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Today, we’ll be looking at a rather contentious issue that’s been garnering a lot of media attention lately, so-called “signal jamming” by criminals.

A recent article that appeared in an Mpumalanga newspaper and various emails that have been doing the rounds have been causing quite a stir.

The article detailed how some remote controls may interfere with vehicle remote controls, which arm the car’s alarm and opens and closes the central locking systems. It is claimed that these remotes are responsible for jamming the vehicle’s remote control frequencies, thereby making it easy for thieves to help themselves to the contents of a car once an unsuspecting driver walks away. The car owner presses his remote control to lock his car, assuming his car is locked and the alarm is armed. Only to return to find all of his possessions left safely in his ‘locked’ car missing.

There has also been a fair amount of finger-pointing at particular brands of remote controls as being the culprits. There is also a huge amount of misinformation and confusion surrounding this issue, so CENTURION decided to clarify the misconceptions and help you understand how these incidents may have occurred, and what to do to ensure that it never happens to you.

Let’s start by delving into the technology that resides inside high-security remote controls. Any modern high-security remote control should have rolling-code technology. Essentially, this means that every time that you press the button on your remote control it changes it’s code (or identity) and the receiver in the car, gate motor, etc. that it usually talks to, correspondingly rolls its code to stay in synchronisation.
This means that your rolling-code remote control for your car or access automation system cannot be copied or cloned – providing you with great peace of mind.

However, the vast majority of vehicle manufacturers, and other manufacturers of remote controls such as gate and garage automation, produce remote controls that operate on a frequency of 433MHz issued by ICASA, the regulator for the South African communications sector. This results in this frequency being very busy with many, many remote controls utilising this airspace.

Typically what can happen is if two remote controls operating on the same frequency are activated simultaneously and within range of each other, the signals that they are transmitting can interfere with one another. The result could mean that the receiver doesn’t recognise the ‘strange’ interfered-with signal from its know transmitter remote control. What happens? Nothing – the receiver simply doesn’t react. This is fine if you’re trying to open your gate – your home is still secure, and you just press your remote again and your gate opens.

Now you can imagine that in the instance of locking your car you would want to know that your car really is locked when you press your remote control. If a car owner in your vicinity presses their remote at the exact same instant as you, or for some reason is holding their remote button down, for example to automatically open all of their car windows before getting in to let all of the hot air out (nice feature!), then this will certainly interfere with your car’s remote control signal.

This doesn’t have to be another vehicle remote control; it could be any type of remote control operating on the same 433MHz frequency that can cause interference.

This is why most cars will give a visual and/or audible verification on receiving a remote control signal. Typically the indicators will flash, or the car will beep, once for locked and twice for unlocked.

The bottom line is that any remote control from any manufacturer is vulnerable to being jammed, or having its signal interfered with. Thieves may try to take advantage of this by flooding an area with remote control signals in the hope that you might simply walk away from your car without actually checking that it did lock and arm.

So please safeguard yourself and look for the telltale flashing indicators, or listen for the confirmation beep, which will reassure you that your car is locked and your goods are safe.

For further information or advice concerning remote control security please feel free to call any CENTURION branch or our customer service line on 0860 236 887.