The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

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Yesterday, Sony announced that it had taken a $3.18 billion net loss for the fiscal year now ending that it attributed in large part to having to write off "deferred tax credits banked during the past two years of deficits," the Financial Times of London reported. In addition, the company said that this year's earthquake and tsunami "...did major damage to our supply chain and created the risk of lasting electricity shortages" which would "distort" the company's profitability for the next two years.

Sony will now have posted losses the last three years in a row. This year its revenues are projected to be $88.3 billion.

According to other news reports, like this one at the LA Times, Sony says that it expects the cost of the Playstation Network (PSN) breach to be around Y14 billion, or around $171 million. The cost includes, the Times says, "... rebuilding its computers, paying for credit protection services for its customers and compensation to customers, including free products and services."

Some are calling the sum of $171 million highly optimistic, to say the least. Billions of dollars may be more like it.

Sony's expected cost does not include the various lawsuits that have been brought against it, or, at least from what I can find, the loss of revenue from existing customers switching from their Playstation system to those of Sony competitors or new customers deciding not to purchase a Playstation in light of the breach and subsequent security-related issues that seem to crop up almost daily.

Last week, for example, Sony had to fix a security hole in its new PSN login procedures; there was a reported phishing site operating on Sony servers located in Thailand; and an Internet service provider subsidiary, So-net Entertainment,  admitted it had been hacked.

Then yesterday, there were reports that Sony Music Greece was hacked and customer data stolen (which Sony confirmed today) while Sony Music Indonesia's web site was reportedly defaced. There are also reports this afternoon that Sony also has taken down the Playstation site today from 0800 PDT to 1700 PDT for account maintenance.

Sony Chairman Howard Stringer said last week that the Sony PSN breach was merely a "hiccup" in the company's online strategy, but I bet that all these IT security ankle-biters are getting more than a bit wearisome - and ever more costly - to deal with.

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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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