Welcome to Engineering Update, brought to you by Mouser Electronics, the electronic components distributor with the widest selection of the newest products. I’m Melissa Barnes, Associate Editor of ECN. In this week’s headlines:

Ambient backscatter for the Internet of Things

Boeing’s impressive laser weapon system


Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smartwatch

Wearable computing has been a popular topic in the news lately. With talk of Apple, Samsung, and Google products in the works, we have yet to actually see any of these products in the stores. But—it seems that Samsung is about to beat Apple to the punch, with the Galaxy Gear, said to be available next month. Bloomberg stated that the wristwatch-like smartphone will be unveiled with the Galaxy Note 3 Phablet at Samsung’s Mobile Unpacked 2 event September 4th.

Sources say the Android-running smartwatch will "make phone calls, surf the Web and handle e-mails." We still don’t know the details on size or display resolution, but other sources say the device will sport a dual core Samsung Exynos processor, along with 1 GB of RAM.

A new technology known as “ambient backscatter,” developed by engineers at the University of Washington, could make the Internet of Things a reality. The technology uses TV and cellular signals to provide power and medium for battery-free communication. Each device utilizing the ambient backscatter system is equipped with an antenna that picks up TV or cellular signals and converts them into electricity, which it then uses to reflect a Morse code-like version of that signal.

Not only would the technology let devices communicate without being turned on, but it would also allow for things such as structural sensors to be embedded in concrete or other materials, where they would be impossible to access for battery-changes. The researchers added the antennas to credit card-sized circuit boards. Each device had an integrated LED that illuminated when it received a signal.

In the future, smartphones might be able to use ambient backscatter to transmit text messages, even once their battery has died.

Boeing recently announced that its Thin Disk Laser system has achieved unexpected levels of power and efficiency, bringing the concept of laser weaponry one step closer to the battlefield. The laser’s demonstrated output was 30 percent higher and had greater beam quality than the project’s expectations.

The Thin Disk Laser system uses an active mirror laser. And, instead of rods, the thin disk laser uses a material with a thickness less than the diameter of the beam it emits, acting as both the gain medium and amplifier. The system incorporates a number of these high-powered industrial lasers to generate a single, high-energy beam with an output of more than 30 kW.

Boeing hopes their impressive laser, which has proven itself capable of achieving both high power and efficiency, will find its way into high-tech weaponry for the military. 

That wraps up this week’s report. Be sure to join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin—or email me your story ideas. I’m Melissa Barnes, and this has been your Engineering Update!


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