How Proprietary Thinking Could Undermine The Internet of Things

There are a lot of numbers flying around about the Internet of Things. Gartner has IoT hitting 25 billion devices hitting $263 billion by 2020. Cisco sees it hitting $19 trillion by 2025 with an impact ten times the Internet itself, which is at least one of the ten most important inventions of our species. But for all the statistics, the prediction we’re most excited about is McKinsey & Company pegging 40 percent of the value of the Internet of Things on its interoperability. And, of course we know interoperability is synonymous with ten little syllables: application programming interface (What is an API?). The API will literally be what makes or, in the case of proprietary thinking, breaks the interconnected world of the Internet of Things.

So how can your API business be prepared to prevent this break? This brief piece will hopefully give you a bit to prepare for and a lot to think about in 2016 and beyond.

The World Could Collapse on Closed APIs

When security is a venerable time bomb waiting to go off, the Internet of Things has to be based on common standards and open sharing from the start. Now, with seven or so layers and dozens of protocols in this stack, we’re going to wait for that battle to advance a bit more and focus on the open side of it all.

And with so many new players in the hardware side of things who maybe haven’t heard about open APIs, it is incumbent on the the existing stakeholders in the API economy to educate and advocate them. Certainly API Evangelist publisher Kin Lane agrees, pointing out how engineers and developers coming from industries accustomed to black box hardware and SDKs will put the security and stability of the Internet of Things at risk. He says that in this new API world, it has to be about opening things up and tinkering with them.

“The evolution of that has been brought by open APIs. It actually means having your SDKs open-source and on GitHub so developers can grab it and reverse engineer it.” Lane told me in a Skype interview that we need to get into the habit of making our APIs easily discoverable, testable, with transparent pricing and processes. If we are more open, we are more able to automate testing and security in general, but when we are wearing and living with the consequences of the Internet of Things, it becomes essential.

“There’s more eyeballs on what’s going on, thus we can find bugs faster, [have] more feedback loops for security flaws,” Lane continued. “A big reason why systems get hacked is because it is just one lone machine sitting on a network. You may have 2,000 APIs,” but the one that isn’t known is the one that will be most likely to be hacked.


Jennifer Riggins Writer, marketer and luddite in a technical world. Obsessed with helping tech and startups sell their value to us laypeople, improve efficiency, management practices, and message. Learning something new and laughing every single day.