While it may sound morbid the digital death company may provide closure to the living and the deceased.
Death is the destination we all share. It’s the inescapable last stop on this journey we call life, and once you reach it there’s no looking back. The digital world is attempting to make death a little less permanent, allowing words and images to be stored indefinitely. It might sound like the beginning of a horror movie, receiving an email or text from a dead relative, but some companies are now looking to give a voice back to the dead.
SafeBeyond is one such company. Part of a growing industry that deals with digital rights and inheritance, they help users create messages which can be sent to family and friends after their death.
A morbid thought, but perhaps a necessary one
It’s a somewhat morbid concept, planning messages to leave behind after one’s death. People tend to avoid thinking about the inevitable, and focus solely on the here and now. That’s why companies like SafeBeyond may make us shiver. They remind us that as much as we would like to believe we are invincible, we will all die one day (or they remind us of a bad movie).
SafeBeyond’s founder Moran Zur argues that this is exactly why companies like his are needed. He explained to Geektime that in 2002 his father passed away just as he was getting ready to propose to his girlfriend, and in 2012 his wife was diagnosed with brain cancer. Both of these cases made him realize how important it was to leave behind a way for the living to connect with the deceased.
How it works
Zur’s company believes that everyone should have the ability to leave messages for their loved ones, so they offer an initial 1GB of storage for free, with additional storage for a fee. Messages can come in whatever format the user chooses, including audio, video, and text. The user records their messages and then uploads them through the company’s website or app. There is also the option to upload images or passwords, so that families can have easy access to important information.
SafeBeyond is somewhat unique in the postmortem message industry in that the messages are not just delivered, but also can be scheduled for events and locations that the the receivers will experience in the future. This means that it is possible for a parent who will miss their child’s wedding or graduation to leave a message of support or love which they might not have gotten to do otherwise.
Location-based messages use a GPS system, which alerts the intended recipient when they arrive at a location to which a message has been attached. Event messages are scheduled by a designated trustee, who is also responsible for certifying that the user has passed away.
The concerns that follow all new startups are compounded by the delicate nature of the services that SafeBeyond offers. What happens to the data that is uploaded by an individual should the company fail, or if something catastrophic were to happen to their servers?
Moran explained that all files are stored on the Amazon cloud, instead of on a private server, which allows for the messages to be downloaded or moved at any time should anything happen to the company.
Understanding why people are looking to the grave
This is such a unique service that Geektime wanted to hear the reasons that people were recording messages, as well as find out exactly what they left behind. One public figure has already used the service. Yitzhak Navon, the fifth president of Israel, recorded one last public message before his death with SafeBeyond.
Geektime was able to talk with Amiram Hayardeny and Oshrat Kagan, both of whom are recent sign ups, to find out exactly why they chose to use it. Interestingly both of them are healthy, and have chosen to record messages as a preemptive measure, just in case anything goes wrong.
Amiram explained that his impetus for registering was his fathers diagnosis of ALS and the sudden death of a younger cousin. Both incidents left important things unsaid, which he realized after his father lost his ability to speak.
When asked why he chose SafeBeyond, rather than another service or saving messages himself, Amiram explained that SafeBeyond made the process more inviting. He explained that, “These are topics that people don’t like to talk about. Talking about death, and what happens next, the legacy you want to leave for your children, is not something that is easy to talk about. SafeBeyond actually makes it less intimidating. It puts you at ease.”
Oshrat told Geektime that she uses SafeBeyond to save pictures and written messages, so that her children have access to important memories should she ever forget them or if anything were to happen to her. She further explained that she would try to tell them all that she wants to now, but “they are too young.”
“I’ve already forgotten their first word,” she tells Geektime, “How do I remember all the wonderful things they are doing and saying right now? We grow up and lose so much of that magic and I felt like this is a way to hold on to it forever.”
It remains to be seen how SafeBeyond will be received by the public. Moran relayed to Geektime that they expect to have 10,000 users who plan on leaving messages by the end of the year. SafeBeyond offers an interesting take on digital asset management – perhaps taking it to an extreme – especially as we record a significant portion of our daily lives digitally.
However there is a difference between giving your children the password to your Instagram, and leaving them a message from beyond the grave. It may inspire uncomfortable feelings, or it could wind up being an unpleasant reminder of the loss of someone important to you. Until general reactions can be gauged on a wider scale, the hope is that it will bring as much peace to living, as it might to the dead.