I see a lot of APIs in my daily work. The diverse number of ways in which APIs are being used is one of the things that keeps my ADD brain interested in all things APIs. While the technical, business, and politics of the API game infinitely has ways to keep me paying attention, I find myself engaged more lately, not just for the belief in the potential of APIs for good, but around the potential for misuse--at a troubling pace.
Increasingly I am stumbling across API implementations, that when I am initially learning about, the 12 year old boy in me is immediately interested, but then the 43 year old skeptical in me recoils, like I am seeing a car accident on the highway. Insitu's Tungsten Software Development Kit has this effect on me -- Insitu makes technology for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).
I think the tagline on their home page sums itup well--the API opportunity is at this layer of civil, commercial, and defense deployment of UAVs.
I think their own description of the Tungsten Software Development Kit, speaks well to what APIs can do for almost any device, including UAVs:
Our Tungsten Media Toolkit offers the ideal software development kit (SDK) for companies and platforms that demand flexible, superior, real-time digital media solutions. Designed by software developers, Tungsten can be used for a wide array of media purposes and applications and offers developers an extensive application programming interface (API) to operate on media from a variety of sources, be it cameras, network streams, archives, and beyond. Insitu Mission Systems addresses your metadata-rich media challenges by applying the Tungsten toolkit and deep expertise in tactical data collection and processing.
With the awareness I've seen realized from using APIs in between the back-end, and front-end web and mobile applications, I can only imagine what is possible, when you open up API access to a drone, its camera, and all its information gathering capability. It is exciting to think about from a technical perspective, that is when I have my technological blinders on -- which is default mode for me, as a white male software architect living in the US.
However, when I take these blinders off, and think about the potential for abuse in all three areas listed above, I can't help but worry for our future. APIs are a win for these platforms, and their partner developers, but when it comes to transparency and accountability at this layer I've seen very little action. Which is part of the reason I am writing about it. I'm all for APIs being a thing in UAV, but part of my motivation isn't about the drone opportunity, its the opportunity for transparency and accountability to be baked into this layer by default, so that we help minimize the number of negative outcomes.
While UAV usage worries me, I think the cat is out of the bag, and there is no stopping this type of technology from being a thing. We just have to get better and ensuring the mechanisms are in place to ensure platform providers, and their developers are doing the right thing. The opportunities for misuse is extremely high, but I am hoping that it will be something that can be reduced with an open API approach. #NotHoldingBreathe