These days, API technology is being talked about by every tech-minded person out there. API is actually quite a simple system and has a great many practical applications. API is used by many different programs and really without API they wouldn’t be able to work it all. In this article we will discuss what API technology is and what it is used for.
What is API?
API stands for application program interface and basically it is a tool that helps programmers to create software and applications. There are various types of API but the basic function of an API is to act as an intermediary between two programs or applications. This is vital because often the two programs will have conflicting coding languages and so API works as a translator. Another way to look at API is a kind of middleman. When you search on a weather app for example, that app is not going to the location and looking up at the sky. Instead an API works between the weather app on your phone and the software that is being used to measure the weather so that it is available for you.
1. SMS API
SMS APIs are used by developers so that they can build SMS messages into a piece of software or application. If you think about the example of a pickup service like Lyft, Lyft will use an SMS API in their app which alerts you when your car has arrived. The driver himself will not type out and send the SMS message that you receive, it will be a set message that is sent out via Lyft’s API. There are global SMS API’s that can help businesses connect with people all over the world. SMS APIs can be used for mass SMS marketing campaigns, to reach out to new customers, to engage with existing customers, and to promote businesses’ products or services. SMS marketing using SMS API is very effective because SMS has such a high open-rate compared with email or other forms of customer outreach. SMS inboxes have no automatic junk mail and so you can be guaranteed that customers and clients will receive the message. Studies have shown that 90% of SMS messages are read within 10 minutes of receipt and so SMS API is a great tool for businesses to utilise in an SMS marketing campaign.
2. Data Accessing API’s
As we saw in the example of the weather app, API technology can be used to obtain data from a program or system even if we have no idea how to access that system ourselves. Google uses third-party APIs all over the world to access the relevant data needed to answer your query. When you search for the best restaurants in your neighbourhood, Google will connect to the API systems of restaurant review sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor. Likewise, every application on your phone that you use to look something up will have an integrated API. API technology can be used by surfers to find out the swell the next morning at their local beaches and what time the tides are in or out. They can be used to find out which parking lots have spaces available and which ones are all full. Your app is not going to look at the sea or count parking spaces. They connect through an API to the program that has that information and then it is presented to you in an easy to understand form.
3. Gatekeeper API’s
Whenever you are asked if an application can access your location, it is an API that is being used to ask you. Whilst it might seem like a good thing that you are being asked by the application for your consent, it is actually an API trying to protect you from apps who are just trying to lock onto your location. The application has not tried to ask before they try, your iOS or Android system has an API that has blocked them and is now asking you if you would like to unblock them. This is very important for security as you are only ever asked once, so once you give permission, the application can continue to access your data indefinitely. Some of the biggest data collection breaches and scandals of recent times have occurred as a result of this situation, like the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
There are a great many uses for API which allow developers to build software, act as a translator between programs, allow you to search for information, and uphold your data security. API’s are all around us and as technology continues to play such a big part in our lives, it is important to understand what API technology is and how it works.
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