QR Codes Link to Family Heritage on Cemetery Headstones by David Quiring
In her seminal book On Death and Dying Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote about the 5 stages of grief which are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. She noted that not everyone goes through each of these stages and they are not necessarily experienced in any particular order. In the funeral/memorial profession we have learned that permanent memorialization is one of the ways in which survivors experience acceptance. A meaningful headstone can help people move forward through their grief after losing a loved one.
As a third generation memorialist, I have always been looking for ways to make monuments more meaningful and valuable to my clients. Since 1949, in Seattle, Washington, Quiring Monuments, Inc. has focused on developing cutting-edge carving technology so that graphic images could be of higher quality and require less maintenance. Our solution involved computer stencil cutting programs and more detail oriented plotters, then expanded to photo stencils and laser engraving.
About 10 years ago we noticed that other new technologies were being introduced to cemeteries and memorial artists, including Near Field Communication chips (NFC) and solar powered video players. These 21st century inventions allowed memorials to provide more information for families who wanted to pass on their heritage to future generations. These technologies were not quite what we were looking for because of battery, vandalism and other issues but were certainly cool new ways to package more information into the granite monuments we design.
In 1994, a subsidiary of Toyota created a new kind of bar code called the QR code (Quick Response code). Because this new code holds a lot of data, it is perfect for storing a URL (or Uniform Resource Locator), which is the web page address that you normally type into your browser. If you have a smart phone enabled with a QR Code reader application you can scan the code and it will open a web page on the smart phone.
Like most inventions, unique things come from combining two existing pieces into one new use. Post-It Notes started with a chemist trying to make a particular kind of glue. When I saw the QR Code and learned it could convert a web address into a QR code I figured we could create personal web pages for each one of our monument customers and link the different pieces together with a tag on the memorial. Word got out and we got world wide publicity for our “Living Headstones® Internet Connected Memorials” so I knew I had the next best thing in tombstone technology.
We created a durable, weatherproof, scan-able tag to attach to a memorial. Each personal webpage can be accessed by either typing a web address into a desktop computer or scanning the QR code into a smart phone from the cemetery. Anyone who has the web address can view the memorial website but each site is password protected and has a family administrator to make sure only appropriate photos and messages are populated. All those pieces came together and today we are selling our Living Headstones® tags to customers around the world for both new memorials or for attachment to existing public and private monuments.
Since our population is now more mobile than ever and families are dispersed all over the world these QR codes and their attached websites give extended families a chance to add their thoughts on birthdays, anniversaries and other family occasions no matter how far away they live. They can add an obituary, a biography, up to 100 family photos, a memorial DVD and guest book messages. This information is stored on several redundant servers in various places to ensure that it will remain accessible for future generations.
David Quiring is the owner of Quiring Monuments in Seattle, Washington. An industry leader in designing and creating quality custom headstones, memorials, and monuments in North America, Quiring Monuments brings over 100 years of family tradition, experience, and compassion to helping permanently preserve the memories of loved ones. For more information on the memorialization industry, please visit the Quiring Monuments blog at www.monuments.com/blog.