Extending the Reach of APIs into the Realm of Brick and Mortar

APIs are not only critical when it comes to extending the digital reach of an organization; they can also provide tangible brick and mortar benefits as well. Walgreens, for example, recently announced that it has developed an API and software development kit that allows developers of mobile applications to include the ability to print out photos within their applications at any one of 7,907 Walgreens locations.

As important as the photo printing business is to Walgreens, one of the more interesting benefits of this API effort is it should get more people inside a Walgreens store. Once there the odds are pretty high that in addition to picking up their photos they will buy any number of other products and services that Walgreens offers.

According to Tim McCauley, director of mobile commerce at Walgreens, it won't be long before Walgreens extends its API efforts out to include logical adjacent areas. Walgreens wouldn't just yet commit to what those services might be, but it doesn't take much imagination to see how APIs could be extended out to online prescription drug renewals or any number of on-line coupon campaigns. As part of that effort to increase in-store traffic, McCauley says Walgreens is hoping that third-party developers ranging from companies that make digital cameras to sites that allow people to share photos will make use of its APIs.

This week in Chicago Walgreens is hosting a hackathon where it has invited third-party developers to come create applications that make use of the Walgreens API. McCauley says the idea is to attract developers to include Walgreens APIs in their applications by offering prizes to the developer that comes up with the most innovative use of the Walgreens API.

Walgreens is making use of the Apigee Enterprise Platform from Apigee to develop and manage the APIs. According to Apigee CEO Chet Kapoor, mobile computing is quickly making the notion of visiting a Web site an anachronism. As more people rely on mobile computing device to access the Web, the unit of value on the Web becomes the specific data people are trying to access within the Web site. Increasingly, that access is being enabled via an API. In fact, Kapoor says it's the rise of mobile computing that will serve as the primary catalyst for driving the future development of an API economy.

As that process continues to occur Kapoor says IT organizations are increasingly going to have to find ways to manage APIs that will represent different routes to market for their organizations. As such, the business is going to want to have a lot of visibility into what's happening in each of those channel, says Kapoor.

There's no doubt that mobile computing combined with a richer API ecosystem is going to transform the digital economy as we know it. But as the Walgreens effort highlights, the business implications of that transformation go well beyond the Web.

Photo by time anchor

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