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APIs Come to the Supermarket

The trend for supermarket APIs, driven by mobile, is one which is bound to just grow and grow

There has been a rush lately of retailers exposing APIs to enable mobile access to what previously were in-store operations. Last month, Adam Broitman wrote in Advertising Age about Walgreen's photo API. In the article he notes that APIs may become crucial to brick and mortar stores.

In the same trend, this month  Adam DuVander has written on ProgrammableWeb about how the Safeway subsidiary, Blackhawk Network, uses APIs for supermarket gift cards. APIs can sometimes seem like abstract things, to a non-developer (Adam Broitman writes "Take a trip to a few local drug stores and ask the pharmacists to define the acronym API. Chances are they won't know"). But, as Adam DuVander titles his article, the Safeway/Blackhawk gift card API is literally an example of an "API in the checkout line".



Safeway and Walgreens are both benefiting from their APIs to extend their businesses beyond the bricks and mortar world. The key driver is mobile. Supermarket gift cards used to be solely physical cards. But mobile wallets change that. Adam notes that "Mobile wallets have extended what it means to distribute cards. Now, in addition to being a piece of plastic, gift cards also can live in a virtual collection that can react to our mobile lives"

Security remains important because supermarket Gift cards are tied to actual money. As Adam notes, "Naturally, security is a concern, so Blackhawk turned to Vordel for API management using a certificate-based model". If you want to find out more about how Vordel is used to manage Safeway/Blackhawk's APIs, here is a video which includes details on the management security provided by Vordel for the APIs.

The trend for supermarket APIs, driven by mobile, is one which is bound to just grow and grow. Front-runners like Safeway/Blackhawk and Walgreens are just the tip of the iceberg.

More Stories By Mark O'Neill

Mark O'Neill is VP Innovation at Axway - API and Identity. Previously he was CTO and co-founder at Vordel, which was acquired by Axway. A regular speaker at industry conferences and a contributor to SOA World Magazine and Cloud Computing Journal, Mark holds a degree in mathematics and psychology from Trinity College Dublin and graduate qualifications in neural network programming from Oxford University.

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