Monday, September 04, 2017

Digital Life After Death

Advances in technology have meant that a whole new industry is emerging around helping us to leave extensive digital records of our lives to our descendants, and perhaps even a digital avatar self that can continue living online.

Not Much Of Ourselves

The challenge for many people up until now, unless they have kept diaries / blogs, written extensively about themselves, or kept film / video / photo records, is that they have not been able to leave much of themselves for their descendants to keep, learn about, and provide a more tangible and present link with the family’s past.

It is also the case that many of the things people leave behind after death have more to do with the banality of some aspects of their life rather than the interesting parts of their personality, knowledge and wisdom.

A Digital You

Some companies are now meeting the need to leave the legacy of ourselves by using technology to give customers the chance to leave digital records of themselves for loved ones, grand-children and future family members.

For example, Start-up Eternime, founded by MIT fellow Marius Ursache, is able to make a digital avatar ‘copy’ of customers by using algorithms to scrape all of their social media posts and interactions, thereby learning how to replicate a person’s memories and mannerisms. This data, combined with photos and AI means that Eternime can create a digital version of a person that can interact with loved ones online after the real person has died.

DeadSocial.org is an example of a company that provides online resources to help the general public think about, address and start sorting out their digital legacy, and allows them to record social media messages that can be scheduled for posting after their death.

Planning

Technology is also helping people with the more simple act of practical planning for things e.g. from making digital records of the planning of their own funeral or wake to more extensive end-of-life plans.

SafeBeyond, for example, enables customers to record video and audio messages as a kind of time capsule that can be accessed posthumously by their family and friends.

Technology Changing Funeral Industry

The UK funeral industry is also experiencing changes as a result of technology. Funeralbooker, for example, acts as a price comparison site and marketplace that enables people to compare the prices of funerals across the UK. Also, according to Funeralbooker, it provides independent funeral directors with a collective presence online that can help them to counter the spending power of the large chains. Digital will-making services are also now becoming more popular.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This story illustrates how technology is now having an impact on, and creating new opportunities and threats within all industries, as well as opening up new and exciting industry segments. As modern customers become used to running and planning all aspects of their life using (increasingly mobile) technology, digital planning services of all kinds will become more popular.

The development of the cloud has meant that storage of data, information and content relating to our lives, combined with games technologies and AI have meant that hitherto sci-fi fantasies of creating digital versions of ourselves to ‘live-on' have very quickly become a reality.

On a more basic level, as comparison sites spring up in more industries (often based mainly on price), as well as saving time and increasing transparency for customers, they also put pressure on companies to either find ways to reduce cost while maintaining quality, or to seek to strengthen their differentiating factors and / or seek new positioning for services.

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