Novelties in the recreational boatbuilding industry - inductive charging for electric boats and voice control

Although for now, inductive power transfer remains just a concept in the recreational boatbuilding industry, electric docks like the PowerDock concept shown by Portuguese start-up Faroboats could work well with wireless charging platforms. The concept of inductive power transfer – better known as wireless battery charging – has been around for a very long time. The idea was first proposed in 1894 when French engineers Maurice Hutin and Maurice Leblanc proposed such an apparatus as a means of recharging their concept electric automobile – the world’s first. But with cars powered by internal combustion engines showing greater promise, the concept of an EV – and its wireless charging dock – was promptly forgotten.

The idea of inductive battery charging didn’t rear its head again for almost 100 years. But by the late 1980s, as rechargeable internal batteries began to compete with disposal alkaline cells as a primary means of powering consumer electronics, the idea of wireless charging gained new life. The Oral-B company began offering wireless charging systems on its premium electric toothbrushes in the early 1990s, several children’s game systems adopted the technology through the turn of the millennium and by 2012, wireless charging made its debut on mobile phones with select Nokia Lumia models.

It was only a matter of time until someone re-proposed it for electric vehicles and Car maker Tesla recently did just that, confirming that the technology could have even greater applications in recreational boating. Wireless charging offers a number of advantages over the traditional plug and cord, and those advantages deliver meaningful benefits in marine environments. With no physical metal connection, wireless charging platforms suffer zero risk of corrosion that could lead to electrical faults or short circuits – a leading cause of boat fires involving shore power connections. And because there is no actual contact between vehicle and charger, wireless systems don’t suffer the inevitable wear and tear that comes with repeatedly plugging and unplugging a charging cord.

Lisbon-based Faroboats made plenty of waves last August when the start-up announced plans to develop a unique solar-powered dock concept with integral EV charging capability for its electric boats. With an overhead cover to accommodate its solar array, the company’s PowerDock design could be easily adapted to incorporate inductive charging capability, providing an opportunity to serve the moored vessel with multiple charging points for faster charging times.

In addition to wireless charging, the ever-widening  range of gadgets in the nautical industry is also expanding on the abillity to control boats with voice controls, moreover, voice command technology, which is already prevalent in automotive and residential applications, is becoming inevitable in maritime as well.

Brunswick was among the first major boating companies to tease the possibilities of verbal boat controls, partnering with Norwegian tech firm Fell Marine to unveil prototype voice activation features in early 2019. In 2022 Garmin’s OK Garmin software brought voice activation to select GPSMAP multi-function displays. Installing the downloadable add-on enables an imbedded voice control system, allowing users to change screen displays, check water depth or read compass heading, fuel levels and other data through voice commands alone.

Garmin is now finding its way into larger and more sophisticated vessels, while in October Azimut Yachts demonstrated a beta version of its own voice control platform, one which utilises Google smart home technology to control multi-zone lighting, entertainment and climate control systems on its new Magellano 60 entirely through verbal commands. Of course controlling lighting and climate systems is only scratching the surface of the potential afforded by voice control technology.

“Our goal is to make people’s lives easier and more enjoyable. This is only the first phase. In the future, we will integrate new functions like intelligent geolocation and new generative AI services to help the owner with the standard operation of the vessel”, says Azimut / Benetti Group CIO, Ferdinando Peretto. 

With voice controls having already secured a permanent place in vehicles and homes, their adoption in boats is inevitable. But what remains to be seen is what boat builders do with the technology in order to differentiate their products. That could become very creative – and very interesting indeed.

Source: IBI News