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Digital failure causes Christmas chaos for family

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Kingsclere family were left without heating, a working shower and doorbell after digital equipment mysteriously failed

A KINGSCLERE family spent Christmas without heating, showers and a doorbell after all their wireless devices mysteriously failed to operate for three days – a problem which they say affected others all over the village too.

Chris Smith, of Ash Grove, awoke on Christmas Eve, his wife's birthday, to find that the central heating, which relies on a wireless thermostat, did not work.

They immediately called for an emergency engineer but soon realised that despite having hot water, the shower, which had a digital control, also did not work at all.

When the heating engineer finally arrived, he had to telephone them from the doorstep to be let in because the doorbell, which also operated via a wireless connection, had also failed.

When the engineer inspected their heating system he found that the fault was with the wireless communication system.

But when he returned to his van to collect a tool to try to fix the problem his vehicle failed to unlock using the remote controlled key. It was then that he realised the problem was probably not just in the Smiths' home.

Having eventually found his way into the van, the engineer installed not one, but three new communication units in the boiler before giving up and telling the Smith family that the problem must have been external to their system.

Mr Smith said: “The morning of my wife's birthday was wasted making phone calls to help lines and reading manuals.

“I realised that there was a link between the boiler; the shower the doorbell and the car. I cancelled the call to the shower engineer but it was too late, he was unable to fix the shower.

“We spent Christmas without central heating and had the additional cost of buying an electric heater for the children's bedrooms and extra logs for the wood burner.”

The total cost for the repairs, which did not work, was £200.

Mr Smith said theirs was not an isolated case: “Through Facebook, we learned that we were not alone and that all over the village people were having problems with remote controls, car locking, etc.”

It wasn't until about 5pm on Tuesday afternoon (December 27) that their mysterious affliction disappeared and everything suddenly started working again.

Mr Smith, who had plenty of time to investigate the problem, concluded that the common link between the devices was that they all used radio-frequency identification (RFID).

“The question is, what caused the blocking of the RFID frequency in the village and how do you even begin to find out?” he said.

“The village is in the shadow of the Hannington television transmitter, so it could have been engineering work that went wrong and unnoticed over the holiday period.”

The Hannington television and radio transmitter serves the surrounding area, and the company responsible for it, Arqiva, acknowledge that a strong signal from there could affect RFID devices. Arqiva told Newburytoday.co.uk, however, that on this occasion it was not to blame.

Mr Smith said: “Kingsclere is also close to any number of military or scientific establishments that could have been responsible for this, but I doubt any would discuss this [problem].”

The family (pictured) is now relieved that everything is up and running again.

If you were affected by the failure of wireless devices over the Christmas period, please contact Eddie van der Walt on (01635) 564601 or email eddie.vanderwalt@newburytoday.co.uk

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