How Veolia’s API-first approach is powering sustainable resource management
When you think of water, waste, and energy management, you may think of pipes, wires, cables, and waste recycling - but as Veolia Group is demonstrating, more sophisticated cloud technologies are becoming increasingly vital too.
APIs and API management, in particular, have emerged as a cornerstone of Veolia’s technology strategy, with Apigee, Google Cloud’s API management platform, serving as a “central nervous system for our data,” said Pascal Dalla-Torre, Group CTO at Veolia.
APIs and API management form the foundation for use cases across the company that range from modernizing management of those pipes and waste recycling, to unlocking new revenue opportunities, to enabling more efficient ways of partnering both across business units and externally. And they’re driving results: Dalla-Torre says that in the first half of 2021, APIs helped his team double the number of partners it works with, to more than 40.
APIs aren’t new for Veolia, which serves businesses and municipalities in 52 countries. The company has been using APIs for years for tasks such as IT modernization, with APIs allowing different legacy systems to interoperate, even if they were never designed to do so. But these integration projects are often bespoke one-offs, and Veolia wanted to go beyond simply connecting systems.
By building and managing standardized APIs that are shared across internal clients, Dalla-Torre’s team helps these business units to better serve municipalities and other customers. Without a centralized API effort, different internal developers could easily duplicate and muddy one another’s efforts. Different business units might redundantly create new APIs instead of reusing existing ones, or they might build APIs atop systems using different data structures and approaches, each competing with the others to be the “source of truth” for various projects. A managed API platform eliminates these problems, providing internal developers with consistent access to data and functionality that they can granularly combine for new apps or customer services.
“Development has been a lot faster” since the company invested in Apigee, says Pascal Dalla-Torre. He added that projects that once took years now take months, weeks or even days.
These more agile approaches to APIs, as well as data analytics technologies in the cloud, are helping Veolia to improve facilities maintenance, for example. “Turning off a fleet of incinerators is expensive,” notes Dalla-Torre. “But by connecting data sources to analytics services via APIs, maintenance needs can be projected more precisely. Rather than turning off an entire system and manually inspecting physical infrastructure, we can focus on areas most likely to need servicing while leaving the rest of the system up and running.”
Another example, and one of the first significant projects built under this API-first approach, was a water management developer portal that lets large municipalities and other customers access Veolia APIs that connect to crucial data on water consumption, leaks, water quality, and other variables. Equipped with these digital assets, customers can then build new digital experiences for their own projects, such as an app to help consumers understand their water usage or services to monitor water quality or potential leaks. Armed with best practices derived from the water management portal, Veolia has adopted an API-first approach throughout the company and in just the first five months of 2021, traffic to these APIs quadrupled.
In this model, APIs are essentially products for developers, and like any digital product, they need to be managed so that Dalla-Torre’s team can secure them, learn from their usage, iterate on them, and establish best practices. “It arms us with the necessary tools to scale, secure, and measure our APIs to deliver the best experience to our customers and partners,” he said.
"Apigee helps us quickly and easily deliver great customer experiences. It abstracts away the backend IT complexity, and helps us provide information and data to our customers quickly, consistently and securely,” says Pascal Dalla-Torre.
What’s more, the same API platform that Veolia uses internally is available to customers, partners, and other third parties, creating multiple tracks of innovation around the firm’s digital assets, both inside and outside of the company. By letting third parties combine Veolia data and functionality with their own APIs, the companies are unlocking opportunities to increase the variety of ways their digital assets are leveraged for revenue-driving services, whether through their own projects or those of partners.
“APIs allow Veolia to access new ecosystems and partners that will bring new innovation opportunities for us,” says Dalla-Torre.
By creating an API ecosystem that enables internal and external developers to securely access the data and services they need to build new applications, Veolia demonstrates the differences between merely using technology and becoming a technology-first organization.
To learn more about how APIs and Apigee API management are used by many other companies like Veolia, read The State of the API Economy 2021 report.