Kyle Riordan | Research Analyst
August 25, 2014

This Month in APIs: Just the Important Parts


This post originally appeared on the Strategy Services blog. 

On the Strategy Services team, we spend a great deal of time and effort keeping our fingers on the pulse of the API and tech industry. We’re sure you do too, otherwise why would you be here reading this? It can’t be for my witty quips—they’re just not that clever. But, for even the most serial tech readers out there, the rate with which the industry moves is just astonishing; new start ups, acquisitions, emerging technologies, APIs and apps that seemingly spring up out of nowhere can all be a bit much to track. It is one of the main parts of my profession and even I sometimes find it to be overwhelming.

That is why we are launching a new effort as part of this blog to post a sort of “month in review.” Though not an exhaustive summation of the past month (how could we possibly fit that into a single post?) it will serve as a sort of highlight reel showing you some of the more interesting things that have happened while we throw in our two cents. A sort of SportsCenter Top 10 for the API space (sorry—no dunks in our version) designed to tell you a story without making you read a month’s worth of tech news.

For our first installment, we selected a topic that seems to be taking the travel and hospitality industry by storm: enabling access through our smartphones and wearables. It seems every business segment within the industry, from trains to hotels, is looking to open new doors (both literally and figuratively) using consumers’ smartphones and wearable devices. Travel saw some interesting announcements from both the London Public Transport Network and SITA, while hospitality featured some amazing new plans for innovation from Hilton. That’s a pretty wide range of companies, and all of this in a single month! 

Old Transit – New Tix

The London Public Transport Network incorporates the world’s first underground railway system dating back over 150 years, but this old network is looking to become about as modern as subway systems come, integrating contactless mobile payments into its stations. The update will allow users to pay their tube fair with any mobile device containing an NFC chip and mobile payment app linked to their back account. Sorry iPhone users, no NFC chip for us—we have to stick to the old fashioned method. Though not everyone will be able to use this new technology, it will certainly make the morning commute easier for those who can and cut down on the lines for everyone else. 

Air Aware Wearables

SITA is also looking to make the way you travel—how you fly in this case—easier. Unlike London Transport though, SITA is looking beyond our phones to the growing interest and use in smart watches. Just this past month SITA started exposing a new API designed for Android watch wearers. Once adopted by the airlines, the API will enable passengers to receive alerts reminding them of flight time and location and allowing them to pull up their boarding pass and scan ready barcode with a couple of quick swipes.

Hilton Enhances the Mobile Experience

But what good is all this newly convenient travel if you don’t have an equally convenient experience once you arrive at your destination? Hilton addressed that question by announcing they now allow smartphone users to select their room before check-in. Users will be able to access photos of the room as well as the floor plan. Topping that, they also plan to start rolling out smartphone powered room keys to its hotels in 2015. A convenient option for people like me who always remember their phone, but never, ever remembers the key card left on the nightstand. Oh, and good news fellow iPhone users—this initiative is designed for both Android and iOS users, so this is one we will actually be able to get in on.

The Little Things Lead to Greater Things

As July demonstrates, the travel industry is opening itself up to a whole new world of possibilities through its APIs. Everyday travel, like your workweek subway ride, is getting easier, flying is becoming less of a hassle, and no longer will we have to walk back down to the main desk to explain that we lost our room key…again. Looking at these instances in a vacuum, it is easy to see them as a nice little perk, a bit of convenience but really nothing earth shattering; that’s probably true. But, when we take a step back and realize the broader implications of initiatives like these, it speaks to the world to come, a world where normal events and occurrences are more often than not automated by the everyday items we wear on our person and keep in our pockets. 

That’s what APIs and the Internet of Things are currently enabling for us all. Yes, for now, its just small niceties like our tube pass, boarding pass or room key, but this is only a tiny sample of the larger efforts the travel industry is undertaking, and virtually every other industry as well. These small niceties over time will continue to pile on and, before long, we will be immersed in a world that interacts and responds to us even before we make any demand of it. Think of that level of convenience in our homes, in our cars, when we are at work, when we travel and all the time and energy it will save us. Some might see this vision as the embodiment in laziness, but it’s not—in fact it’s the opposite. Offloading the menial tasks to machines so we can work more efficiently in the office, and have more time outside of it to pursue our own interests, is precisely the same way we automate tasks to our non-connected machines today. Hey, you make a pot of coffee using a coffeemaker in the morning, don’t you? 

There are still a lot of challenges and questions that the industries emerging around the Internet of Things need to answer. But, as they do, the rate with which we receive all of these “niceties” is only going to accelerate, and a connected automated world will be upon us before we know it. So, “All aboard! Please keep your seatbacks and tray tables in their upright locked position. And enjoy your connected stay.”

Contribution From: Rahul Gilani