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The Met Office is planning to use application program interface (API) management software from CA Technologies to develop digital weather information services, opening up data to share securely with business partners.
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Using API management – which will provide controlled access to data locked in the organisation’s systems – the Met Office hopes to build new revenue streams.
The Met Office already runs a beta weather data service called DataPoint, which provides free data feeds in a format suitable for application developers. Anyone looking to re-use Met Office data in their own applications – such as the scientific community, student and amateur developers – can use DataPoint.
The Met Office also offers its Weather Observation Website (WOW), for bulk uploading weather-related data.
The Met Office’s director of IT, Charlie Ewen, said: “The Met Office combines the latest science with ground-breaking advances in technology and local understanding to deliver operational advantage to our customers. We need to have the necessary knowledge, experience and flexibility to apply our science across business and government, to manage risks and opportunities as they arise from our weather.”
As data volumes grow, some organisations such as the Met Office are generating big data that is too big to effectively widely distribute, as the verbosity and frequency of production outstrip the network infrastructure to move it. Ewen said APIs offer selectivity in the data required in a given application, and allows a more efficient use of limited network infrastructure.
He said: “CA's API management will underpin the next generation of Met Office services, allowing the organisation to safely share its data and applications with partners, developers, mobile apps and cloud services.”
Using API Management from CA Technologies builds on DataPoint, the Met Office’s first pilot public, free API. Ewen said: “As we develop our range of data, content, forecasts delivered via APIs we intend to provide a single point of access to them. This may involve changing the scope of data and content available via DataPoint and/or WOW to create a more consolidated and simple means of access.”
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Wide range of applications
The Met Office plans to launch mobile app services to help the public make more informed decisions about social activities based on weather conditions. It also envisages services to protect UK armed forces as they plan exercises around the weather, or keep technology safe with space weather forecasts.
The Met Office said these mobile services could help the UK and other economies prosper, by advising energy, retail and other sectors of weather that might affect consumer trends, or enabling airlines to reduce costs, and run safely and on schedule.
Ewen said there was demand from private organisations and apps developers for high quality APIs that can subset, manipulate and access open data as a service. “Met Office data is not only large but also fast moving, as very few people are interested in yesterday’s forecast,” he said.
Using large datasets efficiently
API management makes it possible to provide access to a subset of Met office data efficiently. Ewen said repeated retrieval and manipulation of the organisation's very large weather datasets is expensive and inefficient when only a small portion of these datasets is needed.
For smaller and more persistent datasets, the Met Office offers open data, providing a more traditional “store and forward” and multiple re-use access to the datasets.
CA Technologies is one of a growing number of software providers offering API management. Analyst Forrester estimated that the US market for API management will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30%, from $140m in 2014 to $660m in 2020. Even if other countries adopt API management at a slower rate, Forrester predicted that international companies would drive the market past the $1bn mark.
In 2015, Forrester’s Sizing the market for API management solutions report noted: “While any API may be treated as a product, when customers actually pay for it, it ups the ante on the need for billing integrity, relationship management, support, ease of use, and robust operation. 3scale, Apigee, and CA Technologies have strong billing and monetisation features built into their API management offerings, including out-of-box integration with one or more payment gateways.”