SDKs and APIs – All you need to know to make an informed decision

Building software in the current world requires high-speed development to meet ever-changing business needs. Products and services are delivered incrementally in Agile mode. 

To meet speed and quality requirements a development team will need to identify the following:

  1. Development tools and frameworks that ensure standardization.
  2. Ready made solutions that can be integrated directly or customized to serve their needs.

Thankfully modern development approaches have ready-to-use SDKs and APIs to meet these challenges. Instead of wasting time and resources on researching, developing, and testing, teams can use a plethora of APIs and SDKs with extensive community support.

An SDK is a full-fledged installable library, while APIs are services exposed by a third party or another service, to be communicated with. Both take away the development effort of a module or feature that you might not be ready with.  Depending on the scenario a developer or team will either need an SDK or just an API. Making an informed decision on when to use one over the other is crucial to successful software development. 

To understand this, let us take an example in which we want to build a native health tracking app. The app will have the following features:

  1. Social authentication through Google or Facebook accounts.
  2. Location tracking to figure out distance covered from point A to B as per the user’s activity. It could be cycling or walking.
  3. BMI calculator.
  4. Diet options.

The list can continue, but we do not want to digress from our main intent of understanding SDKs and APIs.

The first thing to consider while building a native mobile app is that there needs to be an Android and an iOS version to serve the majority of users. Whether one should go in for a native or a hybrid app or build the 2 variants using a Cross-Platform approach requires a separate discussion in itself. The starting point for it could be the skills available in-house.

Android app and social authentication implementation

For our scope, let’s just consider the Android app. The official language for building Android apps is Java. Kotlin also has become an official language for Android development and is heavily promoted by Google. C, C++ runs natively on the phone. Then there is LUA which is not supported natively and requires an Android SDK. You can even use C#  depending on your team’s core competency. This will require either Xamarin with Visual studio or Unity. 

We are going to choose Java here.

The best way to get started for a Java developer is to install Android Studio which is an IDE that automatically downloads the Android SDK and emulator.  The Android SDK is a complete set of development, debugging, testing, and build tools, APIs, and documentation. Using the SDK you can generate APKs that can be deployed to different Android-supported devices. The developer just focuses on the language of his choice based on what is supported by the SDK and uses standard code and framework to get the app up and running. 

The next feature to be built is single-sign-on into the app, using a social account. Both Google and Facebook provide client or server-side SDKs to hide the complexity of the actual implementation and enable the integration through popular languages. The developer just rides on the authentication provided by Facebook and Google. Additionally, the user also grants the app the permission to access information or perform operations on either platform based on our need. In our case, we will have to use the Android SDK provided by Facebook and Google.

To sum up, the Android SDK enables the following:

  1. Enables development of the Android app using a language of our choice, Java.
  2. Provides APIs to access location, UI, camera and other native features. 
  3. Enables localization of the app for different languages through the SDK’s framework if required.
  4. The Java code is compiled to an  Android application package along with the required libraries of the SDK

Hence for our health tracking app, we can use the Android SDK for social authentication

Location Tracking Functionality

One of the key features of the app we are trying to build here is to figure out the distance walked or cycled by the user. We can take the route of custom implementation by spending a couple of days or weeks to come up with an algorithm, implementing and finally testing it. A better approach would be to use an out-of-the-box solution such as Google Maps and save on SDLC time and effort.  Google provides both SDK and APIs related to Maps and distance. In our case, we do not really need the entire Google MAP SDK. We can use just the relevant APIs such as the Distance Matrix API.  It gives you the distance and time between one or more endpoints. 

Let’s consider the Javascript implementation of the distance matrix API. The end-point provided looks like this:

https://maps.googleapis.com/maps/api/distancematrix/outputFormat?parameters

Based on the above URL we can glean that an API comprises of the following –

  1. Protocol – SOAP, REST or GraphQL. In our case it is REST. SOAP is the oldest mode of interaction with heavy schemas and data. REST is an architectural style relying on HTTPs GET, POST,PUT and DELETE operations. GraphQL is a query language promoted by Facebook which solves the problem of under-fetching or over-fetching by REST.
  2. URL – as provided by the service provider.
  3. Request Parameters – Either all parameters are mandatory or some are optional. Any service exposing APIs will share the parameters and their structure. In our case for instance – destinations and  origins are required parameters. Mode (bicycling or walking) is an optional parameter. 
  4. API Key – We will need to pass a unique API key that points to our application using the service for authentication and authorization.
  5. Response – The output is either JSON or XML.

