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The interface that ensures competitiveness

16 Apr 2021

New-generation APIs handle data quicker and more securely than ever before. 
API stands for Application Program Interface and is often described as an interpreter, because the interface allows programs to talk to each other. Several other comparisons have been drawn, such as APIs as messengers that deliver and retrieve information for you. 


They’re everywhere and make life easier

Imagine that you’re a retailer and a customer wants to buy on credit, but you don’t know the customer. A few thousand years ago, you would ask a helper to go out to the customer’s village and ask questions to ascertain whether the customer could be trusted. Two hundred years ago, you would have sent a telegram. Although these comparisons may seem a bit banal, the fact is that humanity has always found ways to share data. The difference with APIs, of course, is that they are automated, detailed, and quicker than Morse code. They’re also everywhere and make life easier for millions of people. But few people actually know what APIs are. 

Our API expert, Jens Näsholm, gives an example: 

“Even a proficient user like me doesn’t notice that all of Google’s web services are based on APIs – they’re behind everything from Gmail to Google Maps,” he says. 

The fact that APIs are in the background allows companies to build user-friendly programs. In short, APIs make it easier to use a service. 

“If I visit an e-commerce store and enter my personal identity number in the system, the store gets my credit report in the blink of an eye. The advantage of APIs compared with a standard solution is that an API can be integrated into the store’s business system without the user even noticing. The customer doesn’t need to chop and change between programs themselves,” says Jens. 


Evolution of API 

APIs have been around for more than twenty years. Back then, programs shared information in a more viscous way, largely reflecting the internet – a new kid on the block at the time – which was also viscous. This was a time when our modems would beep and whine like a manic robot when connecting to the internet via the phone network. 

 Originally, data could be collected by an API and transferred in a file format once a week. Some people (but increasingly fewer) still use these file transfers. An automated and integrated API that constantly picks up information is preferable for obvious reasons. 



Jens has noticed that until relatively recently, customers would first build their services and then add APIs. Now APIs are used to build a service from scratch in a process known as “API First”. 

What are open and closed APIs?

There are open and closed APIs. The open interfaces can be obtained free of charge. The closed interfaces are either a commodity or else an authority (for example) has limited who can access its APIs. A relevant example is the healthcare website, which now allows the regions to have real-time access to information and updates on the coronavirus – only the regions can request the key needed to access the API. 


“It’s cost-effective and easier to support than having to maintain a system where you have a special code for your own internal functionality and your own code for the API that you make public,” says Jens. 

API expert Mohamed Beyan has also noticed over the past five years that many companies have given their technicians a broader mandate to order, maintain, and develop APIs. 

“It’s also the technicians who have the knowledge required to evaluate APIs,” he says.  

Jens is seeing a further shift in demand.  

“We have many customers with old APIs. What we’re increasingly seeing is that they’re switching to new APIs. From old legacy solutions that have been around for five, ten, fifteen years to our new REST solutions,” says Jens. 


Benefits of REST (Representational State Transfer): 

  • Better in terms of data security. Due to the risk of privacy breaches and/or sensitive data being leaked, there is increasing demand for secure data handling. Laws and regulations are also increasingly stringent. Take the EU’s GDPR, for example. 
  • Easier and quicker to implement. Building a similar solution in an old system can take six months, but with a new system this can be achieved in three months. 
  • Support is future-proofed because everyone is now moving towards the new solutions. 
  • Flexible and adaptable because it’s easier to change what you want to get out of the API in the future. This enables you to scale your APIs up or down as needed. 
  • Competitiveness. The ability to quickly adapt to market needs in a world where data flows incredibly quickly. 


How to ensure smooth migration  

Before a company switches to new APIs, it must prepare for the journey. 

“The first thing you have to do is map existing systems,” says Jens. You have to compare the functionality you have today with the functionality you want in the new system. And you have to plan for the migration work and have staff who focus on working towards this goal. Make sure you give yourself enough time for the work to be done. 

“This will give you the conditions to build anything,” adds Mohamed. Because real-time APIs provide access to data – i.e. what you want, when you want, how you want, and to the system you want – the only limit to the solutions you can create is your imagination. 

You might also be interested in: Digital growth impossible without APIs


APIs in day-to-day life 
Let’s look at some everyday examples: You wake up in the morning and are craving a chocolate croissant. When you Google the bakery, the search results show the shop’s opening hours and you don’t even need to click through to the shop’s website. You check your weather app, which thanks to an API is connected to the national weather service, which shows that it’s cold out and you need to buy a scarf. While queuing for the bakery, you find a scarf online but haven’t bought from this store online before. No problem. Your smartphone enters all your details automatically, and the e-commerce site checks them. Before you can even say “chocolate croissant”, you’ve bought a scarf, and even a pair of gloves because the site recommended the perfect pair before you got to the checkout. And you bookmarked a few other items to look at later. You then open an app that uses the public transport provider’s API to give real-time departure times.