Recent Postings
June 6th, 2014

APIs Fueling the Connected Car Opportunity

APIs Fueling the Connected Car OpportunityI just attended the Telematics Detroit 2014 conference, which was abuzz with mobile connectivity sessions and workshops. But the mobile conversation at this event was entirely in the context of the connected car, as opposed to the mobile phone.

The connected car has emerged as a real-world illustration of the opportunities presented to businesses and consumers by the Internet of Things (IoT). And – as you probably know – IoT is a hot topic right now.

Thilo Koslowski, Vice President & Distinguished Analyst at Gartner, who is known for his prediction making, claimed the car will be the most innovative and exciting mobile platform over the next 10-to-15 years. A bold statement but this goal is achievable and very much within reach.

The automobile industry has already made great strides and is quickly leveraging the business advantages offered by the digital economy. What once was considered to be a telematics and roadside assistance market has quickly transformed into fertile ground for mobile app development, with broad connectivity opportunities that will enhance the consumer’s overall digital lifestyle while delivering auto manufacturer efficiencies throughout the entire value chain.

While consumers continue to demand somewhat standard connectivity features such as navigation, maps and parking location services, there’s also a significant demand for advanced connectivity features such as the ability to make payments directly from the vehicle, remotely start the car or receive diagnostic information on a mobile device. There is also a willingness to share data with third parties, especially if this results in a better driving experience or cost savings.

But data sharing has privacy implications in this context, which could become a significant roadblock. A Gartner survey of automobile consumers uncovered that 61% respondents would not opt-in if too much information was taken. So, enabling this new world of connectivity in auto requires a balanced approach. Consumers want the convenience and personalized experience that connectivity offers but only if it doesn’t impact their rights and freedoms.

That’s where a proper API strategy makes a difference. APIs will become fundamental to any connected car strategy by enabling an ecosystem of drivers, vehicles and partners to share data in a way that will improve the consumer experience through better digital design, engagement and security.

To learn more, please read our new eBook: APIs Fueling the Connected Car Opportunity. This document outlines a number of key connected car use cases and explains how the proper API security and management solution will enable you to meet your connected car business and security objectives.

June 5th, 2014

The Need for Secure APIs in Retailing

Secure API RetailApplications in today’s retail industry are highly distributed and are generally connected by proprietary protocols. But trends toward expanding geographic distribution are driving increased demands for integration — and these demands are driving a greater use of application programming interfaces (APIs) in retail.

Retailers worldwide are under tremendous pressure to innovate faster and cycle through inventory as quickly as possible. Also, aggressively managing inventory supply chains is increasingly challenging because consumers have online access to competitive retail Web sites and can easily purchase products elsewhere.

“Showrooming” — the practice of examining merchandise in a traditional brick-and-mortar retail store but then shopping online to find a lower price for the same item — is placing increased margin pressure on retailers, particularly in countries like the US that have relatively low shipping costs.


Read more: 5 Simple Strategies for Securing APIs


Retailers are responding by accelerating inventory churns by gaining product visibility on partner Web sites and maximizing exposure of available inventory. The ability to quickly implement secure APIs that enable innovative merchandising opportunities and aggressive supply chain management can make the difference between success and failure in a highly competitive market.

Customers expect retailers to always have items they want in stock. For example, a customer who wants a sweater in a certain size and color will just shop elsewhere if that exact sweater is not available when he or she wants to buy it. Brand loyalty and repeat business are hurt by a failure of any link in the supply chain. APIs and the ability to accelerate integration with partner systems help retailers not only to increase merchandising opportunities but also to gain greater visibility over purchasing patterns and supply chain demands.

APIs can have an even greater impact on retail markets with products that have shorter shelf lives. While the clothing markets are aggressively deploying APIs, so too are retail markets that rely on perishable products, such as the food industry. Obtaining food products when needed and minimizing spoilage requires an information-centric approach to supply chain management. Food service retailers and grocery stores both depend on real-time information about product availability. In this context, innovative APIs into third-party applications can provide a competitive advantage.

