More QR Codes Popping Up on Headstones

June 1, 2011
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QR CodeQR codes are showing up in the darndest places, as I mentioned ina recent articleon these increasingly popular phone-scannable, square-shaped patterns.

Per my piece:

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These device-readable patterns…are everywhere. They have shown up in local newspapers and magazines, on electronics-store and gardening-center product labels, on restaurant signs and real estate leaflets, on TV and PC screens, even on highway billboards in gigantic (yet still phone-readable) form.

In one example I cited, the Chino Latino restaurant in Minneapolis put QR codes in drinks, emblazoned them on staffers’ t-shirts, offered them to customers as temporary tattoos, posted them above urinals, even displayed themon two outdoor billboards visible to local hipsters on streets and rooftop patios.

But if you thinkthatis unusual, friends, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

QR codes are now being installed on…cemetery headstones.

That’s right: you may be wandering a cemetery soon and spot a QR code on a tombstone, protected behind glass so it is weather-impervious. Scanning the code with your phone will bring up a Web obituary so you can learn about the person buried in that plot.

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The company responsible for this, Rochester, Minn.-basedFuneral Innovations, specializes in high-tech tools for funeral homes.

Its offerings include funeral-home Web sites with social-media bells and whistles; multimedia tools for creating musical slide-show tributes of the deceased; iPad-friendly Web apps for funeral directors to plan services in customers’ homes; a “Monument Designer and Decision Wizard (to make) selling monuments fast, easy and smart,”and so on.

Its QR codes — or, as the firm calls them, “remembrance codes” — are the latest thing. It has been offering them to funeral homes as a high-tech option for only about three months.

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Such codes aren’t only used on tombstones (or, in funeral-industry lingo, “monuments”). They are also put on the materials handed out to mourners during services, and even displayed prominently alongside the standard sign-in book and picture of the deceased.

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In fact, those who scan that code will be prompted to check in, Foursquare-style, to give families of the dearly departed a better accounting of who attended the services.

When Funeral Innovations co-founder Zack Garbow had his QR-code brainstorm, he wasn’t sure if he was on to something big, or tragically deluded.

“When I presented the idea to my business partner, I prefaced it by saying, It is probably a crazy idea,” Garbow said. “But then we ran it by funeral directors and they loved it.”

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Funeral-home Web sites are hugely popular online destinations, especially in smaller communities, because people want to peruse the obituaries posted there, Garbow said. The QR codes, paired with mobile-device-optimized Web sites, are helping to boost that traffic.

In fact, he said, those viewing one of his company’s funeral-home Web site on a mobile device will spend twice as much time there as those doing so via a standard Web interface on a PC or Mac.

Funeral Innovations does have to continually educate funeral-home directors about the value of its high-tech offerings.

“The demographics of the funeral industry trend towards older folks,” said Garbow, “and we’re pulling them into 2011.”

Update:I talked with one of Funeral Innovations’ customers, Roberts Family Funeral Home in Forest Lake. Owner Kelly Roberts told me the QR codes used in memorial folders have been well received, once attendees figure out what the codes are (many have no idea).

“I’ve had to explain what it is,” Roberts said. Once they understand, “They say, ‘Oh, wow, that’s neat.’

“They see it as a unique way to remember and honor their loved ones, from here on out well into the future,” he said. “People who attend the memorial will keep the folder knowing they can go back to access the memorial” via the QR code.

Roberts hasn’t pushed tombstone codes with customers, partly because cremation has become more common, but he does offer memorial plaques for their home. The metallic plaques (another Funeral Innovations’ product) are placed on a stand, and have the QR code on them.

“People can have it at home on the mantle or on a coffee table,” with the QR code visible to all, Roberts said.

Source

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