An API (Application Programming Interface) enables easy and seamless data transfer between a client application and the server providing the service. There is no installation required, unlike an SDK. The API logic is completely abstracted by the service provider from the client. APIs contribute to a loosely coupled, flexible architecture. Since the API code lies on the server, it’s maintained by the provider. Because of this dependency, we need to ensure that we choose a reliable provider and also keep an eye out for newer versions.

Hence for our health tracking app, we can use the Google Map API for location tracking.

BMI calculator and diet options implementation

This would be either a custom implementation, an API, or SDK. If it’s not available readily as an API or SDK and is required in a number of different health services or products the organization wants to provide, it would be best to expose it as an API for current and future use. 

Diet options clearly are a custom implementation in our scenario.

Differences between SDKs and APIs

APISDK
An API is used to provide a feature by running on a third-party system in a request-response mode.An SDK provides all the tools, libraries, APIs, and documentation necessary to build the application or feature.
APIs run on separate servers (internal or 3rd party) and hence have a continued dependency on the service for reliable operation.SDKs typically run on the same environment and hence have no interdependencies. However, they use the processing power of the existing environment of the application being built.
This just requires a SOAP/REST/GraphQL call to the server end-point with request parameters defined as per the API documentation. This is available in languages supported by the provider which is mostly based on what can run in the environment expected and the popularity of the language. 
For instance, Java, NodeJS, Python, GO, PHP are the usual languages popular with the developer community.
No installation is required. It requires installation and is therefore bulky. Any upgrades will need to be handled at our end. Some SDKs also allow customizations as per our needs.

In a scenario where just a few APIs are required from the entire stack provided by the SDK and these APIs can be independently run, it’s better to opt for the APIs alone.
Error handling is left to the application based on what is thrown back by the server.SDKs lean on the language’s error handling mechanism besides what the server platform returns. Therefore error handling is handled in a more effective way.
Examples – Map Apis, Payment Apis, AdMob API provided by Google.Examples – JAVA SDK, Android SDK, Facebook’s Single Sign-on SDK.

While SDKs are a superset of APIs, used appropriately, they both have many advantages over custom development. 

Advantages of using SDKs and APIs

  1. Fast and easy adoption – A few lines of code and your feature is ready.  The developer can focus on the core business functionalities of the application instead of re-inventing the wheel or working on something that is not our core area of expertise.
  2. Saves time and effort – Ready to use and can be directly plugged into, thereby shortening development cycle.
  3. Language – In the case of SDKs, they usually support all the popular languages that the implementation needs. For APIs you just have to ensure the communication protocol and parameters are as per the requirements.
  4. Support -APIs and SDKs ensure best practices, provide robustness and have community support.
  5. Documentation – APIs and SDKs have good documentation for developers to understand and use. No expertise required other than knowing the language to be implemented in. 
  6. Updated – Newer features keep getting added to the stack by way of versions which the developer if required needs to just update. Mostly backward compatibility is already handled by the service provider.

Disadvantages of using APIs and SDKs

To summarize, whether it’s an API or SDK, it’s better to follow the reviews of the community before making a selection. Things to look out for are known bugs, limitations, and cost.

Trigent provides a number of ready-to-use SDKs and APIs for many domains such as mobile app development, SCM workflows, Logistics, AR/VR development services, enabling you to focus on your core expertise and saving you a lot of time and effort in your development cycles. To know more, please contact us

3 Common Mistakes in Ecosystem Integration That Affects Supply Chain Interoperability

Ever wondered what’s common between Apple, Google, and Facebook? Apart from being insanely popular tech giants, all of them have derived tremendous value from their ecosystems. The same holds true for many others like Amazon and Alibaba. We are now part of an economy where ecosystem integration is revolutionizing how organizations address the changing needs of their customers across the globe.

Interestingly, the ecosystem as a concept is not so difficult to understand. It serves as a one-stop-shop for your customers where they get extraordinary benefits through your network of connections. The best part is that it works equally well for all sectors, including transportation and logistics.

Modern-day challenges require shippers and logistics companies to build resilience to mitigate impacts on supply chains irrespective of the circumstances. Several organizations are already pulling up their socks to protect their businesses on multiple fronts with the help of efficient crisis-management mechanisms. An efficient ecosystem is the game-changer they need to achieve all their goals and survive pandemic-like disruptions.

While it is important to create an ecosystem of collaboration and trust, ecosystem partners need to work together to address capability gaps. This can happen only when they critically evaluate the challenges they encounter on the road to building ecosystems and know the pitfalls to avoid. What they need is efficient ecosystem integration that connects critical revenue-generating business processes. The fast-paced eCommerce market also necessitates a robust ecosystem to attain supply chain interoperability and respond efficiently to market disruptions.

