How do you API?

For the last several years, everyone has been talking about APIs or SDKs as means to integrate data, tools, or technologies to create new and interesting tools, apps, or websites.  Some of it is may seem silly or childish (My Little Pony, anyone), while others have revolutionized data sharing (Google Maps API, maybe?).   Whatever the API, there are several key questions to ask yourself in order to create a good integration that provides value to your business:

  1. What value are you looking to get?
  2. Are you exposing this data or tool externally or internally?
  3. Are you adding value with your own data or mixing two (or more) external data sets to get value?
  4. Are you ready to scale and maintain?
  5. Are you doing something unique?
  6. Is this the only data set, or tool set available?

Let’s talk about a few of these questions…

What value are you looking to obtain?

Business value comes in many flavors.  You could want to create a commercial mobile app, develop an in-house reporting system or application, or create a new information website.   The options are infinite.  Unfortunately, the endless possibilities also mean that you can go in circles looking for a killer idea when the important thing is to simply find something with business value and integrate on it.  Agile development is the key, not trying to the next killer app right out of the gate.  Google didn’t create Maps in a day, or even a year.  It’s 15+ years of development to get where they are.  Start with some small business value and work up.

Are you exposing the data or tool externally or using it internally?

This is a big deal for licensing of 3rd party data available via API.  Many companies give you free reign on their data or APIs as long as you credit them or add value with your own data.  These may require licensing contracts with appropriate accreditation, revenue splitting or other conditions.  Good examples of public apps which blend their own data with Google Maps and other data sources into tight mobile apps are Yelp! and Flixster.  Internal use of data available via API may not require payment or the payment may be per call.  It all depends on their business model, so researching the APIs you need is very important.

Are you adding value with your own data or mixing two (or more) external data sets to get value?

If you’re just blending two APIs together to get information, I hate to break it to you, but you’re probably not the first person to try it, and, there may be rules against it.  Some APIs require the data to be transmitted or disseminated in entirety, while others might require that you actually add your own data to the mix as the value-add.  Finally, since it’s already pretty common, you might check to see if there is a mashup API that contains all the data streams merged together.  It will save you time and development effort, if there is.

In the next installment, I’ll discuss the three other questions you need to ask yourself before integrating with an API.

MxToolbox’s API

MxToolbox provides an API to our paid and free customers that allows you to perform lookups, control and poll monitors and check your API status.  Depending on your account, Free, Basic or Pro, you may have different access to Local or Network lookups or access to your monitors.  Many customers use our API on a daily basis to integrate their internal systems with our technology to make the work days easier.  To learn more about the MxToolbox API, click here.