To see the long-term potential of APIs in retailing, I think we can take a look at industries such as online gambling. The gambling industry is a tremendously aggressive consumer of APIs. In locations where it’s legal, large bookmaking organizations compete to quickly introduce opportunities for people to bet on everything from sports to political races or the national budget. Online betting companies develop games or set up innovative new betting scenarios to captivate retail customers and APIs allow them to retail new services out very quickly, to keep customers engaged.

For multi-channel retailers, it’s only natural to want to give customers immersive shopping experiences across not only brick-and-mortar storefronts but also Web, mobile and social media channels. These online experiences are increasingly location-specific and contextualized to each shopper’s identity and buying history. APIs provide the means for ensuring consistent shopping experiences across multiple retail channels.

Retailers are increasingly seeking to engage buyers everywhere they might be, whether online or in-store. They are looking for ways to deliver immersive commerce experiences — including consistent content, promotions and rewards —  across multiple channels. Retailers want to tailor these experiences to buyers’ enhanced identity information. Achieving all this requires the ability to:

  • Expose content, commerce, loyalty and promotion functions as APIs
  • Integrate APIs from third-party affiliates, mobile apps, social networks, geolocation services, customer data sources and ad networks
  • Resolve and reconcile a buyer’s identity across online channels
  • Simplify mobile notifications.

Having the toolset to manage APIs is essential. The CA Layer 7 API Management Suite provides all the API creation, integration and orchestration features necessary to meet context-aware, multi-channel retail merchandising objectives. By adopting proven policies and procedures for ensuring secure APIs, retailers can aggressively scale their online merchandising initiatives and potentially reach more customers with innovative offers of products and services.

June 4th, 2014

The Right Connected Car App Experience

Connected CarLike most connected things these days, the connected car is powered by APIs. A rich connected car application ecosystem – running on both mobile devices and in-car infotainment systems – is seen as a key to customer loyalty. Car manufacturers and car service providers are hard at work developing a connected car experience that will “stick” over time.

As well as enabling new user experiences, connected car APIs unlock data that offers tremendous business value, powering partnerships with insurance companies and law enforcement, enabling new use cases around traffic management and urban planning. You can read about some of these use cases in our eBook, APIs Fueling the Connected Car Opportunity.

I’ll be at the Telematics Detroit 2014 conference this week, where I will be speaking about the need for secure APIs to power the connected car – starting at 4:35pm on Thursday. Earlier that day, live from the conference, I’ll be joining CA Layer 7’s latest API Tech Talk, The Connected Car, IoT, Apps & OAuth, which starts at 9am PDT.

If you’re attending the show, please stop by the Layer 7 booth (#118) to learn more about how APIs enable connected car use cases (and enter to win some Bose speakers!) If you can’t make it to the show, be sure to join the Tech Talk, where you’ll be able to get your connected car questions answered live. And if you can’t make that, you can always read the eBook.

June 2nd, 2014

The Consumerization of Retail

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Consumerization of RetailOver the last few weeks, I’ve been working on a couple of solution briefs that talk about “the consumerization of retail”. Odd turn of phrase, right? After all, isn’t retail all about consumers? But don’t shoot the messenger because this isn’t just a term I’ve dreamt up – it’s been lurking around for a while but now it’s quickly emerging from the dark corners of the Web.

The consumerization of retail is all about retailers transitioning to provide a single face to you, regardless of how you’re viewing them. A great example is Amazon. When I put something in my shopping cart via my desktop browser (yes, those do still exist), then grab my iPad or my Nexus 7, my shopping cart is intact – as is any list of favorites or even recent searches. So no matter what channel I use, I see a single face. Millions of smaller companies partner with Amazon, recognizing that this kind of capability means that their products might get put into a shopping cart that they might never have had access to if Amazon didn’t offer such a great partner program (exposed through APIs, of course). BTW, when I say millions, I’m not kidding. According to Amazon, there are over two million sellers in the Amazon Marketplace – 65% more than a year ago (not a bad growth rate).

eBay is another online retailer that “gets” the omni-channel approach which consumers are beginning to take for granted (an approach that will discussed in detail during our upcoming webinar). According to eBay’s 2013 Annual Report, eBay Stores did $6.7 billion in 2013, an 11% increase over 2012 – and 40% of those purchases had a mobile touch (meaning that the consumer may have viewed the items multiple times and that at least 40% of those times, mobile was involved).

