Supplementing Business Data with Public APIs

Many businesses have unique private data which, when surfaced correctly, can offer novel insight of their industry to customers or internal teams.

 

While this data already exists, it likely contains only the necessary fields to enable functions of the business and is not intended for general consumption. Serving this data as-is may fall short if key details are missing which contextualize it beyond its original use case. If your business data references public assets (e.g. physical locations, other businesses, media) then a third-party API can be used to pull in public data related to each asset to create a more holistic solution.

Using existing data to create a new product or feature outside the scope of your primary business function offers several opportunities:

– Demonstrate business knowledge and industry leadership
– Increase interactions with customers
– Solidify brand loyalty and elicit goodwill

Challenges

The main challenge will be aligning the two data sets. Assuming that the number of data points is large enough that it is not feasible to manually find the public record which corresponds to each private record, it will be necessary to create an algorithm which automatically finds matches with a high degree of confidence. This algorithm could be run against the entire private data set in bulk to identify matches and store references, or it could run as needed to service live usage of the product. It could fetch supplemental data once and cache it or always pull updated information from the public API. There are a number of strategies which can be tested and tuned to optimize for performance and user experience.

Dominion Energy

In the case of Dominion Power, private data pertained to power status of buildings by way of power meters and reported outages. This was supplemented by Google Places API data for the businesses operating out of those buildings. Addresses in Dominion’s power/outage database could be matched to addresses returned by a proximity search of Google Places. The final solution: a list of nearby businesses like you might find in Google Maps but contextualized with indicators of the likelihood the business currently has power… something which only Dominion could supply.

Consider Blue Bee Cider in the Nearby Places with Power list. Those familiar with the implementation see a distance to the business of “0.6 miles” provided by Google Places and a power status of “Likely” provided by Dominion. The customer just sees that there’s a cold cider waiting right around the corner for them. 

When your power is out, and you need a place to work, grab some food (or a cold drink), funcationalities such as this let your customer know you’ve got their best interest at heart. 

Michael Peter

Michael Peter

July 23, 2020

Michael is a full stack developer primarily focused on architecting and implementing complex backend systems. Through his time at Shockoe building custom solutions for a variety of clients, he has repeated experience integrating with outside data sources from the initial discovery phase through to robust production deployments. In addition to development, he also manages the cloud environments, infrastructure configuration, and automated deployment processes of projects he is involved with. Michael designs systems to meet modern best practices by leveraging Docker containerization, serverless offerings, and a variety of AWS resource types to best serve the project's needs.

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