In this lesson, we will cover how to make connections to Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), to access more data and trigger more actions using your application.
Let’s begin by thinking about two topics we’ve already covered, databases and logic. Perhaps the simplest way to think about an API is that it allows us to access actions and data from a different remote system that in no way is part of the application we’re building.
APIs are the foundation of how many modern applications are built, because they allow many different applications to make use of the same centralized resources. For example, you might have a Netflix app both on your television and mobile device. Both of these applications are light, containing only the User Interface and related logic, with the data in both apps being fetched from the Netflix API.
With APIs, we can fetch information, for example, weather data, which we can then use in our own app. To contrast an API with a database, in a database, the data structure will be created to suit a specific app or use case, whereas with an API, the data is returned in as general a way as possible. If a database has a lot of generic use outside its immediate purpose, then it would be wise to build an API for the database.
How do you access an API? Web-based APIs are quite simple in that they will have URLs, like a website. Instead of opening a page, the URL returns data or performs an action.
One way to think about actions and APIs is to imagine you have some smart light bulbs in your house. The lighting system could have an API, as some do, and this API could have a URL that can be visited to turn the lights on or off. It would not be complicated to build a smart light remote app that would use this API to control the lights.
Opportunities with APIs
The opportunities with APIs and building applications are vast. If there’s an API for it, then you can build an app for it. Whether it is an API for an inventory management system at work, an API for books, an API for weather, or an API for smart IOT devices, there are many possibilities. An API will already cover a lot of the data or functionality you need, with a relatively lightweight app needed to connect a user to the API.
Many of the applications you use every day run on various kinds of APIs. If you’re working in an organization, it is likely that there are APIs integrated with the programs and systems you’re using.
Challenges with APIs
While the idea of APIs in principle is quite simple, there are some real-world challenges. Connecting to an API might not be a simple task. Due to security and technical concerns, access to APIs might require various forms of authentication. Even when using low-code/no-code tools, more complex APIs will eventually require some understanding of how the connections, authentication, and data in those APIs work.
Don't be discouraged. Here at SAP, we constantly work to make integrations with APIs easier and more seamless, so that they’ll be easy to use in low-code/no-code environments as well.
Once an API connection has been worked out, it will benefit the current and follow-up projects, so putting some resources into figuring out APIs is often time well-spent.
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) enable you to connect your application to other sources of data, applications and more to fetch and deliver information via a simple URL that leads to the API.
The opportunities are vast, if anything has an API, you can build an app for it.
The challenges are that, for more complex use cases, you might need to involve the IT department before you can access an API.
This was the final piece to learning about the different areas of application development in this unit. I’m happy you stayed with me the whole journey, and I hope you now feel more confident to take on application development with low-code/no-code platforms.
In the next lesson, we move onto the exciting part. We’ll take what we’ve learned so far and will put it to use, building a simple application in SAP AppGyver.