What are APIs and how can we use them?

What are APIs and how can we use them?

Application programming interface is better known by it’s abbreviation API and it is with the power of APIs that allow us to programmatically access copious amounts of data the world has to offer.

We use APIs in 0ur everyday lives and we would be pretty lost without them – lets consider a world without APIs. We wouldn’t be able to withdraw cash from ATMs, online shopping such as Amazon and eBay would be impossible and we’d even have to visit a travel shop just to book flight tickets. Basically, it would return us to the scary age of constant and regular human interaction.

The basic purpose of an API is to allow various software systems to communicate and transfer data between each other. Companies both large and small now offer their own open APIs to access their data. Facebook, Adobe,  Google, Microsoft and Twitter are examples that have their own open and free APIs.

Lets now look at ways businesses can take advantage of APIs to create a value-added service.

Data visualisation

Data visualisation tools such as Data Studio by Google make extensive use of APIs.

The free tool allows import of data via specially made connectors from many sources including Google Analytics, Search Console, Doubleclick and various database systems. This allows us to aggregate data from multiple sources to provide a more powerful view.

More recently, Google Data Studio introduced custom community created connectors that enables import of data from almost any API in the world. Facebook, Twitter, Adform and Bing data can now easily be imported and combined with official connectors.

Data warehouses – aggregation

A key function of APIs is to pass data from one system to another, so let’s consider if we expand this a bit and look to push data from many systems into one.

Programmatically transferring data from multiple services and placing it into a single harmonised database opens new avenues to query data. You could for example include data from all social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube with harmonised dimensions and metrics and get a quick easy view of your social media performance in a single query.


Data warehouses – historical data

When grabbing data from a service such as Facebook and Google, we have to abide by the limits that the service enforces. For example, many services included in Facebook and Google’s APIs only allow historical data to be retrieved for a specific length of times.

It is for this reason, we use the APIs to retrieve this data into a data warehouse so we have access to it for a longer period of time.

Machine learning APIs

A programmatic approach to your analytics using APIs can help your business make decisions before you even know they need to be made. Machine learning technologies has given us the power to do this and has opened an all new avenue of opportunities for data analysis.

Companies such as Google have been using and developing machine learning technology to power their business for many years and now much of this technology is available to a wider audience.

The process of developing a technology such as predictive analytics would be an extremely costly method. But APIs have allowed companies to share their technology at a more affordable price.

Google is not the only company to offer a machine learning API, there are many to choose from. Microsoft, IBM and Amazon also offer their own versions.


Services for taking advantage of APIs and integrating them into your business strategy are available through Quru. Find out more from our data integration page.

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