A Tour of History's Smart Graveyards

A Tour of History’s Smart Graveyards

Johannesburg has a grave downside: individuals preserve stealing tombstones. While the lifeless definitely don’t care, grieving households do, and so a non-public firm has stepped up and provided microchips as a possible answer.

Microchips may supply a deterrent to tombstone thefts, or a minimum of an opportunity to catch the culprits at a time when round 20 tombstones are being stolen per 30 days in South Africa’s largest metropolis. Once the microchip is put in throughout the tombstone, the Associated Press reports, it takes two types of motion if a grave marker is disturbed. First, it can sound an alarm inside the cemetery itself, in hopes of interrupting the crime. Second, it would ship textual content messages to dwelling relations, letting them know one thing has gone down.

These “good” tombstones are neither the primary nor the final try to combine expertise into graveyards. Throughout historical past, we have now seemed for methods to make use of our data and the most recent instruments to not solely rethink what cemeteries are and how they work, however to increase our very notions of life and dying.


The Premature Burial by Antoine Wiertz depicts the restoration of supposed cholera victims, and is credited with popularizing the security coffin. Via Wikimedia Commons.

An early advance in graveyard tech was the safety coffin. Back within the 18th and nineteenth centuries, individuals feared being buried alive. The concern was so palpable that it drove a quantity of artistic, albeit considerably weird and hilarious options for burying the downside if and when it arose. Of the accessible choices, essentially the most well-known instance was the bell setup whereby a chord connected to a bell was prolonged into the coffin. Should a corpse not likely be a corpse and get up within the nightmarish state of affairs of being buried alive, the non-deceased might ring the bell to draw consideration and be launched. Alternatives to the bell included flags, fireworks, and vaults.

A variation on this was the “moveable dying chamber,” a physique field with a viewing window by way of which a crew of screens might really make sure that an individual was decaying. As described within the guide Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear, “If there have been clear indicators of putrefaction, a trapdoor within the backside of the loss of life chamber can be triggered, and the corpse would fall down right into a beforehand dug grave beneath it.”


New applied sciences to retailer data, photographs, and different varieties of information have begun to make the standard tombstone inscription look as archaic because the floppy disk. No longer are individuals restricted to their identify, date of demise, and a contrived phrase; their total life histories can now be queued up by way of smartphone.

Much like the protection coffin, there are quite a few iterations of this theme. Earlier makes an attempt to combine information storage with tombstones as a type of memorial have been laughable—clunky iPad-esque screens garishly connected to a love one’s marker. But now now we have sleeker alternate options. When scanned, QR codes, connected through sticker or by itself tiny separate stone, whisk cemetery guests to a memorial web site full with, effectively, actually no matter you need. Another possibility is the E-TOMB, which retains your social media presence alive lengthy after you stop to be. There’s additionally Neshama, the so-known as Facebook for dead people.


In Japan, burials are costly. A few years in the past, Tokyo noticed plots going for $100,000 a head. And provided that a big share of Japanese are cremated upon demise, such bills appear superfluous.

Enter the urn warehouse. Instead of spending large cash to bury family members beneath the bottom, some grieving households in Japan have as a substitute interred their relations’ stays in technologically-superior warehouses. Should they want to pay their respects, a certified member of the family scans an figuring out card. Once their card is acknowledged, a robo-arm finds and grabs the suitable urn from storage and brings it to a particular mourning room. In a approach, it’s type of like a merchandising machine for the useless.

These options will not be applicable to you (I doubt you want a “moveable demise chamber”) or they merely might not attraction (I definitely don’t need my some of my extra egregious tweets being obtainable to anybody who occurs to stroll by my future grave). But these and extra choices are on the market, which says extra about our relationship to our personal mortality than it does about our private preferences.

Online Life After Death – Digital Asset Estate Planning

Online Life After Death – Digital Asset Estate Planning

Most of us have a significant presence in the digital world whether we realize it or not.

If you were to list all your digital accounts and assets, the number would probably surprise you. You may have online accounts with banks, merchants, a brokerage firm, social media platforms, cloud storage companies, gaming sites and email providers. Perhaps you have a blog or own a number of domain names. Some items such as your digital photo collection or your Facebook log may not have a monetary value, but they may have personal meaning for your loved ones. Other items may range in value from coupon credits accrued with your favorite online retailer to a significant balance in a PayPal or even Bitcoin account. You may have thousands of frequent flyer miles, a cash-back reward balance from your credit card company, or an online trading account balance. Your online business presence may include eBay, Etsy or your own web-based company.

Whatever monetary or personal value these types of examples may possess, digital asset estate planning is essential to ensure that your online life after death is handled in an orderly manner according to your wishes.

In addition to online accounts and assets, your personal digital devices and their content should be considered as well.

Your computer or laptop as well as your tablet, e-reader, cellphone or smartphone and all manner of offline storage form part of your digital estate. These storage formats include CDs and DVDs, peripheral storage drives, and memory cards. Tangible paper records are becoming increasingly a thing of the past; for most of us, it is the digital trail we leave that tells the story of our personal, professional and financial lives.

The conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein, an icon of 20th-century classical music, passed away in 1990 and left behind a memoir called Blue Ink in a password-protected computer file. He did not share the password, and so far, no one has been able to access this presumably significant work. Clarifying your wishes regarding your digital legacy is crucial to any well-formulated estate plan. You can start by providing your executor a complete digital inventory together with the necessary means of accessing it.

Digital Assets – A New Frontier

There’s more to consider, however. From a legal perspective, the status of digital assets within estate planning is a new frontier. They may fall within intellectual property, intangible assets or license categories.    While it may seem reasonable to assume that a next-of-kin could simply step in and manage or dispose of digital accounts, this is a risky endeavor. Federal and state laws designed to prevent hacking, identity theft and online fraud can inadvertently prevent loved ones or your executor from legally accessing your digital assets if you die. Many sites and account issuers allow only the primary account holder to enjoy access and can be inflexible on that point.

In Ellsworth vs. Yahoo, a 2005 legal case out of Michigan, the father of a Marine killed in Iraq was forced to seek access through the courts to his son’s Yahoo email account after Yahoo initially refused to provide it. Yahoo eventually complied with an order to produce the email records.

While the need for a court order is extreme, some platforms such as Gmail, Flickr and Twitter request a death certificate and related documents to gain access to accounts and records. Some states such as Oklahoma and Connecticut have introduced statutes designed to provide access to the deceased person’s email and social networking accounts, but comprehensive digital asset protection and disposition after death remains a complicated matter best discussed with your estate attorney.

As stated, the goal will be to identify a complete inventory, directions for access and any information necessary for your digital assets to be valued accurately. You may prefer that some records be destroyed and the accounts closed upon your death while others be willed to specific individuals. You may wish to bequeath your laptop to one person but prefer the contents be destroyed or given to a different heir. The importance of specifying your exact wishes is not to be underestimated. Our digital lives have grown and will continue to grow exponentially, and the peace of mind that estate planning affords will remain elusive until you include your digital assets in this important endeavor.