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Graveyard tech: QR codes to bring cemeteries alive

If you own a smartphone, the chances are you’ve scanned at least one QR (Quick Response) code up to now, whether it was in a magazine, on the Web, on a poster or inside a retail store.

And if a new use for the codes being tried out in Denmark takes off, you might also find yourself scanning a QR code in a cemetery before too long.

A graveyard in the city of Roskilde has started to use the codes to help commemorate the deceased, offering more information than found on a traditional headstone. Printed on a porcelain plate and attached to a small stone, the QR codes can be found in the ground beside the headstones. Scan it with a smartphone and you’re taken to a website of the deceased showing their photo alongside a summary of their life.

Roskilde resident Dorthe Frydenlund decided to place a QR code by the grave of her father, Brent. “As a family it means a lot when you are here and feel the need to commemorate Dad,” Dorthe told the BBC.

She added, “It’s not meant as a comfort, more an opportunity for other people to learn his life story. It’s a good way for my son to remember his grandfather.”

The service costs 100 euros ($123), with not just photos and text but also audio snippets and videos included on the commemorative webpage if desired.

Niels Kristian Nielsen, director of Denmark’s largest gravestone manufacturer, thinks QR codes in cemeteries will one day be commonplace.

“It’s a good way to tell the story of a person. And we all have a story. Both the farmer, the director, they all have a story. And also it makes a visit to the graveyard much more interesting,” he said.

A church council in the Danish town of Holbaek is also looking to use the codes to help provide more information to visitors, with plans to upload the obituaries of local monks who once lived in a monastery close to the town.

“There are lots of people who are important and I think their story and what they have done with their life is important,” the council’s Hanne Korsby commented. “I think it’s very important for the next generation to have this memory.”

With little more than a date of birth and death, and possibly a heartfelt or possibly witty epitaph, the regular information-poor gravestone may soon be getting a serious makeover with the inclusion of a smartphone-ready scannable QR code.