Certain brick-and-mortar stores, such as Best Buy and Walmart, also understand this approach. With these retailers, you can now use your computer and/or mobile device to browse, place an order and pick up your purchase at your local store (and you can seamlessly switch from computer to device).

Why would a retailer want to allow that, instead of “trapping” you in their store? Easy: in the mobile age, consumers don’t want to be forced to continue using the retailers’ paradigm. They want the freedom to choose how they view items. How they buy items. How they take ownership of items. Consequently, retailers are finding that they have to offer this level of freedom, to stay competitive. That’s why it’s called “the consumerization of retail”. Retailers are having to accept that mobile consumers want – and increasingly expect – to take control of the shopping process.

Those retailers that adapt to the consumerization of retail paradigm are the ones that will survive (if you don’t believe me, look at the roadkill on the consumerization highway – Borders, Circuit City and Blockbuster are three examples of brick-and-mortar operations at the top of their game that refused to adapt and failed to survive the transition to the Web, which was just the first step toward the consumerization of retail).

The consumerization of retail is a rising force. Brick-and-mortar and conventional Web shopping sites that don’t embrace this are doomed to become niche (or non-) players in the next generation of online retail.

May 29th, 2014

Toward a Lean API Strategy

Books on Lean Business Strategy“Lean”, “API” and “IoT” are probably the most hyped terms in our industry right now. Normally, I tend to blog about the latter two but – for a change – I would like to balance that out by talking about the former: the concept of Lean and how it relates APIs.

You have probably heard about or even read The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. And you may have noticed that this book sparked a whole cottage industry of Lean publications, like Lean Analytics, Lean UX and the widely-misunderstood concept of “minimal viable product”.

But few of you may have ventured back to explore the texts that laid the foundation for the Lean startup. The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank, for example. Blank outlines a business process called “customer development”, which helps startups find “problem solution” and “product market” fit. Even fewer will have ventured right back to the very origins of the Lean concept: the Toyota Lean Production System with its emphasis on pull over push and ever-decreasing batch size towards one-piece-flow manufacturing. And we have not even touched upon the “theory of disruptive innovation” that Clayton Christensen outlines in The Innovator’s Dilemma or Rita McGrath’s concept of “discovery-driven planning” outlined in Discovery Driven Growth.

But the purpose of this post is not to provide a comprehensive reading list for those of you hoping to learn more about Lean and discovery-driven business strategies. My real goal is to explore if and how these concepts can be applied to API design best practices. However, if you are curious and want to know more about the books mentioned, I suggest you head over to a blog post I wrote for launchd.io. And for your next long-haul flight, you might want to consider starting with The Goal, which will provide you with some truly novel-like business reading.

Before I explore how Lean and API design come together, let me first make a confession – I got an MBA a couple of years back. I know that this is not going to win me any brownie points and I still prefer code to spreadsheets – no contest! But it goes some way to explaining why I think business and API are joined at the hip. The business value of an API does not come from the interface’s intrinsic technical features but from its ability to provide access to a business asset or service. APIs provide a technical means to do (more) business.

From this follows the assumption that API design and implementation need to focus on the intended business outcome. Which means that you must have a clear view of your business goals before you can start to implement your strategy. Unfortunately – in my experience – most of us on the technical side are not equipped to talk to the business side of the house (and they are seldom well prepared to talk with us). This is why I went back and got an MBA – so that I could learn to speak with “them” and build better products.

Starting with Toyota’s lean product development process, I began to see approaches and tools that could help bridge the semantic gap between the technical and business sides. I plan to share some of these with you in subsequent posts. I will start by discussing Alexander Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas. To get a little background on what I’ll be talking about in my next post, I suggest that you read this post on ProgrammableWeb, where Mark Boyd uses the Business Model Canvas to analyze Walgreens’ QuickPrints API. Also, you might want to take a look at my Lean API Strategy presentation from the recent APIdays in Berlin.