As Simon Bailey, senior director analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain Practice, rightly puts it, “Major disruption, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, are the ultimate test for the resiliency of a supply chain network. However, not all disruptions are unplanned. Many CEOs are planning to offer the new value proposition of their products and services, and they expect that their organizations require new capabilities to support these new products and services.”

Ecosystem integration can be a bumpy road for some unless you know the three most common mistakes to avoid. Once they are out of the way, you can attain supply chain interoperability through successful ecosystem integration. So let’s delve deeper to know how we can rectify them to be part of a thriving ecosystem.

  1. The digital abyss and failing to adopt an API-first approach

Around 46% of shippers and logistics companies still use legacy systems with minimal digitization. Though they are fast understanding the importance of articulating their needs through technology. While some are content with Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), others have migrated to Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to facilitate better data exchange for profitable business outcomes.

The lack of adequate digitization in supply chains hampers both EDI and API integration. We have used APIs inadvertently in our daily transactions, be it for booking a new car online or shopping for insurance products. APIs work as intermediaries between diverse systems globally to enable communication between businesses and customers in logistics parlance.

Today, organizations need advanced technologies to improve experiences for stakeholders and customers. Likewise, they need APIs to make their systems agile to respond and interact in real-time. To successfully design and adopt APIs, you must first determine the end-user experience you wish to deliver. You need to remember that APIs drive online ecosystems, and it would be impossible to connect applications and services in their absence.

Considering that the modern architecture is API-centric, it is imperative that you take cognizance and the necessary steps to adopt it. The transportation and logistics sector uses APIs to connect their physical and digital assets to create an integrated supply chain to digitize the current supply chains and create new business models. You need to successfully adopt APIs to automate business processes and ensure ecosystem integration.

A digital ecosystem so created would comprise suppliers, third-party data service providers, and logistics providers with many advanced tools and technologies at its helm. As you embark on building it, you need to adopt the right ecosystem integration approach to connect all the revenue-producing processes with mission-critical internal applications. Luckily, it’s never too late to begin from wherever you are. All you need to do is get out of the digital abyss and accelerate digital transformation to enable exceptional customer experiences with an API-first approach.

  1. Failing to build trust and transparency with ecosystem integration

A multitier supply chain needs a lot more than operations teams and production teams to keep going. They require trust and transparency to overcome disruptions across supply chains. You need to assess risks to identify those that can stop or slow production lines and directly impact operations costs. You need to ensure that you are sourcing the right items at suitable locations and have a cohesive network to rely on. You may have to look for alternative suppliers to ensure government policies do not stand in the way.

You need to go beyond Tier 1 suppliers to know you have the right network. Car manufacturers, for instance, often have a network comprising multiple suppliers to cater to the unique requirements of all of their manufacturing regions. This helps them address sudden disruptions that may arise due to changes in foreign trade policies or tariffs. While this strategy works perfectly to mitigate risks, it also allows them to engage with multiple vendors to supply raw materials and stay competitive continuously.

Trust and transparency can be crippling factors necessitating partners to focus on collective goals. As we all know, lack of trust leads to friction that, in turn, may cause churn. BCG research iterated the examples of ride-hailing biggies like Uber and Lyft that lost $8.5 billion and $2.6 billion respectively due to a high driver-churn rate that propelled their marketing and promotion costs to stay afloat.

Trust-building instruments and initiatives must be deployed wherever necessary to build lasting relationships and robust supply chains. Questions should be asked to identify and respect each partner’s role within the ecosystem, and information-sharing agreements should be created to maintain transparency.

Says Simon Bailey, senior director analyst Gartner, “It’s crucial that supply chain leaders create a collaborative and trusting culture where ecosystem partners are willing to work together and share information across the network. This will only be the case when all members agree on mutual quantitative and qualitative standards.”

  1. Undermining the role of visibility in improving supply chain interoperability

A throbbing logistics industry requires a high level of interoperability. The global logistics market is expected to spike at a CAGR of 6.5% from 2020 to 2027 touching $12,975.64 billion by 2027. Shippers and logistics companies are tightening their grip on costs and inventory management. While doing so, they sometimes fail to sharpen their visibility into the supply chain.

Visibility usually concerns the movement of parts, components, or products in transit as they travel to their destinations. Data related to these movements need to be accessible to all stakeholders, including your customers. Only then would you be able to attain interoperability in its true sense. There are visibility platforms to ensure multichannel integration across the ecosystem. Merely having dashboards is not enough unless you know how to use the data they send out to make smarter supply chain decisions from a transportation perspective.

