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What do APIs have in common with delivery services?

Written by
Saad Merchant
Published on
October 10, 2023

Do you enjoy the convenience of being able to book tickets, buy products, and order food online from websites or applications? Well, one of the main reasons you are able to conveniently do so is because, on a micro-level, these websites or applications are also busy exchanging (ordering and delivering) data with other third-party apps, in order to deliver these services to you. The reason applications are able to remotely exchange data and services like this is due to the popularly known (yet practically unknown) term - APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). This blog uses the analogy of everyday delivery services in the physical world to explain how APIs are the ultimate delivery service in the digital world, enabling businesses with instant connectivity, data-driven strategies, and future-proof innovations.

What do APIs and delivery services have in common?

APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces, serve as intermediaries between different software applications. Enabling the exchange of data and services between applications, they provide a standardized interface that developers can use to request these specific functionalities.

In essence, APIs are a set of rules and protocols that allow applications to communicate with each other, without needing to understand the underlying code or how the exchanged services work intrinsically. Think of it like placing an order from your favorite food delivery app, you order the dishes, they get delivered to your doorstep, and you can enjoy the meal without needing to know how the food was cooked and delivered. This analogy works because these food apps actually work by using APIs (but more on that later).

By enabling businesses to seamlessly “call for” and integrate third-party services and applications, without the hassles of custom code, APIs empower them to expand their capabilities, create new revenue streams, and foster innovation. Instead of businesses having to build new services from scratch, they can flexibly connect applications that provide the best version of these services using APIs.

How do APIs work vs. everyday delivery services?

In the now remotely integrated digital world, APIs are the drivers of change that promise convenience, speed, and data-driven insights, just as every day delivery services are redefining convenience in the physical world. To drive the everyday delivery service analogy home, here are a few essential benefits of APIs and how they work to deliver everyday success to modern businesses:

  1. Service access: Just as you can order various products or services remotely through a delivery service, APIs allow you to access different functions, data, or services provided by remote systems or servers.
  2. Standardization: Delivery services have standardized processes for ordering, tracking, and receiving items. Similarly, APIs provide standardized interfaces and adhere to established protocols to ensure data exchange is secure and error-free.
  3. Specific requests: Just as you can browse menus or inventories to order products or services remotely, APIs provide standardized interfaces with documented methods and endpoints that developers can use to access specific functions or data.
  4. Real-time exchange: Delivery services allow customers to remotely track their order in real-time, similarly APIs provide real-time data access between applications, enabling data-driven business decisions.
  5. Interoperability: Delivery services work with various businesses and products, just as APIs enable different software systems, services, and platforms to work together and exchange data.
  6. Security: Delivery services implement several payment, order tracking, and product returns security measures. Similarly, APIs often include authentication and authorization to ensure secure access.
  7. Simplified service exchange: Delivery services save customers the hassle of individually buying products in person at the store. Similarly, APIs simplify the process of accessing external data or services without needing to understand the complexities of the remote system's implementation.

While the analogy has its limitations and doesn't capture all the technical nuances of APIs, it’s a simplified way to convey the basic idea of how APIs facilitate communication and data exchange between different entities in a standardized and accessible manner.

How do delivery apps actually benefit from APIs?

Analogies aside, APIs actually play a key role in how digital delivery services function and thrive in the modern world. Using APIs, delivery applications integrate with the databases of restaurants, shops, travel portals, etc., and with payment gateways as well.

For instance, in the case of a food delivery app, when a user places an order, the app uses APIs to search for nearby restaurants, retrieve their menus, and display them to the user. Once the user selects items and proceeds to pay, payment APIs securely process the transaction. Additionally, real-time tracking of the delivery driver's location is made possible through APIs, providing users with updates on their orders. Furthermore, restaurant order management systems receive incoming orders via APIs, streamlining the preparation process. In this way, food delivery apps leverage APIs to connect users, restaurants, and delivery drivers, creating a convenient and interconnected ecosystem for online food delivery.

However, this example only gives a small picture of how expansively modern businesses are using APIs. Today, research says that the average enterprise uses almost 1,200 cloud applications, and integrating all these applications and getting them to work together, even via APIs, is incredibly challenging. That’s why businesses are now turning to the next-gen API-driven, “as-a-Service” integration platform to connect all these applications, services, and data sources on the cloud. These integration solutions are also known as iPaaS (integration Platform as a Service)

What is the iPaaS and how does it enable API-driven success?

The “integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS)” is an API-driven, cloud-based middleware that helps businesses connect two or multiple cloud apps, SaaS, systems, and data sources, without custom code. Acting as a unifying central hub that leverages APIs, the integration platform helps modern businesses integrate ERP systems, e-commerce platforms, PIM, CRM, Payment Gateways, WMS, Marketing Automation Software, and many more apps, across cloud and on-premises environments.

By providing a centralized platform for managing APIs and enabling application integrations, the iPaaS facilitates real-time data exchange between them and also enables workflow automation. Ensuring data flows seamlessly between various integrated apps and services, the iPaaS helps govern and orchestrate these APIs to deliver success. Furthermore, with the iPaaS, businesses can streamline their operations, improve data accuracy, enhance customer experiences, and most importantly, they can add unlimited new cloud apps via their APIs to grow their businesses in a scalable way.

As they grow, the more applications and APIs businesses integrate without the infrastructural scalability of the iPaaS, the more entangled, disconnected, and riddled with data silos these apps will become. By helping businesses create, monitor, and manage all their API integrations from a scalable user-friendly, web interface, the iPaaS helps businesses build API-led, data-driven, and integrated data and application ecosystems.

In conclusion

Comparing complex entities like APIs with every day delivery services is certainly an oversimplification. But, at the same time, the analogy gives us real-life parallels of how APIs don’t just facilitate data exchange between apps, but govern how a lot of modern everyday technologies function. For businesses, they provide the flexibility to seamlessly connect with new technologies, services, and innovation, while enabling them to share their own inventions via their own APIs. So, the next time you call for food, products, or services online, think of the “API calls” as the unsung heroes running in the background, enabling you to do so.

Looking for a cloud-native, low-code integration platform to implement your API-driven integration strategies in a way that’s fast, flexible, and future-proof? Read about the Alumio iPaaS and the connectors (pre-configured integrations) it provides to build faster integrations with popular SaaS and cloud apps →

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