MIT RFocus Smart Surface Mobile Phone
Photo credit: Jason Dorfman | CSAIL
Yes, 5G is claimed to be taking over the world soon, and it has indeed been slowly rolling out worldwide, but there are many barriers that remain, preventing widespread adoption. One big problem is that we can’t get faster internet speeds without more efficient ways of delivering wireless signals, whether it be adding antennas to either the transmitter (i.e., Wi-Fi access points and cell towers) or the receiver (such as a phone or laptop). MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) researchers have developed RFocus, a software-controlled “smart surface” that uses more than 3,000 antennas to maximize the strength of the signal at the receiver, to solve it. Read more for another picture and additional information.

MIT RFocus Smart Surface Mobile Phone
During tests, this smart surface could improve the average signal strength by a factor of almost 10, while also being cost-effective, with each antenna costing only a few cents. How is this possible? Well,the antennas are inexpensive because they don’t process the signal at all, as they just control how it is reflected. Put simply, RFocu iss a two-dimensional surface composed of thousands of antennas that can each either let the signal through or reflect it.

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The core goal here was to explore whether we can use elements in the environment and arrange them to direct the signal in a way that we can actually control. If you want to have wireless devices that transmit at the lowest possible power, but give you a good signal, this seems to be one extremely promising way to do it,” said MIT Professor Hari Balakrishnan, senior author on a new paper about RFocus.