There could be disruptions due to natural calamities such as floods and hurricanes or labor disputes and political events that could upset the natural rhythm of supply chains. Also, data is often spread across disparate systems, and unless you have access to it, you will never be able to increase collaboration or forecast future demands.

Tom Madrecki, CBA vice president of supply chain and logistics, while emphasizing the role of visibility, says, “The greater degree that you have to what’s happening throughout the supply chain, then you’re able to better manage your costs, you’re better able to predict where are you going to have an issue ahead of time and have that more enhanced real-time visibility to everything.”

Supply chain excellence comes from data-driven decisions. It is important to have data from suppliers, forwarders, brokers, and third-party logistics companies to ensure end-to-end visibility in real-time. Mobile device integrations are now an essential aspect of ecosystem integration to facilitate data from diverse geographical locations. They allow you to identify bottlenecks and address issues in a single environment.

The right ecosystem will strengthen your supply chain capabilities and empower you to adopt best practices to foster interoperability. Due diligence and proper planning can help you tide over the many challenges and create an ecosystem for a more sustainable future.

Enable hassle-free ecosystem integrations with Trigent

Trigent, with its highly experienced team of technology experts, has been helping enterprises with frictionless data transfer integrations through EDI/API. We help reduce costs and the complexity of logistics supply chain management while optimizing loads and routes. We offer prescriptive analytics to gain customer insights and drive revenue.

We can help you build operational efficiencies, too, with hassle-free integrations.

Call us today to book a consultation.

Top 7 Trends That Will Drive Healthcare in 2021

2020 brought along challenges as well as opportunities for diverse sectors including healthcare. We’re now stepping into an era of digital transformation that will push the boundaries for healthcare in incredible ways with a profound impact.

As per the Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare’s 2020 Index, the US healthcare industry is missing out on billions of dollars in potential annual savings due to lack of adequate workflow automation to carry out common business transactions. Apart from the $122 billion that it has already saved through automation, it can save an additional $16.3 billion by fully adopting nine common transactions.

The CAQH said in a statement, “For example, each fully automated claims status inquiry costs $11.71 less than the same transaction conducted manually for the medical industry and $10.92 less for the dental industry. Similarly, every eligibility and benefit verification converted from manual to electronic saves the medical industry $8.64 and the dental industry $8.75. Considering the millions of times these transactions occur every day, the savings potential across the healthcare economy is significant.”

The healthcare sector is now more focused than ever on simplifying workflows and reducing the burden associated with administrative tasks while keeping automation at the helm of all its initiatives. We bring to the fore the top 7 trends in healthcare that iterate the role of automation in making patient-centered, outcome-based systems a priority.

  1. API-enabled EHRs to improve interoperability

Application Programming Interface (API) enabled EHRs means patients get better access to data and manage healthcare outside the healthcare facility using their smartphones or computers. API adoption enhances interoperability and patient data sharing between providers thereby reducing clinical burden, and facilitates better care coordination. When deployed correctly, next-gen APIs create secure and compliant integrations to provide actionable data and advanced care through multiple avenues and channels.

Ben Moscovitch, project director of Health Information Technology at Pew Charitable Trusts opines, “If standard APIs were broadly adopted in health care, patients could access and compile their data from multiple providers while clinicians could process complicated information and make care recommendations. APIs would also offer other benefits, such as facilitating the exchange of clinical data among health care providers.”

  1. Robotic process automation or RPA for scaling operational efficiency

The data collected from various internal and external sources such as insurance portals, third-party portals, ERPs, clinical applications, scheduling applications, etc. can be overwhelming, and streamlining the flow of information across all these channels can be a labor-intensive task. Robotic Process Automation provides the much-needed respite by extracting relevant information from multiple sources and automating routine tasks to reduce costs, minimize errors, and improve operational efficiency.

According to Gartner, 50% of healthcare providers in the U.S. will invest in RPA in the next 3 years as a means to optimize costs and healthcare resources giving further impetus to RPA adoption. Explains Dr. Anurag Gupta, research vice president at Gartner, “Cost optimization is a consistently recurring theme among healthcare providers. The money that RPA saves by not having to spend as much on an unreformed process translates into cash that is available for front-end clinical functions, which is especially important while healthcare organizations combat the COVID-19 crisis.”

  1. Telehealth for remote care

Telehealth has been instrumental in providing care virtually during the pandemic that made social distancing mandatory. In no time, everyone was convinced about its immense potential and is fast becoming a preferred form of medical care. As President of VirtualMed Staff, Jack Williams explains, “When patients feel their care is as good or better than a routine visit in person, all from the comfort of home, those same patients will no longer endure long wait times when it is avoidable.”

