EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. , Jan. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Blaine Readler used to turn on his television every time he left home. He did this because an operating television makes a great burglar repellent. When a burglar sees the flickering glow of a TV through the curtains, he generally "knows" somebody is home, and he moves on to an easier target. One evening it occurred to Blaine that all the burglar saw was the light cast through the curtains, not the actual images shown on the power-hungry television. It seemed a shame to waste all that energy producing a picture enjoyed by no one. Blaine, being an engineer by trade, proceeded to invent FakeTV(TM) -- a tiny little device that replicates the light produced by a TV, but none of the images.
Blaine partnered with an electronics manufacturer, Opto-Electronic Design, Inc., to carefully study the light produced by a real television. If you look from outside the house, the light produced by a TV might seem random at first glance. But a closer look reveals it to be highly characteristic. You would not, for example, confuse the light from a TV with random flashing colored lights made by, say, a Christmas tree. The TV light is made up of scene changes, fades, flicks, swells, on-screen motion, color changes, and other elements. Each of these produces its own recognizable effect. The engineers studied those effects and programmed the computer built into FakeTV to reproduce all of them. FakeTV dishes up the patterns at random, and it never repeats. The result? Viewed from outside the home FakeTV is essentially indistinguishable from a real television. Even when viewed side by side, test subjects were unable to tell the effects of the real television from those of the impostor.
FakeTV is effective as a burglar deterrent because when people see the light from a TV they generally assume somebody is watching it. Most televisions turn on with pushbuttons and cannot be used with timers. For this reason some people leave their televisions on for days at a time when they leave home -- an effective crime prevention measure, but a waste of energy. LCD televisions gradually get dimmer with time, so it is also a waste of resources to use up the life with nobody watching. One customer says she needed the television on to fall asleep, and now she uses her FakeTV. That is an application Blaine did not anticipate!
Nowadays, when Blaine is away from home, his FakeTV discourages would-be burglars. Blaine loves the fact that the FakeTV consumes just one one-hundredth the power of the real thing. The built-in light sensor and timer turns FakeTV on at each dusk, and it runs for a switch-selectable four or seven hours. As he likes to say, "The best consequence of using the FakeTV is that nothing much happens around our house when we're not there." The makers of FakeTV stress that it is only one part of your home security picture. You still need good locks, and it is a great idea to get to know your neighbors. Traditional precautions, such as alarm systems and security cameras, remain good ideas. FakeTV, at under