Microsoft today announced the launch of Open Translators to Things, a new project where people will collaborate on translators that will make it easy for developers to build applications that interact with many different kinds of Internet-connected devices.

This software is based in the Node.js server-side JavaScript framework, and it’s intended to run from a public cloud or on an Internet of Things (IoT) gateway. This being a Microsoft-led project, there’s already Windows support, but the idea is to bring rich support also to OS X, Android, and iOS.

One problem facing the IoT is the availability of so many protocols that work with different sets of devices. This initiative could help solve it, at least a little.

“We believe end users prefer a very consistent user experience when they use similar devices (e.g. lightbulbs or thermostats), even when they come from different manufacturers or support different protocols. Similarly, we believe application developers need a consistent way to control similar devices as they create apps that can support, at scale, many manufacturers,” Jean Paoli, president of Microsoft Open Technologies, wrote in a blog post.

The new project builds on Microsoft’s IoT initiatives, including Windows 10 IoT Core and the Azure IoT Hub cloud service. But it’s different because this is lower-level technology that could speed up the incorporation of IoT in applications and thus people’s daily lives.

“The job of the translator is to hide the implementation details about particular data models and protocols, exposing functionalities directly as programmable APIs,” Paoli wrote. “Turn a lightbulb on? No need for an app developer to think about RPC vs. REST, HTTP vs. MQTT, CoAP vs. ZigBee. What is needed is myBulb.turnOn() and the translator will map the API common schema call to the appropriate libraries to perform the operation.”

Eventually this technology could come in handy for making personal digital assistants like Cortana smart enough to control IoT devices.

“By adding a voice file that can understand a specific schema, developers enable their favorite assistant to control virtually all similar things that are translated to that schema,” Paoli wrote.

Lots of open-source code — including sample apps, translators, and a console app — is now available on GitHub to help developers get started with the Open Translators to Things.

VentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative enterprise technology and transact. Discover our Briefings.