Digital Headstone Options: Using Tech to Memorialize

Published January 8, 2021
QR code marker for photographer Mathew Brady

Gravesites and memorial cemeteries create a place to remember and honor a lost loved one. Grieving families and friends possess a specific place to pause and reflect about an individual's life. The headstone marks the place allowing time and space to collide in the mind. Undaunted by weather or time, technology gives birth to the digital headstone, providing a new means to remember and respect the deceased.

What Is a Digital Headstone?

When people speak of a digital headstone, they are probably focused in one of two directions. Many wonder if digital technology can improve the traditional gravestone in a cemetery. In 2017, in a cemetery in Maribor, the second largest city in the European country of Slovenia, an interactive digital tombstone was introduced. In addition to the traditional name, dates, and tributes, visitors to the grave could see and hear the deceased. Using a 48-inch, weather-proofed touchscreen, the computer interface was embedded into the stone grave marker. Activated by a motion detector, the picture and video played whenever someone approached the grave.

Problems With Technology in the Cemetery

With the desire to make memorials as meaningful and impactful as possible, digital technology allows relatives to have memories of the loved one come to life, refreshed by images and by audio. Visitors get to learn something of a life beyond the handful of words etched in stone. Technology does present risks.

  • Constant exposure to nature's elements can damage components.
  • Components and software become obsolete in a quick period of time.
  • Will the technology be subject to a greater risk of vandalism?

The Inscription of QR Codes

QR codes embedded into a grave memorial uses the same technology that can be found on products or menus. A special barcode can be scanned by a smartphone camera from a device with a proper app installed. The code triggers dedicated content about the deceased through a browser installed on the smartphone. Videos, pictures, obituary, and audio could be accessible to anyone who desired. The QR codes are more discreet than a touchscreen. The technology can be more easily updated. The traditional look of the tombstone is kept intact.

Man sitting in a church cemetery while using a laptop

Benefits of Digital Headstones

The benefits of this technology makes digital headstones a fast-growing trend. After the QR code is etched into the headstone at the cemetery, many things can be accomplished.

  • Personalization of the site becomes easier.
  • An old headstone can be updated with new information.
  • Stories of the loved one can be told through video, photos and audio recordings. The items can be stored indefinitely.
  • Friends, family, and acquaintances can leave messages.
  • The information can be accessed by visiting the cemetery or by visiting a linked website.
  • All information about the deceased can be conveniently stored in one place.
  • Family can know who has visited the site and can connect with them.
  • The legacy of the loved one becomes more complete and lasts forever.

The Virtual Headstone

A digital headstone may also be available 100% online rather than embedded in a physical cemetery. The virtual headstone becomes the marker for a digital space or online memorial site. The identity and name of the loved one will have a social media page that can serve as an interactive memorial. Instead of limiting access to those who can visit a geographical location on occasion, the virtual site provides continual access from anywhere in the world where internet is available. The site can allow interactive:

  • Condolences
  • Pictures, videos, audio clips, and memorabilia
  • Connection with family and friends

The Cost of Virtual Headstones

There are several different ways to establish a virtual headstone for your loved one. Setting up a personal website on your own is one way to do so. Several companies provide hosting services, and there are many platforms upon which to build the site. The more popular choice for a virtual headstone is using an established memorial website. Like a cemetery, a great deal of the preparation and maintenance is already there. Someone can build and personalize a website in under thirty minutes. The cost of such a site varies:

Display of headstones for sale
  • Expectations for cost should range from $0 to $50 a year.
  • Some sites offer a free or low-cost first year, with the cost escalating to the regular price during the second year. The cost for the site usually includes service help, maintenance and updates, and a space to store your memorabilia. Some sites offer a lifetime option where a higher, up-front, one-time fee is charged.
  • Many sites offer a basic service for free, with a cost added for additional features. Most free services will also post ads on the page.

The Issue of Security

The question of privacy and the potential for the site to be hacked concerns most people that participate in any online venture. Most virtual memorials are encrypted properly and offer an option to open the site to the public or to keep it password protected so that only friend and family have access to the site.

Memories That Last

A digital headstone is a convenient and secure way to pay respects to your departed loved one. By taking advantage of current technology, family and friends can process through grief together while sharing memories, feelings and thoughts about your loved one.

Digital Headstone Options: Using Tech to Memorialize