Does the rise of APIs mean the death of EDI as we know it?

It is obvious that the world has changed significantly since the 1960s. There are few aspects of business that have not been transformed over the last 60 years, with technology being probably the most visible. Efficiencies across the ways businesses operation, manufacture, communicate and trade with each other have been realised and continually improved – the computer, the internet, automation, drones, AI – the change is constant,

And yet, what is likely to surprise is that the way many businesses seek to reduce paper based admin and manual processes within our sector is via EDI, or Electronic Data Interchange, a “technology” created in the 1960s. It sounds incredible that businesses would still seek to build solutions around a way of working that pre-dates the internet by 20 years. It feels like going to a car dealership today and being offered an Austin 1100. No seatbelts. No power steering. No ABS. No sat-nav. No electric windows. 


Building solutions on “technology” that was developed before we went to the Moon has very obvious and significant drawbacks. We have all stumbled upon EDI requests and heard the same feedback – EDI is slow, limited, costly and impossible to scale with. In fact, since the 1960s, EDI penetration in the food industry has achieved less than 5% coverage of transactions, which shows how unfit it is commercially, technically and operationally.

The rise of newer, modern technologies that offer a far broader range of applications – APIs (Application Programming Interface) have a long history, but modern web APIs began taking shape in the early 2000s. Salesforce is credited with launching its first web API in 2000, followed by Amazon, eBay and then the Social media companies soon after.

API Advantages

The reason for this switch is clear – API offers considerable advantages over EDI, including:-

  1. Real-time data exchange: APIs enable near-instantaneous data transfer and updates, allowing for more timely and accurate information sharing. This is particularly beneficial in functions requiring up-to-the-minute data including e-commerce
  2. Flexibility and adaptability: APIs are more flexible and can easily adapt to new business processes and technologies. This makes them ideal for companies looking to innovate and integrate with emerging solutions.
  3. Simplified integration: APIs are generally easier to implement and integrate with existing systems, such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platforms. This can lead to faster deployment and reduced integration complexity.
  4. Broader application: APIs are widely used across various industries and applications, making them more versatile than EDI, which is primarily focused on limited B2B document exchange.
  5. Developer familiarity: Many IT professionals and developers are already familiar with API technology, reducing the need for specialised expertise and potentially lowering implementation costs.
  6. Granular data access: APIs allow for more specific, targeted data requests, enabling businesses to access only the information they need rather than entire documents.
  7. Cloud compatibility: APIs are well-suited for cloud-based applications and services, aligning with modern IT infrastructure trends.
  8. Faster communication and updates: API-based systems can gather, move, and update data almost instantly, outpacing EDI in terms of speed.

The future of interconnectedness

It is however important to note that APIs are not always a complete replacement for EDI. Many businesses benefit from using both technologies together, leveraging the strengths of each.  The choice between API and EDI often depends on specific business requirements, partner ecosystems, and the nature of data being exchanged.

However it is clear that the future of interconnectedness, integration and data sharing within our industry lies in API led technology. Cerve is a pioneer in data integration, and leverages a unique approach with API technology at our core. We believe that EDI has had its day, and the future of data exchange within the Global Food Supply Chain is not about a vehicle that can (probably) get you from A to B, but a solution that harnesses all the benefits modern, effective, efficient and security can deliver.

Cerve is on a mission to deliver the world’s first standardised and modern API led protocol to connect the world of food and beverage, allowing data to be used for what it needs to be used for – making better quality decisions to reduce admin, reduce costs and reduce food waste. And to make all businesses better and more profitable. 


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