FloatHub, Boat Beacon and Boat Watch work with Amazon Alexa

You may realize that Amazon’s “smart assistant” Alexa is like Apple’s Siri, except that you can ask “her” questions through an Echo speaker instead of an iPhone. But did you know that some marine app developers have created Alexa skills as free and possibly useful features? The underlying technology is awesome, but you don’t have to know much to make it work.

First, play the video above to hear what’s possible. Given that FloatHub boat monitoring is already on my boat and a little Echo Spot on my office desk, all I had to do was follow FloatHub’s Alexa instructions and within a few minutes, the marvels of speech recognition, data clouds, artificial intelligence and more were delivered in the King’s English.

The video is actually just an audio recording of me asking the Echo various questions that were programmed into an Alexa Skill by FloatHub, and I included the text version of those questions so you can see that Alexa can handle some variation in the syntax. But asking questions clearly and correctly is the human skill needed to avoid Alexa (or Siri, or OK Google) frustration.

Note too that I ‘ve always had my Echo wake up to “Echo” instead of “Alexa” (thanks to a setting in the Alexa app). Sorry if that’s confusing, but I’m just not comfortable addressing a device as a she (or he). And I know I’m not the only one a little hesitant about “smart assistants” in general. But then again, you might be interested in other Alexa boat related skills.

Actually, Pocket Mariner introduced Alexa skills over a year ago to its apps Boat Watch and Boat Beacon (which also has innovative augmented reality features, even thermal). At any rate, in this video you’ll see the skill descriptions and you’ll hear how Boat Beacon can deliver Gizmo’s exact position in lat/long while Boat Watch was able to find Ben Stein’s Have Another Day by the MMSI number in her AIS transponder, plus my chat with Echo about the Queen Mary.

The Boat Watch app, incidentally, is free; so if you have an Echo device, you can easily try a boat tracking skill. And if you’re thinking about getting an Echo, Wirecutter has a good breakdown of models and uses. The question I can’t answer for you, or even myself: Silly geek fun or useful service?

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

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