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The ‘Quiet’ Rise of the API

The ‘Quiet’ Rise
of the API

Simon Fairbairn

Head of Professional Services, EMEA, TSS – Member of the Scientific Community

Many would agree that connecting and collaborating together has great power, but mostly we are referring to the ‘people’ dimension. The value we get from talking, exchanging ideas and working with others to solve problems. But in reality, it’s not just humans for whom this is important, for technology and machines it can be equally so. In fact, in years to come you could argue the balance will switch as artificial intelligence takes root, deeper machine learning matures, and the interconnected fabric of our technology landscape accelerates with users expecting a more and more integrated experience.

The principle of joining two systems is a simple concept on the surface but one not so easy to do in reality. In this space the API (Application Programming Interface) has quietly become a crucial component in our jigsaw. It’s the unseen person at the party, quietly connecting the guests and smoothing the flow of the discourse. With 100% growth between 2019 and 2020 and now over 46 million APIs stored through Postman Collections, one of the main API platforms, the rise has been formidable.

 

API as Common Currency

In practice, the many points of integration now in play have brought about a tapestry of richer, more dynamic technology ecosystems. Think of the numerous points of connection such as single sign on, data sharing enabled through Open Banking and, in the case of payments, the connections between terminals and retail point of sale solutions. Everywhere you look there will be an API, working quietly in the background to make our world simpler, richer and better. For Worldline our approach to APIs has been a catalyst for delivering exciting new use cases. Our experience confirms the view that APIs have become the nucleus of digital transformation; for those working on digital transformation initiatives, 84.5% state that APIs are playing a significant role in those initiatives.

 

Better, Smarter, Faster

System integration has always been an important factor in developing and extending our technologies but it has largely been based on a variety of bespoke connections, middleware or local APIs. In recent years however, there has been a step change in how APIs have been engineered. In particular the use of text based protocols such as RESTful JSON, have helped greatly simplify the process of connecting or consuming services independent of the underlying programming language or platform used.

So, the term API has become common currency as organisations and solution providers seek out new ways to be more effective and offer better solutions and services through participation in wider ecosystems. Calls for ‘Do you have an API? ‘or ‘How do we connect?’ have grown in use and volume, increasing the investment in making things simpler and easier to hook up in the first place.

Improvements in standards, tooling, and documentation have transformed integration tasks that took weeks and considerable manpower into ones that need only days and light touch development to complete. This has led to a proliferation of available APIs, enabling developers to connect to more things and more services. Even the rise of businesses wholly built around APIs; take Uber and its use of messaging services from Twilio and map services from Google. In fact, close to half of the 13,500 respondents of the postman 2020 API report stated that the investment of time and resources into APIs will increase over the next 12 months.

For Worldline this development path is critical and brings real value to the services we offer our customers. Take the example of an in-store digital checkout and how APIs have been used to enrich and simplify this experience for both the consumer and the merchant.

  • Before The Transaction – creating the basket, scanning bar codes with the payment terminal and simultaneously displaying the basket without the need for a separate third screen
  • During The Transaction – selecting the payment method (Contact, Contactless, Card Scheme, QR, etc)
  • After The Transaction – completing the transaction and sharing final data with the POS solution to trigger a digital receipt

 

All this is achieved by equipping third party developers with the means to connect through exposed APIs without having to fully understand payments or how a payment terminal functions. Abstracting the complexity and providing developers with ready access to tooling and a knowledge base has really helped to reduce the friction that used to be evident in such activities. For example, working with a leading French ISV, making a successful connection to drive a transaction was a task that used to take weeks, was completed over the course of an afternoon. Even better, Worldline’s new Axium Android range of terminals comes with these Global APIs embedded and ready to go, which means that if you complete the integration with any of the terminals, then the rest are ready to play as well.

 

The Future is Most Definitely Bright (& Joined Up)

Worldline’s terminal transformation to a Payment Platform as a Service (PPaaS) provider has pushed this API approach even further. Every service developed is designed to be consumed through a web front end or via an API. This will enable our customers to back their offer with our platform and make integration much slicker in areas such as provisioning & account creation, activation, addition or withdrawal of services, as well as improving access for our customers to back office services such as estate management.

A great but simple example is a recent proof of concept where we helped a major loyalty programme improve a pain point they had been experiencing with a new cashback offer. The challenge they had was that transaction data was being received several days after the event, creating a disconnect in the experience. Now with the help of a useful little API, the data is provided real time and the service is ready to roll as intended later this year.

For the payment industry, the use of APIs is vital. Merchants expect the data to flow seamlessly to support their payment processing, accounting, inventory management, market intelligence and fraud management. With APIs, we open new horizons and opportunities and create space for further innovative user experiences right through the value chain. Without these clever little connectors, our world would be a lot less interesting and significantly less connected.   

 

If you have any questions or what to know more, you can contact me at simon.fairbairn@Worldline.com or contact Myriam Hebron, our Solution Marketing specialist for Global APIs, at Myriam.HERBRON@Worldline.com

Also, if you want to know more about Payment Platforms as a Service, follow the link to https://www.ppaas.com/