Internet of Things Will Bring More API Headaches

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    Last week, I discussed why CIOs need to prepare for the Internet of Things  (IoT) with its unique data challenges. Today, I am looking at another major problem the Internet of Things will create: lots of APIs and the need for API management.

    When the Internet of Things matures, these 24 to 37 billion “intelligent things” will easily outnumber those of us sitting at a computer using a traditional IT infrastructure to connect, according to John Thielens, chief security officer of Axway.

    “By even the most pessimistically Malthusian calculus, human connections will be by far the exception to the rule,” Thielens writes in Wired.

    And it looks like APIs—specifically REST APIs—will be the way these devices connect with the Internet, which makes sense since APIs are lightweight and already used in mobile devices.

    Right now, API management is primarily the domain of companies investing in mobile technology or selling services via the cloud. But both Gartner and Thielens say the Internet of Things will expand API adoption.

    “… Organizations looking for opportunity in IoT with REST APIs need to get very serious about API management,” he writes. “And it’s not just the massive scale that should be a concern. The nature of ‘things,’ plus the nature of the human beings operating them, plus the importance of some of the things we will connect (satellites, weapons, vehicles) raise critical issues as well.

    “Addressing these issues and preparing for IoT requires solid API management.”

    It’s not hard to figure out why if you just think through the usual challenges faced by IT. For instance, patches and updates are an ongoing hassle, but with devices, it’ll be practically impossible to install patches and updates in the usual way, he notes.

    The issue of managing software and data developers and all the problems that come with them also proves to be a huge challenge, but even versioning, access and security issues can be addressed with API management tools. He also makes a good point about the two types of developers—the device developers and the data developers—and how each requires different rules, APIs and security.

    “Similarly, the API may need to include device-level identifiers and management tools for handling them,” Thielens states.

    One “working” example would be the infrastructure that handles smartphones, he adds.

    API management tools also incorporate the visibility and analytics capabilities needed to monitor devices for signs of stress and potential failure, he adds.

    In a recent HBR post, Duke Chung, co-founder and chief marketing officer of customer service support technology company Parature, points out that the IoT will require building and supporting self-service knowledge bases, which of course also involves data. Then we must also consider potential data compatibility issues between these devices, security issues and even battery life.

    In short, the IoT may cause a lot of headaches, but it could also prove to be very transformative for organizations.

    So it’s really not too early to think through the data management issues that IoT will create—particularly if you think your business units will leverage it in some way.

    FYI: If you’d like to learn more about how to manage the integration challenges of Big Data, Database Trends and Applications is holding a free webinar this Thursday, at 11 a.m. PT/ 2 p.m. ET. The focus will be how you can prepare your IT team to handle Big Data integration.

    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson is a freelance writer specializing in technology and business issues, including integration, health care IT, cloud and Big Data.

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