Using technologies such as streaming media and video conferencing, telehealth will allow patients to choose healthcare providers and services irrespective of their geographic location through digital telehealth platforms. It will eliminate patient no-shows, travel time, wait time, etc. ensuring better efficiency and revenue for medical practitioners. Telehealth is also playing a pivotal role in improving disaster emergency response services through advanced volunteer registration, biological surveillance, hospital bed availability tracking, patient record management, etc.

Telehealth will continue to play a big role in addressing the healthcare needs of patients as part of their long-term healthcare plan even after the pandemic is behind us. A hybrid healthcare model has emerged ever since the pandemic accelerated advances in remote managed care for those with chronic conditions and those who had COVID-19 symptoms but did not require hospitalization. What we can now expect is a combination of telehealth and in-person visits to manage everything from routine follow-ups to critical care.

  1. Cloud-based LIMS for continuous access to data

The global Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 14.1% from 2019 to touch $2.21 billion by 2026. What was earlier conceptualized as a system to record test samples and particulars about donor and patient samples has now evolved to join the league of next-gen healthcare solutions using cloud technology.

LIMS on the cloud can connect multiple stakeholders and give users complete control over sample tracking, processing, and delivering while attaining scalability in their business. Patients too can track their records and maintain personal health data easily. LIMS software can schedule appointments and follow-ups for healthcare specialists and time slots of lab equipment in a highly efficient manner.

The modern LIMS software can be leveraged effectively as an interface between lab equipment and other devices in real time to enable the import and export of data for better coordination.

  1. Salesforce health cloud for improved patient experience

Salesforce health cloud provides a complete view of patients through easy-to-decipher dashboards that collate data from different sources to unite healthcare provider siloes. Using this data, healthcare providers can map the entire patient journey understanding their relationships to specialists at different junctures of healthcare.

Data is collected from different sources such as EHRs, medical devices, wearable activity trackers, etc. to build a patient history that includes details such as medical history, current medical conditions, lab results, etc. Salesforce admins can incorporate the necessary security features to ensure security compliance and also provide an omnichannel experience to patients so as to allow them to reach out for care from an app or channel they are most comfortable with.

  1. Artificial intelligence and integrated wearable technology for better health management

Although AI has been around for years, it has now become ubiquitous and a game-changer from a clinical, operational, and financial point of view. With machine learning, AI can segregate data, so that healthcare providers understand patients and their condition better to make more informed decisions. Shared insights across a large patient population can help chart the treatment course for patients to ensure better outcomes in the future.

AI is now helping develop predictive models during the pandemic to track the virus and estimate the risk based on the spread of the disease. It is also playing a big role in genomics – the study of an individual’s genes – attaching findings to electronic medical records of patients to optimize clinical decision-making.

Also trending are wearables that allow individuals to record steps, heart rates, blood pressure, and overall exercise regime. The global wearable market is expected to increase in size at a CAGR of 15.9% from 2020 to 2027 from USD 32.63 billion in 2019.
With AI and machine learning in the picture, wearables will help transform clinical research and treatment protocols while ensuring better more positive outcomes in healthcare.

  1. A digital front door to offer personalized care

Social distancing brought along a new challenge for healthcare providers – ramping up their digital capabilities to stay connected with patients during their hour of need. The idea of having a digital front door thus became necessary which was expected to be simple to use but purpose-built.

Writes Bruce Orcutt is Vice President of Marketing at ABBYY – Patients need healthcare services that can meet them where they are: in their own homes. Utilizing video platforms, native apps, and personalized web portals, digital healthcare offerings support a healthcare system that is convenient, timely, and best meets the needs of a wide array of patients.

No matter where a provider is on their digital journey, it is important to have granular, accurate, and comprehensive data to widen the digital front door. Discovering and analyzing operational processes and identifying bottlenecks will be important steps to enhancing operational workflows, reducing patient wait times, and creating a seamless patient experience. Considering that a digital front door creates first impressions in the minds of patients when they approach a healthcare facility, many are now investing in mobile apps for their organizations to host patient portals, telehealth visits, and other chores.

Wrapping up

The healthcare industry is all set to attain new frontiers with transformative technologies at its helm. At Trigent, we help healthcare organizations deploy future-ready technologies to get a 360-degree view of their people, processes, and data. We believe connected healthcare is the key to improving patient engagement and delivering quality care.

Allow us to help you with integrated healthcare solutions that will drive the future. Book a consultation today to know more.