Holiday Gift-Giving Guide: 5 Hot Tech Gadgets for Engineers

December 19, 2019

Jim Harrison  By: Jim Harrison
 Guest Blogger, Lincoln Technology Communications 


The trouble with liking technology stuff is it keeps changing. Every year, there's something new you've gotta have. This winter, as we approach the end of the decade, there are, once again, lots of interesting tech items to consider for holiday gift-giving or just to buy for yourself. Here are just five of the best gifts for the engineer in your life.

NVMe M.2 PCIe SSD Storage

For anyone whose desktop PC is getting slower and slower, it's time for an easy upgrade. And, if the computer was purchased after around early 2014, the motherboard might have an M.2 slot. And, that slot may be for a PCIe device (be sure to check this carefully, it might also be SATA). If you verify both of those, run, don't walk, to get this new solid-state disk (SSD) drive. And if your motherboard has a four-lane interface—even better.

Kingston Digital's new A2000 NVMe PCIe SSD is very fast. It's built on a single-sided M.2 card for reliability, and you can get 250-, 500-, or 1,000Gbyte models. The 250Gbyte model can be found for only $40! The 1Tbyte is around $130.

Fast M.2 PCIe SSD drive from KingstonFigure 1. A very fast M.2 PCIe SSD drive from Kingston. Image courtesy of Kingston Technology.

That four-lane interface makes the SSD a super performer with random 4K read speed of up to 150,000 IOPS and write speed of up to 180,000 IOPS. It's also very reliable, specifying 150TB written and an MTBF of 2,000,000 hours. The drive supports end-to-end data security using 256-bit AES hardware-based encryption that can be used with TCG Opal 2.0 security management. Its slim profile (from its single-sided design) means that it will fit into most laptops.

Never Get Lost Again–You or Your Child

LynQ is a new type of device that knows where you are with no phone, no cell service, no Wi-Fi, and no monthly fees. LynQ connects all group members in real-time using long-range, low-power radio combined with GPS. It works anywhere under an open sky, allowing everyone to locate companions instantly or know the distance and direction of your home base.

LynQ people compass; Description: The LynQ device creates a private network to help users find one anotherFigure 2. The LynQ keeps you in touch. Image courtesy of LynQ.

With the push of a button, LynQ creates a private peer-to-peer network for up to 12 group members. LynQ never stores or transmits your data to any central server or the cloud. Your location is only available to members of your private group. Once paired, you'll always be able to know how far each person is away from you, and in which direction they are located. Network rage is about three miles, but GPS can keep your positions anywhere.

The accuracy of each LynQ unit is affected by GPS signals and its internal compass. The device is said to be accurate within about ±16.5 feet. But, it does not work indoors—so forget about tracking your kids at the shopping center. It is waterproof, but its case is not indestructible.

You can also use the LynQ to send canned messages, like "Stay there" or "Come to me." Battery life is up to three days. A package of four devices costs about $400, but it's still in pre-order mode, as of this writing. Delivery is estimated in December 2019. Unfortunately, it has been in "pre-order" mode for more than a year now.

An Underwater Scooter for the Aquatically Inclined

Sublue is a Chinese company that offers the WhiteShark Mix sea scooter to propel you around underwater. The dual-motor WhiteShark Mix can be used in the pool or the ocean, and the propulsive force of a single propeller reaches about 4kg. The 18" x 9" x 9" Mix was designed to have zero buoyancy in water. Even if you release it in water, it will not sink to the bottom. Hoist weight is 5.75lbs.

Sublue’s WhiteShark Mix underwater scooter propels users underwater, in pools or in the oceanFigure 3. The WhiteShark Mix. Image courtesy of Sublue.

Operation is easy—you only need to press the magnetic switches at the hand grips on both sides. You can speed along at up to about 3.4mph to a depth of up to 13 feet for a battery life of 30 minutes.

Explore the ocean with Sublue’s WhiteShark Mix underwater scooterFigure 4. The WhiteShark Mix underwater scooter can go to a depth of 13ft. Image courtesy of www.indiegogo.com.

It takes about four hours to fully charge the battery. The device has a mount for a GoPro camera or lights and can be connected via Bluetooth or WiFi. The design was bootstrapped by an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign and it is now available at B&H, Amazon, Costco, and other stores. Price starts at around $680.

How Does Your Indoor Garden Grow

The Miracle-Gro®️ Twelve™️ Indoor Growing System is an all-in-one hydroponic garden that does all the thinking for you, allowing you to grow your favorite food indoors in your home. The system does all the thinking for you and creates the perfect growing conditions for herbs and leafy greens to thrive indoors.

The Miracle-Gro Twelve Indoor Growing System is a smart hydroponic garden for growing herbs and vegetables insideFigure 5. The Miracle-Gro Twelve manages the light and the moisture for you. Image courtesy of Miracle-Gro.

Growing your own fresh lettuce, kale, swiss chard, arugula, basil, mint, thyme, cilantro, parsley and more is now simple. I'm sure you could grow other plants as well (where legal). Water circulates to provide the plants with continual moisture and nutrients. Specially designed LED grow lighting provides the right amount of light for your plants. The Miracle-Gro Twelve app connects to the system via Bluetooth so you can set your growing schedule and lighting mode, monitor your water level, and manage your calendar from your smartphone.

The unit comes with a sturdy steel frame with a height of 28" and a 16.5" square footprint. A great gift! Priced at $180, you can find it at www.miraclegrotwelve.com and Amazon, along with a number of brick-and-mortar stores.

Small, Light, High-Performance, 360° Camera

The Ricoh Imaging Theta SC2 is a very compact 360° camera built around two 14MP 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensors. It is capable of capturing 4K video at 30 frames per second. It's also a 360° camera. 360° technology has been around quite a while and was the thing around 2015-2016. Ricoh brought a 360° camera in 2013 and then many (mostly start-up) companies followed.

A 360° camera yields a view you can rotate around, in still or video formats. So, if you are standing in the middle of a grand museum, you can take an image all the way around you. Like a Google street view. The SC2 has dual lenses and sensors, front and back, and a wide field of view, making 360° easier.

The Theta SC2 360° camera creates still or video images that you can rotate aroundFigure 6. The 1.78 x 5.14 x 0.9 inch Ricoh SC2 camera weighs only 0.23lbs and comes in four pastel colors. Image courtesy of Ricoh.

The camera has still image resolution of 5376×2688. Video resolution is 4K (3840×1920) at 30f/s. The camera has 14GB of internal memory, plus a MicroSD card slot. It also has a microphone, an OLED display, a dedicated button for self-timer mode, and Bluetooth and wireless LAN communications.

At $300, the camera is not cheap, but worth it for the convenience + versatility. Yes, there are now many phones that have cameras with 12MP as well as two cameras, but the SC2 is more versatile and very easy to carry around. Lower and higher cost versions of the Theta camera series are available. Kodak, Garmin, GoPro, Insta360, KanDao, and Vuze all make 360 video/still cameras.

Engineers Work Hard!

For all of their hard work, engineers deserve good toys! Now, if only they had time to play with those toys. Happy December, everyone!