Protect your digital legacy with The Soldier’s Box

Protect your digital legacy with The Soldier’s Box

The Soldiers Box web
Three British technology entrepreneurs launch the solution to a problem that now affects us all.

What happens to our digital world when we die? The answer lies over a hundred years ago in the trenches of WWI.

Soldiers on the frontline kept their most treasured possessions; personal photos, private letters and important documents in one small box or the tin, given as a Christmas gift by Princess Mary. In the event the soldier lost his life, this box would be passed to his loved ones. His family would receive the items within, just as he would have wanted them to be seen. This box was nick named ‘The Soldier’s Box’.

Founder, Darren Richmond, an IT professional from Horsham, West Sussex, heard this story on the radio and decided to bring the concept of The Soldier’s Box into the 21st century. The idea is simple: Organise and store most treasured digital possessions; photos, videos, documents, contracts and messages, in one secure, convenient online place. In the event of one’s death, loved ones will have easy access to everything he or she wishes them to keep. In essence, a virtual WWI Soldier’s Box.

Darren shared the idea with two life long friends, both with years of experience in the technology industry, Lee Rendell and Greg Roffe. Together they designed and developed the new digital version of The Soldier’s Box.

“In the last few years, we have radically changed the way we record memories and manage our lives.” said Darren, “The Soldier’s Box provides an easy way to ensure our digital legacy lives on and our memories are not lost.”

The Soldier’s Box was created by the team with the desire to bring comfort to bereaved families and support with the practicalities of losing a loved one. Anything can be stored in The Soldier’s box: Personal items, including a list of personal messages, video clips or treasured photographs with special friends; Practical necessities, including personal finances, household instructions or birthday lists to help those left behind with everyday tasks.

The box is not intended as a replacement for an online back-up provider. It is designed as a tool to securely organise everything in someone’s life that is important. It is completely protected by using exactly the same security methods deployed by the worlds leading financial institutions. The team describe it as an online safe with the added benefit of having a unique secure mechanism to easily be passed on to loved ones.

The Soldiers’ Box can be added to a Will, but does not replace one. An assigned trustee receives a unique initiation code, to start the data inheritance process of the box. It is recommended that everyone has a will to legally record their final wishes. Lee Rendell comments: “Most of us add to our store of digital files on a daily basis and it’s just not practical to update a Will that often. You can add files to your Soldier’s Box as often as you like and simply record a single personal Soldier’s Box code in your Will. With our beneficiary process, you don’t even need a Will to use The Soldier’s Box – although we’d recommend that everyone has one.”

The Soldier’s Box is available now. You can register for a free 14 day trial. Thereafter, plans start from as little as £36 per year.

Israel’s High Tech Aims to Help the Elderly

Israel’s High Tech Aims to Help the Elderly

[Tel Aviv] – More and more elderly people worldwide are joining the technology revolution, and technology is coming to meet them halfway. In Israel, one of the world’s high-tech capitals, companies are racing to develop new applications and products for the senior citizens set.

“The population is getting older and this creates a lot of challenges as people are living alone and not being involved in society as much as younger people,” Eran Gal, CEO of Xorcom a company developing a home monitoring solution, told The Media Line. Called Amity, the software is capable of monitoring both location and behavior patterns to ensure that an older person has not fallen or wandered away from their home in cases of dementia. The idea is to give elderly more independence while keeping them safe.

A second startup, E2C has developed a simplified operating system that works with off-the-shelf hardware to create a smartphone that is more user friendly for older customers. The program responds to longer presses on the touch screen (to prevent accidental calls), always uses a full screen keyboard, and collects pictures and messages from different programs into one easy-to-find location. The program is aimed at reconnecting elderly people to friends and family and allowing a smartphone to be an aid rather than an obstacle. Currently, only around 20% of seniors in the US are using smartphones, E2C’s co-founder Amir Alon, told The Media Line, and he hopes his application could increase that number.

“We are taking the latest technologies and making it relevant for the senior citizens, and we can change the life of the senior,” Alon said. “Our flagship product is our smartphone for seniors. We take off the shelf hardware, and we make our own kind of Android for seniors.”

