The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

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A few weeks ago, Tim Schaaff, the president of Sony Network Entertainment said in an interview that the hack attack on Sony that took its Playstation Network offline for a month and cost the company at least $171 million was a "great experience." Mr. Schaaff was quoted in a PC Magazinestory as saying:

"We're back online, everything's live again around the world, and the amazing thing through all of this is that the customers have all come back, and network performance is better than ever, sales are better than ever, and we've been very, very pleasantly surprised by the experience. And we're in a place where we're really looking forward again to what's next, what's new, and how we can keep growing the network. It's a pretty crazy event that we went through but we survived, and we're back strong, and ready to go."

Well, the experience only looks like it is going to get better.

Last week, reports Reuters, Zurich American Insurance Co, a unit of Zurich Financial Services, asked the Supreme Court of the State of New York to rule that "it does not have to defend or indemnify Sony against any claims 'asserted in the class-action lawsuits, miscellaneous claims, or potential future actions instituted by any state attorney general.' "

The insurance company is also suing "... units of Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, AIG and ACE Ltd, asking the court to clarify their responsibilities under various insurance policies they had written for Sony," Reuters says.

Some 55 class-action lawsuits in the US and 3 in Canada have been filed against Sony, and the company has apparently sent in claims in relation to one or more of these to Zurich American that it wants paid.

Zurich American says in its court filing (PDF) that its policies only cover Sony for "bodily injury, property damage or personal and advertising injury" and none of the lawsuits claim that these have occurred.

The Zurich American lawsuit should keep Mr. Schaaff entertained for the near future, as will no doubt the other 58 class-action lawsuits.

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Metamaterials Could Solve One of 6G’s Big Problems

There’s plenty of bandwidth available if we use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces

12 min read
An illustration depicting cellphone users at street level in a city, with wireless signals reaching them via reflecting surfaces.

Ground level in a typical urban canyon, shielded by tall buildings, will be inaccessible to some 6G frequencies. Deft placement of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces [yellow] will enable the signals to pervade these areas.

Chris Philpot

For all the tumultuous revolution in wireless technology over the past several decades, there have been a couple of constants. One is the overcrowding of radio bands, and the other is the move to escape that congestion by exploiting higher and higher frequencies. And today, as engineers roll out 5G and plan for 6G wireless, they find themselves at a crossroads: After years of designing superefficient transmitters and receivers, and of compensating for the signal losses at the end points of a radio channel, they’re beginning to realize that they are approaching the practical limits of transmitter and receiver efficiency. From now on, to get high performance as we go to higher frequencies, we will need to engineer the wireless channel itself. But how can we possibly engineer and control a wireless environment, which is determined by a host of factors, many of them random and therefore unpredictable?

Perhaps the most promising solution, right now, is to use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces. These are planar structures typically ranging in size from about 100 square centimeters to about 5 square meters or more, depending on the frequency and other factors. These surfaces use advanced substances called metamaterials to reflect and refract electromagnetic waves. Thin two-dimensional metamaterials, known as metasurfaces, can be designed to sense the local electromagnetic environment and tune the wave’s key properties, such as its amplitude, phase, and polarization, as the wave is reflected or refracted by the surface. So as the waves fall on such a surface, it can alter the incident waves’ direction so as to strengthen the channel. In fact, these metasurfaces can be programmed to make these changes dynamically, reconfiguring the signal in real time in response to changes in the wireless channel. Think of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces as the next evolution of the repeater concept.

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