There's a problem with stuffing wireless connections into ever-smaller devices: they can struggle to maintain a good signal when there's so little space for antennas. MIT CSAIL researchers might have a fix, though. They've developed an RFocus "smart surface" that "can work both as a mirror or a lens" to focus radio signals onto the right devices on either side of the "fence." In return, this improves the median signal strength by nearly 10 times, while doubling the median channel capacity in an office environment.
Instead of just a handful of monolithic antennas, the RFocus prototype revolves around 3,000-plus tiny antennas with software that arranges them to maximize reception. In other words, RFocus is acting as a beamforming controller in the middle, as opposed to letting the radio endpoints -- transmitters and client devices -- manage this activity, which would be difficult to implement on tiny devices.