All types of business, it seems, from modern-day web-based merchants and service providers through to more traditional retailers and media companies, are today using APIs to allow them to collaborate more closely with external partners such as application developers and third-party service providers. Businesses can use APIs to securely expose elements of their core services to partners (for example mapping, social media updates or e-commerce capabilities), so that partners can easily build those elements into their own applications and services.
The motivation for exposing APIs to partners varies from business to business. For the major web companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter, APIs can be used to drive increased usage of their services, through the creation of innovative third-party applications that attract a large audience, which can then be monetised through advertising.
E-commerce-based businesses, such as online retailers, use APIs to open up new sales channels and indirect routes to market. Other businesses use APIs to create a ‘two-sided’ business model. In this model, revenues from traditional core services can be augmented with revenues derived from the use of their IT assets by partners — for example by allowing their billing systems to be used by third-party merchants in return for a transaction fee.
The global communications industry is no different from other technology-centric industries in recognising that collaborating with partners using APIs can be used to create new sources of revenue, drive more innovation, increase competitiveness and retain and attract customers. Over the past few years, network operators worldwide have begun to expose some of their core network capabilities as simple-to-use web-based APIs that can be used by a wide variety of mobile, web and enterprise applications.
This started with relatively simple services such as text messaging, location and payment/billing, but is now evolving to embrace more sophisticated capabilities such as conference call set-up, Quality of Service control, customer profile, and now, with the launch of the Small Cell Forum developer initiative, Zonal Presence. Aepona coined the term Network as a Service (NaaS) to describe this new business model for network operators, drawing parallels with the term Platform as a Service used by the broader IT industry. Our API Monetization Platform has since been deployed by a number of network operators and service providers globally to support the launch of their NaaS offerings.
In 2008, the GSM Association recognised the need for the mobile industry to come together to offer a more consistent API experience to developers and eliminate the fragmentation that existed due to different technologies, interface specifications and business models. The GSMA launched its OneAPI initiative to address these issues, and chose Aepona to provide the platform for the OneAPI Reference Implementation, which provides developers with a portal, code samples, tutorials and a developer forum as well as a testing sandbox for a range of APIs such as messaging, call control, location and payment. Today, there are almost 2,000 users globally registered on the OneAPI portal, spanning developers, independent software vendors, enterprises, media companies and merchants.
The Small Cell Forum developer APIs are being made available through the GSMA OneAPI Portal, providing a ready-made global audience for exciting new capabilities such as the Zonal Presence API. This provides a subscription mechanism for authorised third party applications to receive notifications of user activities within a Small Cell zone — such as entering or leaving a zone and transferring between access points within a zone.
The Small Cell APIs will enable a new breed of intelligent, context-aware services for consumers and businesses. Aepona’s partner Sixth Sense Media demonstrated one such service at this year’s Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona. Sixth Sense Media’s MarketPlaces cloud-based campaign management system uses the Small Cell Forum Zonal Presence APIs to allow merchants to deliver highly targeted, contextually relevant promotions and coupons to their customers, creating real business benefits for merchants, consumers and network operators.