Below are a few thoughts about the importance of APIs in Digital Signage. Obviously we write this from an Instoremedia perspective, and needless to say, the Instoremedia solution has APIs which we believe make it a very flexible choice of platform.
Setting aside technical definitions, which you can google or read on Wikipedia, it’s a (secure!!) gateway into a piece of software. It enables developers to introduce features into software which are powered by another piece of software. So, for example, if you wish to trigger a change on a display which shows updated information from another business system, then an API will enable this.
It may be that your software does not have a feature you would like. An API may enable you to develop this feature independently of the software manufacturer, or to port it from another piece of software (including a website or social media application). This means that you can get really creative really easily.
In Digital Signage APIs mean a platform can more easily be broadened and configured in line with your ideas to engage your target audience.
There are multiple applications for APIs in Digital Signage. Below are just a few applications, but its an important point that APIs are an effective multiplier. They allow creation of completely integrated software features, so the kind of applications possible is limited primarily by your imagination and the amount of software applications available with APIs!
APIs have a use as facilitators of direct interaction between a display and its audience. If you wished to have an App which downloaded real time content from a display, or changed content on a display in response to data in the App, an API would allow this.
Or you may wish to control content on your displays from a system which is external to a Digital Signage CMS altogether – a web CMS, Digital Asset Management database (DAM) or business operations system for example.
Digital Signage systems deploy and play media on displays. An API can give you the option to do things such as display media subject to certain triggers. These triggers could be from an external source, such as an application which can recognise your audience demographic.
APIs can also enable you to display media which is dynamically updated from an external source. This may be important if you wish to display data feeds, dynamically changing prices or alter the airtime content receives in accordance with an external parameter such as stock levels – just a few examples of the kind of media display functionality you could easily create with an API.
Finally, Digital Signage systems are usually an integration of different software and hardware from different manufacturers. APIs can enhance this integration. If you wish to monitor the status of hardware from within the CMS, or if you wish to trigger an automated support ticket in a system which is external, then an API can enable this kind of broad functionality.
Digital Signage is moving away from being a standalone application, to being an application which is integrated within an estate of digital assets, and the API is the glue which can make it part of this.
Digital Signage is likely to become both more personalised to its audience and to make use of new, low cost, low impact hardware technologies.
If you want a Digital Signage system which is easy to standardise, fully integrated within your systems, future proofed and able to meet the demands of ever more imaginative cross channel or data driven marketing efforts, then APIs are important.
A good platform with good APIs will enable you to expand and develop its functionality way beyond what may have been offered out of the box, or scoped when you first start using it.
Asking whether your Digital Signage system is open and connectible through secure, well documented APIs is always a worthwhile question.