Whatever next? RFID tags for dead people

The Feedster

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Jun 26, 2007
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RFID technology has made wireless tracking of everything from goods on warehouse pallets to lost dogs as commonplace as breathing, but we could never have guessed that even the dead would have their own uses for it.

The unusual scheme to give expired people a high-tech link to the outside world comes from a 16th-century temple in Nagoya, Japan, called Bansho-ji.

Ashes to ashes

Realising that the graves of their parishioners were increasingly being placed far from the busy city, priests at the temple decided to create a 21st-century version called 'The Crystal Hall' inside their own facility.

The result is a modern tomb of sorts that can hold the ashes of up to 2,000 people in compartments on the third floor of the temple building.

Being situated in Nagoya means relatives wishing to visit have no need to travel far into the countryside to traditional graveyards.

RFID chips

Instead, they get an IC card with an RFID chip that is exclusively linked to the 20cm-square compartment holding their relative's ashes. When they arrive at the facility, they wave this over a reader to begin a very modern way of honouring the dead.

The first thing they'll notice on entering the vault-like mass tomb is a screen that shows images of the person whose resting place they've come to visit and plays their favourite music.

That's followed by a wall-mounted LED lighting system linked to the IC card that guides them to the correct compartment among the rows of private boxes.

After that, they can use the card to open the appropriate ashes vault, where they can be joined by a flesh-and-blood priest if they still need the human touch.

Costly resting place

Bansho-ji plans to open the Crystal Hall to new 'residents' in December and expects over 1,000 takers in the first few months.

At prices running to ¥3.5 million (£16,350) per ashes compartment, the temple's owners are probably quite glad almost everyone in Japan opts for cremation at the end of the line.