We're transitioning from the world of the web to a world of connected apps. There are now more than one million mobile apps on the major app stores, up from just 8,000 available apps in October 2008, according to Mobilewalla. And 38 percent of adult cell phone owners and 75 percent of tablet owners in the U.S. have downloaded an app, according to the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project. To take advantage of this transformation, companies need to change from working directly with developers on single applications to enabling platforms that expose services to many third-party developers. This allows developers to create new apps faster, because they can focus on the basic functionality of their app, rather than peripheral issues such as billing. So rather than having to build an in-app billing service for downloading additional levels in a game, for example, a developer could just send the charge directly to your monthly AT&T bill. For AT&T, this means enabling an API gateway, which we call the AT&T API Platform.
How did the Idea Hatch?
One of AT&T's objectives is to become the most open carrier network in the world. Creating the API Platform is a critical step to achieving that goal. We're moving network services into the cloud, and making them addressable by turning them into platforms and exposing them as APIs.
The scope and ambition of AT&T's program to open APIs is unparalleled among network service providers. Then we surround that with tools — like HTML5, on boarding, portal and support — that make the APIs easier to consume.
About the Project
This project was born out of our objective to expose our network and IT capabilities as web services and make it extremely simple for developers to innovate on top of the AT&T platform. We met Sam Ramji, the VP of Strategy at Apigee, a third party developer, at a fast pitch event and quickly determined Apigee had the right solution to enable our vision. Thanks to the work done by Apigee and the Foundry, the API Platform is up and running, currently enabling 74 APIs across 13 service categories that are exposed to all registered members of the AT&T Developer Program. Through the use of these APIs, those developers are able to create entirely new applications and application experiences that could not have happened otherwise.
As we continue to expose additional network capabilities through new APIs on the gateway, such as the AT&T WatsonSM API for speech recognition, the possibilities of the applications that can be created increase exponentially. And we're seeing growing demand for our APIs, as the number of transactions has grown from 300 million per month in 2009 to more than 4.5 billion per month now.
About the Researcher
Michael Fairchild is the Director of New Technology and Product Development Engineering in AT&T's Palo Alto Foundry. He is responsible for selecting and running Foundry projects. Michael collaborates with outside developers while leveraging AT&T's internal resources to accelerate innovative ideas to market.