customer would not only be able to see air-flight details online but also be able to transact a booking and print a boarding pass, all thanks to JSON-LD-based APIs.

The API Network Intersects With the Cryptocurrency Ecosystem

Introducing the next innovator, Berlind warned the audience: “The cryptocurrency train has left the station. Do you want to get on when it is going at 15 kilometers an hour or when it is going at 500 kilometers?”

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Johnston is creating an API discoverability platform with monetization (via bitcoin cryptocurrency) built in: “The intersections between the cryptocurrency ecosystem and the API economy will drive the future of monetization,” Johnston asserted.

He proposed an API Network as a way to reward API providers for offering their APIs: “It is the reverse Apple App Store model: Developers are paid for how popular their APIs are.”

Johnston proposed that an API provider could list APIs on the open source API Network he is creating and, as each API is consumed by third-party developers and other users, the provider would be paid for each integration use case. Johnston suggested that this API Network be run on a bitcoin payment model, where API providers would be paid for use of the integration, while API developer consumers would pay for usage via bitcoin. The network also includes options for price competitiveness and API discoverability.

Electric Imp: Now Anyone Can Connect Devices

Fiennes, CEO of Electric Imp, took to the stage to describe his company's solution for an Internet of Things-connected device future:

It’s not about toasters that email you. IoT is about the strength of the connections you can build between things.

Nobody is watching the real world closely enough to prevent security concerns for unlocked doors or the crop loss from busted pipes. Meanwhile, the Internet knows "things" like when there is surplus energy in the electricity system, if it is going to rain later today or when householders are returning home. If you put these things together, it’s really good. The problem is that people who make devices don’t really get the Internet. The skills necessary to connect devices are often quite different to product design.

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Electric Imp aims to solve this problem by building a secure platform that allows all devices to have an API via a small sensor (an imp) that can be attached to each device and self-configured via a mobile phone screen (a “Blink Up”) to connect the device to a user network.

QIPP: Identity Reaps Interaction

Zanetti, CEO and founder of QIPP, rounded out the Innovation Showcase with another approach to connecting IoT devices.

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Acknowledging that IoT is now a more hyped technology than big data, he referenced Cisco research that shows that, as of 2013, 99.4% of all things were still not connected.

One of the main drivers for manufacturer interest in the Internet of Things is to enable companies to have a more direct connection with end customers, who traditionally buy their products, walk out of the retail environment and are forevermore unknown and disconnected from the manufacturer’s value chain. Nowadays, manufacturers want to be able to maintain contact, for example, to increase support throughout the lifetime of their products. Secondly, manufacturers want to leverage the evidence that shows that customers are more likely to buy again from the same brand, and third, in today’s platform-based economic environment, manufacturers want more opportunities to co-create value with their customers.

Zanetti believes identity is at the heart of what will make the Internet of Things possible. If objects have an identity, then they can attach any information or service to that object, and any object can be attached or aligned with an end customer.

Modeled on the hyperlocal, social media-driven experiences of Yelp and Foursquare, QIPP allows customers to "check-in" on any object they have purchased or are interested in. This may be done by allowing customers to scan a QR code, or bar code, or read an NFC tag or communicate via BLE beacon — whatever channel the manufacturer decides to enable. Doing so creates a value chain between the manufacturer and the customer that enables ongoing communication, the introduction of network effects, and access to ongoing sales and support.

Zanetti implored the APIcon UK closing-day audience to remember that, in today’s cloud-enabled, connected world, “those who sow identity reap interaction.”

While APIcon UK concludes today, ProgrammableWeb will publish further write-ups of recent sessions over the coming week. 

Mark Boyd is a ProgrammableWeb writer covering breaking news, API business strategies and models, open data, and smart cities.

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