The October 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Watch What You Watch

New software scans computers for pornographic images loaded by employees

2 min read

More than 60 percent of the 500 largest U.S. companies have disciplined or fired employees for displaying, storing, or transmitting pornography or other improper images, according to a survey released last summer by Delta Consulting, in Atlanta. Many firms block access to pornographic Web sites, partly because pornography sent around the workplace can expose companies to sexual harassment lawsuits or charges of permitting a "hostile work environment." Other firms may limit their employees' Web surfing to a few preapproved sites.

But those two tactics do nothing to address images brought in as e-mail attachments, or those on CDs and USB storage devices, or, for that matter, MP3 players and cellphones, or those just e-mailed in by friends. PixAlert, a Dublin, Ireland, start-up, claims to be the first with software that can find pornographic digital pictures no matter how they enter the office PC. The program doesn't try to monitor pornography's myriad pathways into the workplace. Instead, it relies on the commonsense notion that the images aren't a problem until they're viewed, and when they're viewed they are patterns of pixels onscreen. The right algorithms can analyze those patterns.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

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.

Keep Reading ↓Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}