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APIs and the Internet of Things

IoT a phenomenon that is joined at the hip with another megatrend, the API Economy

Welcome to the future where light bulbs suck power for WiFi even when they are switched off (as reported by Redmonk's Tom Raftery), where a smart thermostat company is bought for $3.2 billion, and where electric vehicles can take commands from your wristwatch.

What does this all have in common? It's the Internet of Things (IoT). It's a phenomenon which is joined at the hip with another megatrend, the API Economy. That is because the "things" in the Internet of Things, be they lightbulbs or smart meters or even cars, send data via APIs. Therefore, governing this flow of data to and from the connected device means governing these APIs. This includes ensuring that they are not vulnerable to the kinds of attacks such as the attack on the Snapchat API and the attack on the Buffer API.

In the case of IoT, you are dealing with low-powered devices which aren't often capable of the security processing required for SSL, or for message signing. In addition, if a vulnerability is discovered in an IoT device, the option of a "Patch Tuesday" for the device isn't viable (patching a lightbulb?). However, this is where APIs are relevant. By applying security controls at the API layer, you can also apply virtual patches to the device, taking advantage of an API Gateway to apply this security layer to APIs.

As well as security, by managing the APIs upstream from the IoT devices, you can also gain visibility into usage, set quotas and throttling, and orchestrate them with other devices via their APIs. This becomes like an IFTTT for IoT, enabling high-level orchestration like "When I turn on my lights remotely, also turn on my heating". API-based IoT integration promises to be the next wave.

Axway already has many customers on the cutting edge of the Internet of Things. On our Axway API Workshop series worldwide, we've seen many examples of Internet of Things in action. Here's a great example from our API Workshop in Brussels last October:

Fresh from sharing the stage with Werner Vogels from Amazon recently, Menno gave some exciting use cases, such as mobile apps to control household electricity devices (this gives a whole new answer to "Who turned out the lights?" when a API is involved :) ). He also talked about the electrical vehicle recharging stations in the Netherlands which also are located through the Essent API, and in fact the same API is used to track charging status for the vehicles. He also talked about their growing usage of Amazon Web Services, including using the Axway API Gateway AMI.
http://www.soatothecloud.com/2013/10/api-workshop-in-brussels-recap-of-great.html

Examples like this show that APIs promise to be central to the Internet of Things. This promises to be a very exciting technology wave...

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More Stories By Mark O'Neill

Mark O'Neill is VP Innovation at Axway - API and Identity. Previously he was CTO and co-founder at Vordel, which was acquired by Axway. A regular speaker at industry conferences and a contributor to SOA World Magazine and Cloud Computing Journal, Mark holds a degree in mathematics and psychology from Trinity College Dublin and graduate qualifications in neural network programming from Oxford University.