Image Recognition API or Image Recognition SDK?


Sep. 29, 2020

Image recognition is one of the most advanced, and most widely used, applications of artificial intelligence. In this article, we’ll discuss the difference between an image recognition SDK and an image recognition API, and how the choice is clear when considering computer vision platforms.

These days, nearly every industry can benefit from smart, judicious use of image recognition for cost and time savings, in healthcare, security, retail, media, geospatial and industrial applications. As early as five years ago, Microsoft Research announced that its deep learning AI outperformed humans on the ImageNet object recognition dataset. But when deciding how to implement image recognition in practice, there are two options available to developers: SDKs and APIs. 

AI API AI SDKWhat’s the difference between an image recognition SDK and an image recognition API?

SDKs and APIs both have a role to play in software development, although their nature and use cases are quite distinct. Before defining the difference between image recognition SDKs and APIs in particular, let’s discuss the general question of SDKs vs. APIs.

An API (application programming interface) is a set of ready-made methods for easily exchanging information between two parties. APIs define a common “language” by which two different applications or systems can communicate.

For example, suppose that we want to retrieve the date and time that a certain YouTube video was published. Thanks to APIs, we don’t have to understand the YouTube database’s underlying schema or write the SQL query to look up this information ourselves—we simply make a request using the YouTube Data API. This API consists of a set of tools and methods for interacting with the YouTube service, no matter the programming language or the software that’s making the request.

An SDK (software development kit) is a set of tools, libraries, code snippets, documentation, and any other relevant pieces that are needed to develop software for a specific purpose or on a certain platform. In particular, SDKs often contain APIs, although the reverse is never true.

For example, Apple provides the iOS SDK for developers who want to build mobile apps for iPhones and iPads. iOS apps may use an API (e.g. the YouTube API) as part of their functionality. However, the entire iOS SDK is much broader, and helps developers handle issues such as video playback, camera support, and security.


With all that said, we can now define the difference between image recognition SDKs and image recognition APIs:

  • An image recognition SDK is a software development kit for performing image recognition, i.e. developing your own image recognition software.
  • An image recognition API is an application programming interface for performing image recognition. The API connects your software with an external image recognition service that, given an image, returns the most likely contents of that image.

In the vast majority of cases, businesses that want to perform image recognition only need to use an API, and not an SDK. The exception may be if you have a highly unique task that doesn’t mesh well with existing image recognition APIs, and you have the technical talent necessary to use an SDK.

What are the benefits of an image recognition API?

Although many organizations have full-time software developers on staff, fewer of them can justify hiring experts in deep learning and artificial intelligence that would be necessary to use an image recognition SDK and build your own AI. What’s more, any attempt to create your own software would likely be inferior to the AIs that have already been purpose-built by companies specializing in image recognition.

Using a third-party image recognition API lets you reap all of the advantages—without having to develop such a service on your own. This enables you to cut costs, save time and effort, and enjoy access to cutting-edge AI developments.

How do businesses use image recognition APIs?

Image recognition APIs can be applied in nearly any situation that could benefit from a trained human eye. Below are just a few ways that businesses are using image recognition APIs:

  • Healthcare: Image recognition APIs are widely used in the field of object recognition for medicine. Deep learning AIs have been trained to do everything from segmenting brain tumors to detecting COVID-19 cases.
  • Safety and security: Locations such as construction sites, office buildings, and airports are both highly trafficked and highly sensitive. Image recognition for safety and security can help ensure that workers are wearing protective clothing, identify vehicles, and authenticate people using facial recognition.
  • Retail: Image recognition for retail has a multitude of possible uses: identifying shelves with out-of-stock products, counting the number of shoppers throughout the day, scanning products to look up reviews and more information, etc. 
  • Industrial and manufacturing: With hundreds or thousands of possible endpoints to monitor, image recognition for industrial and manufacturing can help you efficiently count production numbers, read printed text, and identify anomalies and performance issues—whether it’s on the visible spectrum, infrared, or X-ray.

Image recognition API from Chooch AI

The image recognition API from Chooch AI unites data collection, model development, AI training, and AI model deployment under one roof, making it easier than ever to bring the power of image recognition to your business. Even if you believe you need an image recognition sdk, try using the Chooch AI platform to see how your business can likewise benefit from a powerful, enterprise-grade AI.