Wednesday 21st November 2018

You’ve likely heard the term API at some point, generally from the technical or product development team. But what exactly is an API?

An API is an Application Programming Interface – still in the dark? APIs are a way to programmatically expose data and functionality from one application, to make it available in another application.

APIs are responsible for just about everything we do on the web or on mobile; when you order a pizza, download software, book a meeting room or order an Uber, you’ll find APIs working hard in the background to make your request with a few simple clicks. At Condeco, we have several APIs which are built for specific purposes: Configuration, Administration, Booking Data and Mobile.

How Do APIs Work?

A really good example is your smartphone. When you are booking a meeting room via mobile, your device doesn’t understand the underlying data structure of the system, nor does it need to understand security models, because the job of the API is to reach out and have a conversation, which would go a little something like this…

End User: “Hi, I’m Max”

API: “Hello, what can I help you with today?”

End User: “I want to book a room”

API: “Great, here is a list of rooms”

The API doesn’t have to understand the complexities of how meeting rooms are stored internally, or how bookings are stored against those rooms. It doesn’t even need to understand how the status functionality works, it simply tells you which rooms are available for you to book right now.

When you book your meeting room, the information is passed back through the API, and creates the booking for you. It doesn’t have to create all of data in all of the tables, the actual API does that itself – the application just gives the instruction.

Your mobile phone doesn’t need to understand the underlying structure, it just needs to know how to talk to an API.

How Do APIs Communicate?

An API has no user Interface, but it can be accessed by a postman which will give you the ability to see how the API functions. When the API has a conversation, data is passed in a format called Json (JavaScript Object Notation), and relies on a connector to bridge that conversation. APIs need connectors to function – at Condeco, we generally use Azure Logic Apps to create our connectors.

How do we exchange data?

We use either XML primer or Json, both of which are self-describing formats, but Json is shorter and less descriptive, which means we, as humans, are able to read the code easier!

Although APIs have been around since the 60s, they have become increasingly important, especially with the introduction of the Internet of Things. Different developers use API functionality in a variety of ways, but simply put, an API is a bridge which allows different platforms, applications or systems to speak to each other by sharing data, allowing the end user to perform their required task.

Max Nealon, Senior Product Manager, Condeco

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