Home RFID Lets the Dead Speak

RFID Lets the Dead Speak

It’s an archetypal scene of transcendent horror: a Nervous Nelly is making his or her way through a graveyard at night. Cue: full moon, owl, ground fog. A branch cracks. Nelly increases speed, heartbeat races, panting increases. A root clutches at Nelly’s shoe and he goes over, skidding to a stop in front of a tombstone. The dead rise and speak!


Oh, wait. It’s just an RFID chip embedded in the grave marker.

RosettaStone, a company that creates “technology-enhanced memorial products,” has created the RosettaStone Tablet. This RFID chip, located within a grave marker, holds space enough for a photograph and a 1,000 word message.

To read the message requires an NFC-RFID enabled smart phone, which you tap against the palm-sized granite plaque that contains the chip. The chip is advertised as having a weathering resistance of 3,200 years. (Message to our readers in 5,109: check it out, would you?)

The plaque itself is engraved with a series of symbols from a menu the company offers. They are designed to commemorate milestones in the person’s life – marrying, becoming a grandparent, career achievements, public honors and so forth.

Here’s a thought, though. There are memorial messages in stone that have lasted 4,200 years and more. Language + stone = forever. (Or close enough for government work.) Tomb markings have lasted through flood and fire and the collapse of civilizations. Is RosettaStone the triumph of hope over reason? Or will the ability to recall electronic messages be with us from here on out? If the latter is the case, will the technology expand to allow additional uploads – video and audio of the deceased and testimonials by succeeding generations of visitors?

Either way, for the time being at least, tools like RosettaStone may provide an emotionally powerful sense of immediacy for the living as they mourn those they’ve lost.

Graveyard photo by Josh McGinn

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