Open API
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Launch of the Open API platform

A self-service store for developers

05/2017 - How can the abundance of data at Deutsche Bahn be transformed into modern services for travellers? DB Systel is working with its customers on coming up with specific ideas and establishing an API management platform as a suitable foundation.

Every business unit at Deutsche Bahn has its own treasure trove of data that can be used for a wide variety of purposes. In cooperation with customers and developers, DB Systel was recently exploring potential ways to get more out of these valuable archives for the good of the Group. The Group-wide data portal at data.deutschebahn.com was already established last year as a joint project involving Skydeck and DB mindbox.

In this scenario, the Group’s various areas (including DB Long Distance, DB Station&Service and DB Connect) serve as sources of data. They supply open data sets on train stations, lifts, operating locations – and timetables, as well. This benefits those who participate in hackathons, for example, because they can easily access the different sets to realise their ideas. However, many developers want to be able to draw upon both static and dynamic data.

Application programming interfaces (APIs) have been fulfilling this need in the world of IT for some time now, but the ability to provide access to data and services online through modern web APIs is a more recent innovation. “In essence, Open API is a platform that supports secure data transfers from within DB to external recipients,” explains DB Systel’s Tobias Friedrich. “It also serves as an interface for exchanging data within the Group.” Meanwhile, functions that enable developers to oversee, control and organise programming interfaces while communicating with one another are just as important a component of Open API. Through the portal, modern web APIs are now being provided in a self-service format. Open API thus represents the natural addition of open programming interfaces to OpenData. The aim is to provide the most current information possible in order to offer seat reservations, tickets and other services in connection with a payment model.

A growing catalogue

This platform is the result of a proactive development effort by DB Systel that also sought to move the digitalisation process forward within the Group. As Deutsche Bahn’s digital partner, one of DB Systel’s main tasks is providing customers with integrative, value-generating recommendations and introducing them to business models made possible by data and APIs in a provider-agnostic fashion. During the portal’s technical implementation, the focus was on giving developers simple access to the APIs on offer. An integrated catalogue enables them to see at a glance which corporate divisions provide access to data and APIs. Once developers choose an API, they can call up all of the corresponding functions (including various parameters) directly with an integrated test console – that is, even before they adapt the interface to their own purposes.

Open API
The Open API platform gives developers a quick overview of the interfaces that are currently available.
© Deutsche Bahn AG

Plans are in place to extend the API management platform to include internal APIs, as well. In the future, the platform could also enable Deutsche Bahn to give select partners access to APIs pertaining to their business – or restrict certain DB interfaces to internal purposes. While the provision of the API platform is just the first step, the more than 180 developers who have already registered to use it show that it was a successful one. Demand will also continue to rise; after all, APIs form part of the basis of the ongoing integration taking place within the context of digital transformation. Georg Gilhaus agrees: “Having to worry about general issues like authorisation or security for each individual back end every single time is complete nonsense. It’s essential that we use the Open API platform for these purposes,” he asserts.

Are you interested in releasing your own data interfaces on the API management platform? Your colleagues at DB Systel will be happy to go over the options with you and provide technical implementation support. Please contact Tobias Friedrich  or Markus Heimann.