As modern technology advances rapidly, only some companies, businesses, or software development firms can create the functionality required to integrate with other third-party tools and platforms.
Rather than reinventing the wheel and developing core functionality from scratch on every application, businesses today opt to use application programming interfaces (APIs) and strategically designed user interfaces (UIs) to speed up the development lifecycle and bring their products to market at a faster pace.
We’re going to discuss the power of APIs compared to user interfaces when it comes to portal maps and visibility in logistics and transportation applications, as well as how an API can assist with data mapping and data cleansing in the logistics, shipping, and freight industries.
What is an API?
An API or “Application Programming Interface” is a technical term for a set of functions that allow external applications to interact with functionality provided by another application.
A simple example of an API would be a smartphone app that wants to show the weather to a user. Instead of developing an entire weather station application and figuring out how to parse weather data from live weather stations, the application developer would use an API (Application Programming Interface) to connect to existing weather functionality.
By “calling” or “implementing” this weather API into their mobile app, they saved countless development hours and used already-written software that has been proven to work.
In short, APIs allow developers to implement or “integrate” functionality into their application to complement it and provide increased user functionality. In many SaaS (software-as-a-service) applications, API implementations are called “integrations.”
When an API is implemented and integrated into an application, it works as one with the application.
What is a UI?
User Interfaces (UIs) are often dashboards, web portals, or software windows composed of buttons, interactive elements, maps, and other intuitive features that enable users to view essential information at a glance and control the functions of an application.
Compared to an API that is integrated directly into an application and “becomes one” with the application it was implemented into, a user interface must be independently designed and implemented to match the desired functionality of an application.
In short, user interfaces are how a user and a computer system or software suite interact. UIs are used for real-time freight and delivery tracking in the logistics and freight industries.
What are the pros and cons of using a UI for logistics data?
Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) or User Interfaces (UI) are implemented into software applications to make it easy for users to interact with the application and perform the actions they’d like to use it for.
When GUIs are implemented to parse logistics data, some of their primary advantages include the following:
- User-friendliness and ease of use
- Attractiveness and appeal compared to a command-line program
- The ability to use and set shortcut keys for quicker use
- Multitasking abilities with the creation of multiple windows
Some of the cons and disadvantages of Graphical User Interfaces include the following:
- Increased development time and costs
- Memory usage due to the increased number of graphical elements
- Time consumption caused by the time and energy required to learn each graphical element within a GUI
- Lower program operating speeds due to increased overhead compared to a headless command line program
What are the pros and cons of using an API for logistics data?
There are distinct pros and cons to using an API for logistics data, especially if you have never developed a logistics processing framework. By using an API or logistics API integration, you’ll be able to cut down on development times and use a proven implementation that you know works without any issues.
Suppose your business utilizes an API specifically designed for freight tracking, transportation, and logistics. In that case, you can avoid building a user interface (UI) and front-end entirely, instead utilizing the functionality present within the API to perform all of your tracking functions.
Some of the benefits of APIs for logistics data include:
- A flexible and dynamic ecosystem that allows you to integrate with different types of businesses, platforms, and systems
- Automation with your logistics data processing, analytics, and handling, allowing you to simplify your data handling once and for all
- Encourage you to innovate by implementing new technologies and learning how they are implemented in the most efficient way possible
- Saving time and money by eliminating further development costs, replacing these costs and time with a pre-existing and pre-created API that can handle the functionality you would typically expect from a User Interface (UI)
Some of the cons of APIs for logistics implementations include:
- Requires knowledgeable developers to implement the API, and often can’t be done in a “codeless” manner
- This can add additional operating costs since the best APIs aren’t often free to use and query
What Does it Mean to be API First?
When a business decides to be API first, they consciously decide to make everything centered around its API. This includes building all of the functionality within their platform with API accessibility in mind rather than adding an API at a future date as a second thought.
Why is an API-first approach better than using a UI?
When your business decides to be API-first and takes this approach to develop your software or platform, you’re essentially “future-proofing” your company and saving significant time and development costs in the future.
In the logistics, freight, and shipping industries, an API can also include freight tracking technology and portals/visibility maps, reducing development time by eliminating the need to create a separate User Interface (UI) or front-end.
If you build your applications with APIs in mind, you’ll structure your application much differently than a competitor who builds their application as one controlled entirely by a user interface. If you don’t build with an API in mind and decide to add an API in the future, the framework of your application will likely have to be uprooted and rewritten significantly.
Why using an API for location data provide better data standardization in logistics
If you’re currently planning to implement location data into your logistics application or programmatic implementation, using an API is ideal as it provides better data standardization and opportunities to scale.
When using location data APIs, such as the data lake APIs from Kestrel Insights, you’ll be able to store and process large amounts of data quickly in a central location. This will allow you to index, catalog, and crawl your data to understand exactly what each data lake contains through API integration.
A logistics API and API logistics implementations allow you to level ahead of the competition, especially regarding freight API uses and API vs. UI use cases. The difference between API and user interface must be noticed, especially regarding future scalability.
Level up your data mapping and cleansing capabilities with an API-first partner like Kestrel Insights
If your organization is ready to take the next step and begin leveling up your data mapping and cleansing capabilities with an API-first partner, Kestrel Insights has developed precise and automated geofencing solutions that are robust and can significantly amplify your bottom line.
Using the Kestrel Insights API, you’ll be able to implement visibility portals, maps, and freight tracking in record time without developing a separate front-end or user interface (UI) for identical functionality.
If you’d like to learn more about our API-first approach with geofencing and request a demo from Kestrel Insights, reach out to our team today. We’ll be happy to show you what our geofencing API can do for your business.