Beyond Vertical Integration: Ink Lets Developers Create Workflow In and Between Apps

Mark Boyd
Aug. 15 2013, 07:00AM EDT

Seed-funded San Francisco startup Ink has launched a new development framework that connects apps and data within an iOS device. In contrast to API integration platform as a service offerings, Ink links app tasks locally on an end user’s iPhone or iPad.

Using an API key/URL scheme approach, Ink allows developers to create an in-app workflow on an end user’s iOS device without requiring transmission of app data to and from a cloud server to move tasks along a value pipeline.

Speaking with ProgrammableWeb ahead of today’s launch, founder and CEO of Ink, Brett van Zuiden, said:

“With the Ink development platform, we’re creating a web of applications on the iOS device itself rather than going up to the cloud. Developers can create workflows so applications can work together on iOS. Developers drop the Ink framework into their app and we handle all the streaming between applications.”

Ink’s press release gives the example of opening a PDF of a contract in an email app, adding a verified signature from a signature app, sending it on and saving a stored copy in a cloud storage app all in the one fluid workflow without having to open, close and re-open multiple apps to complete each stage of the task chain.

Van Zuiden explains how developers can start incorporating the Ink framework into their iPhone, iPod and iPad apps:

“So a developer will sign up with Ink and get an API key. Then they can drop the Ink framework into their application. They can specify the tasks that the app can do: view, edit, share, store, for example. There are 17 or so action types at present. Then they hook up the appropriate code to allow Ink to build the workflows that start from their app and connect with other apps an end user may have on their device.”

The framework has excited the productivity app market, with 5 partners coming on board to encourage Ink framework workflows. Evernote, Citrix Podio, egnyte, SignEasy, and doctape are all encouraging developers to make use of the Ink framework.

Speaking for the launch, Tommy Ahlers, VP of Social Collaboration at Citrix Podio said:

“Ink allows people using Podio to work seamlessly across these apps – creating automatic access to the desired files no matter where they're stored. With Ink as the common framework between Podio and other apps, all services can 'talk' to each other frictionlessly, without users having to jump through any hoops to get there."

Three sample applications have been created to showcase how developers can create seamless workflows using the Ink framework, including ThatInbox, ThatPhoto and ThatPDF. A fourth – ThatCloud – is expected to be released shortly. All four sample applications – and any others developed with the Ink framework - use a custom two-finger double-tap to move tasks along the workflow and to take action in other apps. For example, with the Ink framework, instead of an app having to include a photo editing toolset, it can use Ink to pass photos to a photo editing app and return the saved results back to the initial app for the next stage in the process.

Van Zuiden is confident developers will enjoy working with the Ink framework:

So much of the web’s richness comes from the connection between pages and online links. The Ink framework unlocks a world where apps can now be linked to each other in a similar way. Within 5 to 10 minutes of linking mobile apps, my whole worldview flipped around.

Ink recently closed a seed funding deal worth $1.8 million in part due to the framework’s potential to create an ecosystem across apps instead of each app needing to work vertically. Ink's Filepicker API provides an API tool for web-based application developers to create a similar workflow experience focused on seamless integration between various apps when working with documents and files.

Mark Boyd is a ProgrammableWeb writer covering breaking news, API business strategies and models, open data, and smart cities. I can be contacted via email, on Twitter, or on Google+.

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