It’s all about the data

Behind all of the social media, websites, mobile devices, and even increasingly in TV and radio that we use daily, there is the data that drives it. Much of this data is accessible in machine-readable formats called APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) which allow automated systems to talk to one another.

We have recently launched a new website for Kromek, one of our clients, for its new RadAngel personal radiation detection device. We have produced a number of websites, and all of our sites have clever touches and distinctly ‘Cool Blue’ features.

One of the special features that this site has is a fully featured data API. What this means is that the users of the RadAngel devices can take readings, and then upload those readings to the website to have them displayed on maps, shared with friends and so on. The API works regardless of whether the user sends the data via their PC, laptop, iPhone or tablet.

Data APIs are typically thought of as relating to social media, and integrating with websites (for instance, the Twitter feed on the left-hand side of this very site uses Twitter’s data API to allow us to show the latest tweets – this is something we do on a lot of our clients’ websites) but we love working with them so much that we implemented our own version on the RadAngel website.

Now is an exciting time for anyone dabbling with data APIs – there’s a wealth of data out there on social media websites which we can use to bring exciting personalised interactivity to websites.

Pinterest is now gathering up information on those interested in implementing an API which would allow greater interactivity with its site.

Some of these data visualisations have even been advertised on TV – I saw an ad for shipfinder.co recently, a website which shows the location of ships around the world. A similar one shows the position of planes live – www.flightradar24.com. Flipboard takes your social media accounts and turns them into a beautifully presented magazine. None of these would be possible without data APIs.

While privacy is always and will always be a concern (and quite rightly so!) those issues can be resolved by making sure users are informed and know who can access and use their information. Data presents the creative mind with the ability to present us with wonderful, engaging visualisations that have relevance, but it relies on the data sources being accessible through these powerful but typically invisible APIs.

  • RadAngel™ launched (radangel.net)
  • Billions of API calls traversing Web, redefining “software” (zdnet.com)