Where Are the Industry 4.0 Third-Party APIs?


Textile finishing unit. Credit: Lalit Kumar Textile finishing unit. Credit: Lalit Kumar

Application programming interfaces (APIs) are a big business and a core subject to one of the biggest intellectual property lawsuits in Silicon Valley. Yet, they are rarely mentioned on the factory floor. APIs typically take a set of inputs, perform an operation, and deliver a set of outputs. These inputs and outputs are usually very well defined. The best APIs carry out very specific tasks and are optimized for performance. Lastly, APIs are often chained together to accomplish much bigger goals and objectives. If this sounds like a manufacturing line, it’s because in essence, it is! APIs make the creation of digital goods much easier just like machinery enables manufacturing lines to create physical goods efficiently.

Cobbling together Third-party APIs enable companies to scale up easily, test out new ideas with minimal integration, and create new revenue streams. For example, a new eCommerce can start with minimal capital by incorporating APIs from Stripe, Shopify, Cloudflare and others to accept payments, create a online store, and host web content in fewer lines of code than this newsletter. If a new payments provider comes along, Stripe can be swapped out by changing the seven lines of code with some other payments API provider. As the company gain customers and collects data on emerging trends that data could be monetized by creating an API for others to use. The key to third-party APIs is that they are published, easily accessible, and often free to use so that the community can try then as they see fit without much friction.

On the factory floor, APIs are embedded in every robot, control system, sensor, and data system. However, these APIs are often locked down by the OEMs that create them. They are not easily accessible and prohibitively expensive. Often times, the API is a complete afterthought as what only matters is that the machine or subsystem is able to perform its task consistently and with high accuracy. Even today, automakers are struggling to integrate new sensors into their vehicles to support autonomy due to API issues. If Industry 4.0 is to reach its potential, third-party APIs must make their way to the factory floor.

I’m betting the winning Industry 4.0 companies will be the ones that provide competitive hardware with large libraries of open and accessible APIs spanning digital twins, additive manufacturing, robotics, control systems, and finished goods. These companies will be more adaptable to changing demand signals, launch new products faster, and create new revenue streams through exposing data generated by both their products and operations via APIs. If you know of any leading Industry 4.0 API-first companies, please send them my way.

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🔖 Topics: AI, machine learning

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✍️ Authors: Isaac Arnsdorf, Ryan Gabrielson

🔖 Topics: COVID-19

🏭 Vertical: Pharmaceutical

🏢 Organizations: Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Snapdragon Chemistry

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🔖 Topics: cloud computing, computer vision, machine learning, quality assurance

🏢 Organizations: AWS, Basler, Dafgards, General Electric

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✍️ Author: Çağlayan Arkan

🔖 Topics: digital twin, cloud computing, wearable technology

🏢 Organizations: Microsoft, Kennametal, Lexmark, Sandvik, Bosch, Honeywell

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