APIs Enrich Software Users’ Experience
Q: What is an Application Programming Interface (API)?
Heine: It's a software-to-software interface that enables Web-based applications to be part of your transportation management system. You can access outside information without leaving your working application. For all practical purposes, it's built-in. For example, Google Maps APIs are often built into Web sites.
Q: How are APIs used in the logistics sector?
Heine: There are so many uses. TransCore Connexion is a tool available for brokers and carriers to instantly communicate with Transcore's DAT Network. Have an available truck? Without leaving your working application, you can instantly see the latest rates for the lane you want. Need a load? You can view the loads available right now. TransCore also offers an API for insurance and carrier compliance; so do Risk Management Information Systems and Posteverywhere. TransCredit offers an API for shipper credit information. uFollowit has a GPS application that tracks cell phones and delivers the information via API. Icontainer.com has an API for international freight rates, so you can get port-to-port or door-to-door pricing in an instant. Epay Manager has APIs for adding visibility to your accounts payable. LoadOpt offers APIs for optimum LTL shipment consolidation. Comdata has APIs for issuing Comchecks, express cash, or virtual credit cards. PC Miler now offers an API for truck mileages. Beyond these, common carriers often have APIs for rates, delivery information, and even signed documents.
Q: So APIs display information from other Web sites?
Heine: Yes, but it goes deeper than that. Take e-signatures, for example. Rate agreements, quotes, and contracts can all be e-signed. Sertifi is a market leader in this. You can email a document to a customer or trading partner through a Sertifi API. Sertifi adds a unique signature element to the document, then forwards it to your recipient quickly and transparently. For the recipient, it's simple; they can type or tap in their signature. The e-signed document is then e-mailed back as an attached PDF to you or whoever sent it. A proof of delivery or bill of lading can be e-signed from an iPhone, iPad, or any smartphone and be back in your office within seconds.
Q: E-signatures are new to logistics. Are they legal?
Heine: Yes, courts have upheld agreements with e-signed documents. Companies such as Pitney Bowes, Microsoft, Salesforce.com, and Comcast use documents with e-signatures. It's likely that within the next five years, more than 50 percent of logistics documents will be electronically signed.