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

Unsure of which SDK Framework to use? Send in your requirement and we will be happy to assist you!

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

Mobility Is Changing the Transportation and Logistics Industry

The transport and logistics (TLS) companies operate in a decidedly complex market with numerous dynamic variables, including high investment, fluctuating oil prices, multimodal freight policies, large data, and human attributes. Mobility solutions streamline operations while offering substantial operational and cost advantages. Consequently, transport companies are able to extend the value to their customers by offering fast, flexible, and reliable services.

Operational challenges associated with the Logistics Industry

All businesses, regardless of the field of activity, must buy and sell products that have to be moved from one location to another. Also, people are swamped with work and prefer to buy things online instead of going to a supermarket. The need for logistics today is progressively increasing because eCommerce has become a major trend, and freight is considered the lifeblood of a country’s economic development.

However, dealing with logistics processes has always been a complex and arduous task. Companies with large fleet operations often struggle with operational challenges and inefficiencies.

Major challenges that logistics teams encounter:

  • Adherence to regulations
  • Organize and demystify operations
  • Offering categorized, custom-made services
  • Logistic and workforce management

Opportunities to reap the benefits from mobility solutions

By leveraging mobility solutions, TLS companies reap the benefits of operational efficiency, mainly reduced operational costs. Cloud-based mobile apps provide a bird’s eye view of the fleet and boost efficiency in functioning. These apps are delivered across devices and platforms enabling stakeholders, field personnel, and analysts to easily access and use them to monitor at any point in time. A connected fleet on a mobile app enables tracking of operational systems, preventative maintenance, hours of equipment usage, resource utilization, etc.

The GPS tracking systems monitor the movement of vehicles, shipments, and cargo in real-time accounting for any breakdowns, accidents, or delays. Automation replaces many laborious manual processes enabling legacy companies to upgrade to digital methodologies. Standardizing processes and workflows using mobile applications ensures a paperless workflow with digital dashboards that help in making quicker decisions. Automating sales and customer services’ communication cuts downtime/resources on repetitive and predictive tasks and reduces the scope for delays and human errors.

The most important feature of a mobile app is it facilitates gathering and synthesizing data. Firms mine data for better insights into customer preferences, performance enabling critical decision making. According to a report from McKinsey Global Institute, companies that embrace analytics can generate additional 3 to 5 percent return on sales.*

Leveraging Mobility Solutions by Logistics companies (Surge, HDFleet, and ReedTMS)

In the last several years, logistics has been seeing significant growth because of developments in technology, and organizations are tempted to make the most of the new-fangled innovations and continual evolutions. The augmented demand for mobility has created the need to focus on challenges such as investment and capricious gas prices. The logistic business has created a mobile transportation system that can satisfy the imminent requirements of the economy and society. The main goal of mobility solutions in the logistics industry is to improve the efficiency and safety of transportation, coupled with bettered environmental sustainability.

  • Operations – Fleet management solutions enable tracking multiple vehicles with their latest location, generating MIS reports for analyzing productivity.
  • Route planning – Mobility solutions bring the capabilities of planning the best routes – a factor critical in logistics to save time, fuel, and thus optimize costs.
  • Geo-fencing – A Geo-fence configured into an app prompts or triggers a pre-programmed alert when a mobile device enters or exits a virtual boundary set up around a geographical location. They are particularly useful to monitor the fleet so as to reduce cost and trigger warnings to drivers entering uncharted territory or deviating from their route.
  • Control & Safety – The apps monitor the driving pattern and in turn, provide the safety index of the driver. It’s an excellent tool for performance analysis and to incorporate performance-related incentive systems. It also helps in continuously tracking vehicles with location and real-time photos & videos that in turn help in claiming insurance. The systems can also constantly monitor driver’s conditions and alarm us in case of violation of traffic rules such as usage of phone while driving, rash driving, overspeeding, and stopping at unauthorized locations.
  • Documentation – Freight documentation is completely digitized, cutting down manual labor and errors. In case of accidents, providing documentation is easier for claims and procedures. The digital driver’s license or digital copy of a driver’s license, stored in a smartphone can be used to authenticate documentation.
  • Influences decision-making – Applications gather data about demand and supply, observe business performance, and help in making key decisions for a company.
  • Customer Services – Mobile apps improve the quality of customer service by providing a friendly user interface, end-to-end shipment tracking, manage customer complaints, act as proof of delivery, alerts, and notifications.

The Fitting Solution for Your Enterprise

Trigent’s Mobility Services team is well-equipped to develop applications and tools whether it is for your existing systems or new business needs. We develop solutions that have the ability to seamlessly integrate with the existing systems. We explore the progressive web, native, cross-platform, and hybrid applications and our experts prescribe the most suitable one keeping in mind your current and future requirements. Our secure, reliable, scalable apps enable you to achieve operational efficiency and reduce costs significantly.

Get in touch with our team to take the next step.

Trigent Software Proud to be Named on Clutch 1000

Here at Trigent Software, we know it can be tough trying to juggle business success and staying up to date with all of the latest and greatest software innovations. That’s why we’re dedicated to IT outsourcing and offshore development! We enable organizations to adopt innovative digital processes and customer engagement models and outstanding results.

In light of our success, we’ve earned recognition for our custom software development prowess, and have earned ourselves a spot on the Clutch 1000! This is a list of the top B2B service providers, reviewed and vetted by Clutch’s verified research. We’re number 179 on the list, out of over 1000 custom software developers, but the only service provider featured from Fayville, Massachusetts!

We’d like to set this time aside to thank our wonderful customers for helping us achieve this award. They participated in client interviews with Clutch analysts to gauge our impact on their day to day business. They ranked us on the basis of cost-effectiveness, attention to project deadlines, and our overall quality of service. In reflection of those scores, we’ve been given an amazing 4.8 out of 5-stars! We’re so happy we’ve been able to meet our clients’ expectations! Please take a look at a recent review below:

For those who might not know, Clutch is a B2B market research firm that employs a unique ratings methodology to compare companies across sectors. We’ve also been recognized by Clutch’s sister platforms, The Manifest and Visual Objects. The Manifest, a site where companies can be identified as leaders through business metrics, list us on their directory of top software development companies. Visual Objects, a platform that features top firms and their visual portfolios, names us among their top custom software developers.

Thank you one and all for making this award possible! Please drop us a line if you’d like to start a project today.