It makes good business sense, as well as ethical social responsibility, to cater to the elderly, Nir Shimony, the CEO and co-founder of TechForGood, a group which aims to promote social works through innovative technological solutions, told The Media Line. “We want to harness the Israeli out-of-the-box way of tackling business issues into tackling social issues,” Shimony explained. The size and growth of the elderly population in the developed world makes them an attractive consumer group to companies, as does their relative wealth.

Other Israeli startups moving into the field of elderly care include: Video Therapy, a solution aimed at improving the efficiency of therapy for older citizens by allowing them to interact with their trainer via video-call; and Atlas Sense, unobtrusive, wearable technology that can read and transmit a subject’s vital signs to monitor their health, and even detect if a person falls.

Many of the new companies’ technologies raised questions regarding the ethics of monitoring an individual or of the continuous integration of a person’s body with digital technology. This was something acknowledged by several of the entrepreneurs who noted that new technologies can have an impact on society at large.

This was especially true of Moran Zur, the CEO of Safe Beyond, a startup which enables a user to leave video messages for their loved ones after their death.

“We try actually to change the perception of death… we believe that the fact you stop existing in the real world does not mean that you will not continue existing in the digital world,” Zur told The Media Line.

Safe Beyond’s video messages can be triggered by a date, an individual going to a certain location or even by a key event like a grown child’s wedding. Facebook turns a user’s page into a memorial site after their death so this sort of program is not without precedent, the CEO suggested. Rather the application gives control of this digital legacy to the user who can decide what to leave behind and who to leave it for, Zur said.

Google in Tel Aviv recently hosted all of these companies as part of Aging 2.0, high-tech pitch events for 30 cities in 30 days. At the end of the day in Tel Aviv, the audience voted for their favorites, and E2C’s smartphone received the most votes. CEO Amir Alon will go on to the next level of the competition in San Francisco later this year.

Who will get your iTunes when you die?

An electronic immortality

Human fascination with immortality stretches back to the time of Greek mythology with history littered by charlatans, oddballs and megalomaniacs either claiming or seeking the secret to eternal life.

However, the modern tech-savvy generation has discovered, quite by chance, that an immortality of sorts is now freely available via the digital footprint they leave should they meet an untimely end.  It’s estimated that on Facebook alone, more than 30 million accounts belong to people who are deceased.

As if the pain of coping with the death of a loved one isn’t difficult enough, friends and family must now consider the implications of the deceased’s online life to go with their material existence.

Your online footprint
Think for a moment about your own digital presence.  You’ll almost certainly use online banking and shopping facilities, perhaps an online wallet like PayPal, email accounts, a frequent flyer program, a social media presence via Facebook or Twitter, along with potentially thousands of personal files, receipts and photographs.

Most people already understand the importance of estate planning to help pass on worldly goods such as housing, savings and mementos to their beneficiaries.  But how will your heirs even gain access to your computer and your passwords?

Like so many laws relating to the digital world, many are outdated or irrelevant, and several online services have already established their own policies.  For instance, Twitter allows family or friends to download a copy of your public tweets and close your account.  You need to nominate someone in advance to provide their name and contact details, their relationship to you, your Twitter username and a link to or copy of your obituary.

Digital executors
No laws currently exist in Australia to grant a Will’s executor automatic access to someone’s social media accounts.  However, there are still several options available to help decide on how your online legacy is managed.

The first step is to create a Digital Will.  In addition, you will need to select a trustworthy digital executor to handle arrangements for your digital assets and digital legacy once you are gone.  Similarly, if you run your own business, it will have its own digital incarnation and its own digital legacy to maintain.  Some Australian Will makers offer Digital Wills so people can ensure their online legacy lives on – or fades away – in accordance with their wishes.

Online vaults for safe storage
An increasingly popular alternative is to store important documents and passwords in an online vault.  The likes of SecureSafe, Legacy Lockboxor Assets in Order pledge to provide secure online storage of passwords and documents.

Password management accounts can be set up using software such as Norton Identity Safe while Google recently introduced a new program called Inactive Account Manager, which enables you to choose in advance exactly what you wish to have done with all your Google data – from Gmail accounts to YouTube videos.

