The Future Of Public Private Sector Partnerships Being Negotiated At The API oAuth Scope Level

A couple of weeks ago I attended a two day API specification session between major California utilities, Southern California Edison (SCE), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), and Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), that was organized by Hypertek Inc. for National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), that is looking to push forward the Green Button data and API agenda of the White House and Department of Energy.

The Green Button API and open data model already exists, but the current hurdle for the initiative is to get leading utilities to agree to specific implementation definitions that serve their customers, so it can be ratified as a standard. This entire two day session was dedicated to walking through line by line, and establish the oAuth scope that each of the three utility companies would implementing when providing Green Button data via the API to 3rd party developers, who are building solutions for utility customers.

An example of this in the wild, would be if a utility customer wanted to get a quote for a rooftop solar installation, the installer could use a software solution that was developed by a 3rd party vendor, that pulls that customers energy usage via the Green Button API, and generate a precise quote for the number of solar panels they’d need to cover their energy usage. Now this is just one example of how energy data could be used, but a very powerful and relevant one in 2014, that give customers access and control over their data.

Before we even get there, the Green Button API definition, data model, and oAuth scope has to be finalized with utility providers, before it can be submitted as a standard—with the final oAuth scope being what will be agreed to by each 3rd party developer that integrates with each utility's Green Button API. This oAuth scope sets the tone for the conversation that 3rd party software providers, and vendors can ultimately have with utility customers around their private utility data.

In my opinion this is one potential model for how industry operations will be negotiated in the future. While not all API definitions, data models and oAuth scopes will be defined by the government then negotiated with industries, but oAuth will be where this scope is negotiated between industry leaders and governments, no matter which side leads the conversation. Governments and industries working together to define API standards is nothing new, but what is new, is the presence of the oAuth layer which gives end-users, and citizens an active role. 3rd party developers and end-users do not get a place in the negotiations, but they do when it comes to putting valuable industry data to use in new ways--or not, which will flow back upstream and influence future iterations of APIs, data models and oAuth scope.

This introduction of the oAuth layer in how industries operate, potentially coupled with the access and innovation that can occur via API platforms when they are executed in alignment with modern API implementations, will change how industries grow and ultimately how power flows (pun intended). This evolution in how the public and private sector partner will not always positive by default, I’m not an API solutionist in that I believe APIs bless everything as good, but with the right players at the table, a little sunlight and transparency in the process, and a feedback loop that includes 3rd party developers and end-users, we might be able to implement meaningful change across many different industries around the globe.