Inventor Unwittingly Disrupts Key Fobs, Garage Door Openers

A suburban Cleveland man’s homemade security system turned out to be interfering with his neighbors’ gadgets.

There was something eerie about this situation out of Ohio that was putting some residents on edge: in the small town of North Olmsted — a suburb west of Cleveland — people were finding that their garage door openers and vehicle key fobs were no longer working.

The New York Times reported that the complaints began to surface in late April when about a dozen residents in either North Olmsted or neighboring Fairview Park alerted authorities to their problems … which may be a low representative sample if you consider how few people probably report garage door problems to the police.

The local NBC affiliate took on the task of sniffing out the cause, hiring a retired engineer to use a spectrum analyzer to survey the area. When that yielded no clues, local electric and cable service providers did some sleuthing of their own.

When a city councilperson alerted the community that they’d discovered the cause, it turned out to be something nobody really expected: the mysterious frequency was apparently coming from the home of a local inventor.

The man, whose name was kept confidential, had built the equivalent of a homemade Ring security system that would alert him if someone approached his home while he was tinkering in his basement workshop. A “volunteer electrical expert” had homed in on the frequency and knocked on the man’s door in order to inform him he’d been unwittingly disrupting access to cars and garages for weeks.

After he disabled the system, the conspiracy theories could be laid to rest, and life in sleepy North Olmsted probably got just a little less exciting.

— Jeff Reinke and Anna Wells

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