High-tech tombstones let loved ones live on, virtually



Rick Miller kneels in front of a grave and uses his smartphone to scan a small barcode on a tombstone. Within seconds, he’s looking at photos and videos of a lost loved one.

But that’s not all.

Without leaving this vast cemetery in suburban Philadelphia, he can listen to the deceased’s favorite music, read tributes, write in a guest book and even share pictures and feelings on Twitter or Facebook.

At Sunset Memorial Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, everyone equipped with a smartphone or tablet can do the same, provided they download the proper app.

All it takes is a simple scan of a QR code — a square, black barcode stuck to the tombstone — to learn about Lance Clinton Erb, laid to rest beneath a bronze plaque engraved with the years of his birth and death and a picture of his beloved pet dog.

For almost a year now, Miller and his wife Lorie — Erb’s stepdaughter — have specialized in the sale of QR memorials through their Digital Legacys business, one of just a few to offer such a service in the United States.

Giving a grave that high-tech edge doesn’t take much. All one has to do is email Digital Legacys photos, videos, documents and music linked to the departed, which they then assemble into a tribute on a secure website.

Surviving family members then get a tag with the QR code — complete with a heavy-duty, weather-resistant adhesive — in the mail.

The installation takes a mere 30 seconds.

“It’s very simple,” Miller said. “It is a great idea for a lot of reasons, particularly for young children who have had family members that they never got to know.”

Using this technology, their young daughter can become familiar with her grandfather who passed away several years ago, he said.

“She can be at the cemetery and scan and ‘remember’ somebody that she never met, and be able to see that person and learn about that person.”

“People love the idea,” Miller said. “It is such a great way to mix technology with the legacy of somebody, and have the ability to remember them and see them up close.”

“It’s a kind of lighthearted way to remember,” Lorie Miller added. “People come to the grave, talk to people, look at the pictures and say ‘I remember that wedding,’ or ‘I remember that suit’ …”

A lifetime subscription sells for $150 (¥14,900) and encompasses the QR code and the online memorial.

Buyers can add a password so that only family members have access to the material.

The Millers started the project to memorialize their loved ones in a different way — but they don’t plan to stop there.

Since starting their business, they have received inquiries from around the United States and from even as far afield as Australia.

Some older cemeteries have an interest in the technology because they can display tags on historic graves, enabling visitors to learn about events long ago associated with those laid to rest there, according to Rick Miller.

Lorie Miller is also considering using QR codes to tell the stories of celebrities.

“People give us ideas, ask us about different possibilities,” she said.