The value of environmental monitoring systems through application programming interfaces

September 21, 2022

What is a REST API and why should I care?

Figure 1: Setra CEMS architecture with examples of REST API clients.

Awareness and use of APIs has exploded in recent years. Originally a domain of the software development community, these powerful interoperability enablers are now at the forefront of web, cloud, and mobile device application development.

Although APIs have been around for decades, the rise in their popularity and standardization can be attributed in large part to two major technological and cultural landmark events.

  1. Amazon Web Services’ introduction of the S3 (Simple Storage Service) storage service in 2006, the first of its cloud computing services. Amazon S3 was offered through a simple interface (a REST API) to store and retrieve data over the web. This provided developers with an easy-to-use, scalable, and cost-effective storage infrastructure service identical to Amazon’s internal IT. S3 was soon followed by Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), which offered compute capacity in various sizes using a similar REST API approach. These two new Amazon Web Services launched the cloud computing industry while providing the means by which REST APIs would soon dominate the web services landscape at the expense of a plethora of more complex, preexisting standards.
  2. The launch of the Apple iPhone in 2007. The huge success of Apple’s new class of computing platforms created tremendous demand for smartphones, mobile applications and the underlying need for access to content and data for this burgeoning new market. The approaches and mechanisms for distributing content to websites had to be extended to distributing content to mobile devices and applications.

The result of these developments was the rapid establishment of REST APIs as the de facto industry standard.

REST API – stands for REpresentational State Transfer and delivers data in lightweight JSON format. The vast majority of APIs use this standard because it offers fast performance, reliability, and scalability.

No need to reinvent the wheel.

Standardized APIs enable complementary software functions for robust interoperability within and between applications, locally or across the web. These applications are increasingly sourced from a variety of vendors, each with specific expertise and capabilities. API stores are commonplace today, where collaboration and interaction between potential API consumers and API providers take place to foster thriving API communities and solution ecosystems. Developers and end users benefit from this interface standardization and the enormous variety of services and data sources available and can now choose between best-in-class solution components and easily integrate them to achieve new functions and business benefits.

CEMS REST API – The simple, powerful and reliable solution for integrating with EMS

A practical example. If you need secure, standardized access to information from a cloud database populated with data from sensors and instruments in critical environments such as clean rooms, Setra CEMS REST API is your answer. Example candidate customer applications include: Historians/Data Lakes, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition Systems (SCADA), Quality Management Systems (QMS), Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), Statistical Process Control Systems (SPC), Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS), Distributed Control Systems (DCS), Mobile Apps and countless other.

As shown in Figure 1, parameters such as temperatures, relative humidity, differential pressures, air velocities and particle counts (and any third-party data sources from analogue, Modbus and BACnet communications) can be aggregated and sent via the Setra Edge Gateway device to the cloud-based CEMS Setra platform. This information is encrypted to ensure data integrity during transmission.

The CEMS server contains a rich API that allows access to appropriate authorized client applications
Operations that can be applied to a variety of resources. These resources are accessed over HTTP
Methods such as GET and POST – see Figure 2.

Figure 2: An example of a GET HTTP method to trigger a read time series data operation.

Figure 2: An example of a GET HTTP method to trigger a read time series data operation.

APIs, workhorse of digital transformation and Pharma 4.0

The adoption and use of such powerful modern open software technologies underpins far-reaching industry initiatives such as digital transformation and Pharma 4.0. As the industry evolves towards the production of smaller batch sizes and personalized medicines, the amount of accompanying information to be managed will increase significantly. APIs will break down silos within and between organizations by building bridges between industry, regulators, healthcare and all other stakeholders. In practice, this means more connectivity, more productivity, simplified compliance and the provision of production information to be able to react to problems that arise.

GET with the program

If you would like to evaluate the powerful capabilities of the Setra CEMS REST API by accessing a comprehensive list of resources and operations along with interactive JSON scripts, click here.

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