Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Controlling Blairgowrie remotely...

One seriously interesting story is the best way I can describe the piece I got to work on today.
It started with a call from a guy who phoned to say he was deeply annoyed because he got up yesterday morning to discover that the remote function used to open his brand spanking new Merc did not work. He then tried to leave his house in Blairgowrie and, get this, his gate remote all of a sardine also did not work.
So his wife trots off to the electrical shop at the Blairgowrie Plaza down the drag, and discovers that like just about everybody else from the whole entire suburb was there - all to change the batteries in their remotes that apparently died on the Easter weekend.
People were stuck without working electric gates, garage doors, remote panic buttons for their alarms, remote activation of the beams in their gardens (hey this is Jozi and Blairgowrie is not a dud area - Ian Von Memerty and several journalists live there and so of course there are properties with beamed gardens). A breaking bit of news was that the remote activators would work if you held them really, really close to the receiver device - so annoyed guy who called me in the beginning found that he could start his Merc if he clicked the remote while holding it against the bonnet.
Not one to be daunted - I took up the challenge to uncover what was behind the sinister goings on in Blairgowrie. I called BRAC - Blairgowrie Residents Against Crime - and they confirmed this interesting phenomenon. In fact they sent bunches of people driving around on Easter Monday night, all of them confirming that yes - their remotes were non-functioning in Blairgowrie but spectacularly okay outside the suburb.
I phoned the foreign lady who owns the electrics shop and she too confirmed - indeed she had made a killing and had sold precisely over 100 remote control batteries in one morning. And today business was again booming. Unreal!
I called Icasa - the regulatory body in charge of radio frequencies and communications networks and all that stuff. Yip, they too had heard about this mystery bedevilling the entire populace of Blairgowrie. Something like 4 000 households, dude! They had seen similar incidents on and off over the years on a comparitively miniscule scale - but this was epidemic proportions and they had no cooking clue what was causing this signal jamming.
Throughout the day I worked on the story. Nobody wanted to speculate for me. Nobody wanted to say anything, actually. Hardpressed for comment, Icasa ventured to say that the frequencies involved did not fall under any bandwidth that required licensing, it was therefore unprotected and while they were working their tails off to uncover the source of the signal jamming, they were not certain they would even be able to do anything about it.
Then someone suggested that council fitted devices - smart boxes operated by blue tooth technology enabling the council bosses to switch geysers off and on via remote control - could be the cause. Blairgowrie had been the pilot project, these boxes were everywhere and were in all likelihood the spanner in the works so to speak.
The smart box guys then said no ways - not them.
By the time I left the office the mystery remained unsolved. My night shift colleagues are no doubt beavering away, hoping to find the real answer.
In the meantime, Blairgowrie is heading for worried and restless sleep...


  1. I think the aliens have taken up residence in Blairgowrie! Rock on.

  2. I reckon it could make for a goodly episode of the X Files hey!! :)

  3. everyhing is back to normal but still don't know the cause of the chaos.

  4. Not quite back to normal. Had a luke-warm shower this morning and struggled to get out the gate. Where's Mulder when you need him...

  5. Holy crap... thats incredible!