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Jargon buster | What is an API?

What does real estate have to know about APIs? Caspar Mølholt Kjellberg of Hococo shares a beginner’s guide to why software in your building relies on them.

In one sentence, what is an API?

An API, or Application Programming Interface, is essentially a well-defined common language that enables different software to talk to each other and exchange information.

What types of proptech platforms use APIs?

Any type of proptech platform would essentially need to either expose or subscribe to APIs in order to interact with any other software solution.

What would happen to proptech platforms if we didn’t have them?

If we didn’t have APIs, proptech platforms wouldn’t be able to interact with other software remotely. Imagine how software worked in the early 90s, when any data interaction would happen through a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) server or by means of physical data media.

How much risk is there of APIs in a building’s system becoming obsolete? Do they need to be updated?

Careful design has to be put into developing and evolving an API in order to avoid making legacy clients obsolete. This is often done by introducing a versioning scheme, meaning that all versions of the API are available and accessible indefinitely.

If they were to become obsolete, how much disruption would this cause to a building?

Losing connection to an API in charge of something, like a digital lock solution or a fire alarm system, could potentially mean loss of access or even the building burning down!

How do APIs ensure data transfers are private and secure?

Most interactions between APIs today are and should be encrypted. This is usually achieved by adding a layer of Transport-Layer Security (TLS) to the connection between the two systems. Having encrypted messages between the involved systems means that no one can snoop on content, even though they gain access to the intermediate networks involved in carrying the message.

Caspar Mølholt Kjellberg is CTO of tenant relationship management startup Hococo.

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