Considering how much of our communication takes place online these days, it’s worth investing some time thinking about your digital footprint and what is required to manage it when you’re gone.  A good time to do this might be when next reviewing your Wills and Powers of Attorney.  With a little thought and preparation, you can leave a lasting legacy to your loved ones, well beyond photos or videos, and avoid complications associated with your ‘digital immortality’.

Digital Files After Death, What Happens to Your Digital Legacy?

No Phones, Please, This Is a Communications Class

Last semester I tried to create a college classroom that was a technological desert. I wanted the space to be a respite from the demands and distractions of smartphones, tablets, and computers.

So I banned the use of technology — because asking students to be professional digital citizens had not worked.

Simply requesting that students put away their phones was an exercise in futility. Adding a line in the syllabus that there would be grade penalties for unprofessional use of technology brought about no change in their habits of swiping and clicking.

They meant no disrespect. Technology pulled at them — and pulls at us — creating a sense of urgency that few can ignore.

I get it. This is not a college-student problem (I’ve been to faculty meetings). It’s a human problem. But I’m a college instructor, and so classrooms have become my sites of technological resistance and rebellion. It was time for me to usher in an era of digital death, at least for three 50-minute stretches a week.

After four years of teaching, I could not bear to look at one more student smiling at his or her crotch — the universally preferred location to keep one’s phone for “surreptitious” texting. (Note to students: If you’re smiling in that direction, your attempts at stealth are going to get noticed.)

I could not stand to hear one more refrain of frenzied keyboard tapping. When someone pounds with that much urgency, I can assure you he isn’t transcribing what I’m saying.

But as each semester came and went, I didn’t have the courage to enact a flat-out ban on technology use. It seemed antiquarian, technophobic, selfish, dictatorial. Besides, as a college instructor, wasn’t I supposed to help students maneuver through distractions without exiling problem devices? Wasn’t college supposed to prepare students for the real world and its distractions?

But then I read the manifesto of Clay Shirky, a New York University professor, on why he was asking his students to put away their connected devices. And I thought, why not? After all, a college classroom is not the real world. At its best, it’s a cocoon that allows its residents to try out new ideas, push boundaries, and stretch into a new sense of self. How can we let the latest cat video disrupt that?

What eventually persuaded me was Professor Shirky’s assertion that these devices are designed to be distracting — to grab, get, and keep our attention on them and away from everything else. If it’s a competition between me and an iPhone, I don’t stand a chance. And, more important, students don’t stand a chance to engage and participate when their phones lure them into the labyrinth of the digital world.

So I followed in Shirky’s footsteps and those of others: Henceforth, in my classroom, all phones, computers, and tablets had to remain zipped in backpacks. I was surprised when students accepted this new rule. Maybe they welcomed a break from the devices that pull them every which way. But I can’t report that all students obeyed the rule at all times. Even I found myself sneaking in glances at my phone to see if my daughter’s day-care provider had called. But that was OK, because violations were rare and did not compromise my goal of creating an environment in which students are not shackled to their devices.

This new normal meant students would daydream when they finished an assignment early. I had almost forgotten what it was like to gaze upon a group of people whose minds were allowed to wander freely, pencils tapping against desks. Imagine that! During class downtime, students opened books, played with Silly Putty, and just plain stared straight ahead.

They were allowed to be bored, and I was thrilled. Who knows what organic, stream-of-conscious highway their neurons were traveling down? I hope it was as beautiful as it looked.

At the end of the semester, I asked students how the ban worked for them. Their answer was practical: The early-morning hour made the ban easier, since they didn’t expect any urgent texts when many friends were still tucked in bed. Timing is everything, I suppose.

I’ve come to realize that the only way forward is to extract the problem from its root, by physically disconnecting the device from the hand. The devices fared fine for 50 minutes in a backpack. Afternoon classes, as students emerge into the prime of their digital day, might prove to be a greater challenge, but I think it’s one worth tackling for the calm that descends on a tech-free class.

For me it was lovely to coexist in a space a few times each week where we relied on earlier technological forms: those of the mind. Pings be damned.