News — February 22, 2018

Opinion Piece: What is an API and how are APIs used in the global logistics world?

Application Programming Interface (API) is a set of functions and procedures that allow the creation of applications which access the features or data of an operating system, application or other service. In other words, it’s a simple way for connecting to, integrating with and extending software systems.

APIs are a messaging format that allows data to be transmitted from one system to another in nanoseconds, increasing productivity and revenue for businesses. In addition, the code is simplified and structured to clearly define how a program will interact with the rest of the software world.  There are huge savings in time, IT resources, and potentially nasty data entanglements along the way.

And this all happens behind the scenes because APIs are not called or used by end-users directly. Instead, API’s are called by apps, such as mobile apps, web apps, or TV apps. It’s the apps that are then used by end users.

Take LinkedIn. When you use the app to upload a photo, the app is calling LinkedIn’s API. You don’t see this; you just know that it gives you the ability to upload your photo.

The way LinkedIn and other apps work when you upload a photo is like the way you can track a container around the world. In the background, the supplier of information captures the data and exposes it through their APIs. The user, through their software or app, sees the info presented in a user-friendly and user-defined way. Only the user-driven information is shown, in real-time.

APIs are very important in the container industry and are becoming more and more popular. A shipping container can be classed as a ‘physical API’, because it’s an interface for interchanging, moving and storing physical things in a standardized, efficient way.

EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) may be the current industry default, but it’s old technology that runs data over timers, which means data isn’t coming to you in real-time, leading to more phone calls and emails to track processes that should be automated. Processes like find out rate quotes, sending instant dispatch requests to a carrier’s system, tracking freight, and requesting image documentation. Freight EDI is costly to set up and maintain, leads to more headcount, and is frequently disrupted.

The leading alternative to freight EDI are APIs. APIs, unlike EDI, is pulling in the required data when you need it. This allows for the ability for more consistent tracking of freight shipments and for fetching pricing and notifications of information from carriers more consistently, more accurately, and more quickly. With the logistics industry at its most competitive, real-time data is crucial to ensure you are 1 step ahead of your competitor.

No more lagging, no more missed connections. All the information you need, when you need it.

APIs allow for quick and easy mobile integration, which means that application data and reports can easily be ported to mobile devices for those people always on the go and not connected their laptops.

1-Stop’s latest product that relies on APIs is CargoConnect – it is our industry platform for use by terminal operators, deports, freight forwarders and transport companies.

Released this year, CargoConnect has a broad range of integration capabilities, cloud-to-cloud and on-premise-to-cloud, along with a comprehensive API framework that defines, creates and consumes APIs for batch and real-time integration.

The aim of the service is simplicity, usability and efficiency. Customers who want to electronic, real-time messaging between their own business and their trading partners in the logistics and supply chain industry can connect to the APIs and retrieve information immediately.

APIs allow a new level of customizability, using our Cargo Connect platform, we can ensure your requirements are built to the specifications for your business by choosing the precise support services, operational reporting and consulting services.

APIs hold the ability to completely overhaul the supply chain technology landscape, making way for unprecedented speed and scalability. The connectivity layer created by APIs enables devices to speak to one another in real time, it will set the stage for modern technology concepts like the Internet of Things (IoT). APIs are the fastest and most seamless way to access data which in terms makes way for informed decisions in the supply chain. They are virtually frictionless.

Integrating solutions like APIs that have less expensive and faster-to-deploy solutions will enable our industry to remain competitive in today’s on-demand economy of getting products from A to B to the consumer faster and more efficiently.