Photograph by Patrick T. Fallon — Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Leena Rao
September 2, 2016

Over the next few days, millions of Americans will barbecue in their backyards to celebrate Labor Day. But soon, barbecue aficionados may have a new tool to use on the grill: Amazon voice assistant Alexa.

FireBoard, a maker of an Internet connected digital thermometer for checking the internal temperature of meats, among other things, is debuting a way for users of Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa, to get help in the kitchen. All they have to do is ask Alexa.

As FireBoard founder Ted Conrad explains, you simply ask Alexa, “What’s my FireBoard temperature?,” and Alexa, via Amazon’s Echo voice controlled speaker, will respond with the temperature. You can also ask Alexa how long your meats have been cooking.

It is just the latest so-called skill for Alexa, which answers questions and lets users order items like diapers from Amazon. Over the past year, a number of home automation and smart device companies have built their own skills that let users turn their lights on using their voice and control their thermostats.

In addition to being embedded in Echo, Alexa is available through Amazon’s Fire TV video streaming device.

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FireBoard’s digital Wi-Fi thermometer, which is available via Kickstarter for $189, comes with a mobile app that, in addition to tracking meat temperatures, also checks the ambient temperature in wine cellars. The device, which comes with multiple probes, can track the temperatures of up to six food items at once. It can alert you via SMS or email about whether your cooking is on track.

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While the FireBoard Alexa skill isn’t something you might use everyday, it does add one more reason to use Amazon’s voice assistant and companion devices. Making Alexa open for companies to build services for is critical for the voice assistant’s future, according to Amazon senior vice president of devices, Dave Limp. “We want to create an open and neutral ecosystem for Alexa,” he said at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in July.

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Amazon is investing a lot in Alexa and Echo, as the company looks to fend off competition from Google and possibly Apple. In June, Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos said that more than 1,000 people were working on Alexa’s technology, and he believes Alexa will become the fourth pillar of Amazon’s business, adding to Amazon Prime, the Amazon Web Services cloud business, and Amazon’s online marketplace.

 

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