Lately, I've been on a gradual mind-bend into the future of connectedness, so bare with me as I open the release valve slightly. Nerd or not, you've likely encountered the term API, and if not, you might as well get to know it because I guarantee you unknowingly make use of them on a daily (hourly?) basis. Our digitized world is littered with Application Program Interfaces, and you should be happy that's the case. Simply put, APIs are the protocols/tools that allow software applications to "get chummy" with one another. Have you ever used an interactive map (maybe Google Maps) on a website or application other than Google? Damn right you have! Well this wouldn't be possible without a little API magic. Oh, and that YouTube video below? Yup, another API at work. Shit, the platform I'm currently typing in, SquareSpace, is nothing if not a platter of hot APIs served up fresh to meet all of my bearded, web-based, skeptical needs.
You may have also heard about the IoT (Internet of Things) craze (think reefer madness except with justified hysteria). Well IoT and APIs are in a pretty serious relationship (talking like third or fourth date here). I've actually heard onlookers yell at them to "get a room!" The IoT is basically a giant API network, and it signifies a drastic shift in how technology influences every human on the planet. It's no longer sufficient to look at a single connected device in isolation. With every device, we need to be critically cognizant of its greater round-the-clock, interconnected, potential.
Now, there are certainly still devices, services, and even entire companies (shame on you), that operate on archaic proprietary models (don't play well with others), but given the current trends, I don't see them making it to the main IoT stage; a stage which is literally under construction as we speak. Here are just a few examples that illustrate what I see to be an irreversible trend; one which I don't think is viewed with the revolutionary potential it deserves:
- Google Classroom is full of API potential and developers are provided everything they need.
- Dated protocols like SCORM are undergoing API-fueled overhauls (see TinCan/xAPI).
- A ton of startups like Schoolrunner are leveraging APIs and data to transform teaching.
There are even "middleware" companies like Machineshop, Zetta, ThingSpeak, Restlet and Temboo who are looking to capitalize on this shift by offering services that simplify the complexities of the IoT/API interplay. They all basically offer single APIs to simplify the network of APIs that run the IoT. Make sense? I have no vested interest in Machineshop, but I've met the CEO, they're Colorado grown, already making millions, and I just think they're a rad company who understands where we're headed.
I don't have a clear view of the future (and by future, realize I'm talking about 5 years from now, not 50), but what I do know is that APIs in an IoT are likely to influence a shift towards connection that will be equal in scale to what the Internet represented 20 years ago. Hang on, this ride is about to get bumpy.