Digitization in the ritual sphere is barely developing, and the invention has not made much noise so far
Marsel Mukhametshin, an engineer from Naberezhnye Chelny, created a digital gravestone. He patented this idea in 2012, but information about it has only been released by many media now. In the interview with Realnoe Vremya, he explained why he decided to patent this invention, how long it can work, how much it costs to carry out the same project and whether it is possible to get rich on it.
“These people are with us for as long as we remember them”
How did you get the idea?
My grandmother passed away when my father was only ten years old. When we went to his grave with him, I asked, “What do you remember about her?” He replied, but behind those words was the fact that he remembered her very vaguely. , I remember him. But I understand that every year I remember him less and less. The memory of our ancestors is gone. These people are with us as long as we remember them, and I, as an engineer, have made it my job to preserve their memory.
I then developed the digital design of the monument, which I patented in 2012.
If generally only the image of the deceased is applied to the monuments, here you can place a small film about him about what his ancestor was during his lifetime, how he moved, what his voice was, what achievements his family is proud.
In 2020, we installed the first digital monument on our father’s grave.
The monument is made of granite, contains a screen and speakers. Tempered glass is used, so its strength is almost the same as that of ordinary granite. The electronic monument “fill” is reliably protected against moisture and condensation. The product is designed to operate in temperatures from -40 to +40 degrees Celsius. The power comes either from a 220 volt network or from solar panels.
The inscriptions are applied to the inner surface of the glass, so they do not fade, they do not need to be tinted. When the monument is turned off, others do not notice its unusual design. Only the family knows the secret to turning on the screen.
“The monument is, probably, my fifth patent in a row”
If I understand correctly, your main work is not related to monuments. What do you do?
I am an engineer, graduated from Kama Polytechnic Institute with a degree in automotive design engineering. I work in the automotive industry. I also graduated from Kazan State University with a degree in management, so my activity has nothing to do with the ritual sphere. As an engineer, I have several invention patents. The monument is probably my fifth patent in a row, there were patents before it.
Can you tell us about it?
They were specifically on automotive subjects, on the design of cars. There is no point in mentioning them.
Is it difficult to obtain patents? How it works?
There are certain regulations, there are specialized companies that provide patent registration services. It is not difficult for me: I just describe the idea, experts carry out patent analysis, whether this idea has ever been used in the world, whether there are documents for similar designs.
If they conclude that there are no such structures in the world, there are unique distinctive features, they confirm that there is a sign of novelty, the documents are already submitted to the Federal Institute and this request is examined there. After a few months, they issue a patent.
“Personally, I do not plan to devote my life to making monuments”
So there were no similar ideas in the world before yours?
Embedding a display in the monument – it was like that. At the time of 2012, it was already possible to find on the Internet examples of the implementation of monuments with display in cemeteries. If I remember correctly, it was in Holland, Germany and Slovenia, in my opinion, the USA. But their idea was to turn the monument into something of a gadget.
My patent is not on how to integrate a display into the monument, but on the design features to ensure its long life. The ones I saw on the Internet weren’t made to last. But I indicated in the patent that my design can work for 50 to 150 years.
If we talk about the financial side of the matter, how much will it cost today to install such a monument?
Everything I did now, for my father and for the Novosibirsk crematorium, was done manually, so it’s very expensive. First, each project is individual, each detail, everything is done manually. The monument that I erected to my father cost about 500,000 rubles. The same monument, but not digital, would probably cost me 50-70,000.
Are you planning to increase production and start a business on it?
Personally, I don’t intend to devote my life to making monuments. I made it up, I would like someone to take this idea and use it. My friend Ilgiz Galiev, an engineer who deals with electronics, expects that if there are any orders, he will provide them.
I created the idea, I proposed the technology, the engineer knows these technologies, and if there are any orders, he will execute them. My daughter has now created a website, runs an Instagram on this part, and if there are applications, we can do it for those who wish. But there is no flow yet.
We gave it to my father, and there was an order from Novosibirsk. At the Novosibirsk crematorium. They did all the design themselves, all the details are in granite, they only asked me to integrate the electronics.
If such monuments appear, will their maintenance be necessary?
When there is volume, more or less healthy, then it will be possible to talk about it. Now, on two ready-made monuments, it makes no sense to talk about the organization of all production facilities and repair bases.
“Who would need it? It is very expensive!”
When you received the patent, did you expect this invention to cause resonance?
I don’t think he caused much resonance even now. So what, a few articles came out …
Funeral companies are not yet interested?
When I patented it, I thought: I’ll find it now, I’ll send it to ritual societies – please do it. There was not a single response. Not one! How many years have passed since 2012, my father passed away, I decided to erect this monument to him, conducted scientific research. After all, it’s one thing to formalize on paper, quite another to put it together in practice. Scientific experiments have been carried out, all of this has been tested in winter. This monument has already stood, how many relatives know it! How many relatives have passed away, but no one was interested, no one said, “I want one too.”
So what is the problem, in your opinion?
The segment that can be interested in this type of monuments, it is very, very small. We went to an exhibition in Yekaterinburg and showed this project there. There was a very skeptical perception of specialists in the ritual industry. They said, “Who would need it? It is very expensive! ”The main consumer are the people who buy these monuments for 10-20,000 rubles, they will not even start talking about five hundred thousand rubles.
But they also install expensive tombstones, there is also some demand for them.
Yes, if you look at some monuments they are worth millions. There is a certain category of people who have no financial constraints, but even among them only a small part is ready to deal with the issue of digitization. After the Yekaterinburg exhibition, Irina Dolzhenko, designer of high-end funeral structures, took an interest. The Novosibirsk crematorium has also expressed interest. It’s a story apart, they have a whole museum of ritual industry.
I was at an exhibition in Moscow. There was a lot more criticism there, many said, “When will digitalization happen in our industry?” We have been waiting for a long time, we have been thinking for a long time, we did not look into it ourselves, it has finally appeared! But no one has called yet, said they need it. Anything new takes time for people to get used to it.
The same videoconferences, for how many years they have existed, they have gradually, gradually entered our life as the norm. The pandemic, of course, has driven this case. The technology may exist somewhere, but people’s habits only change over time. I think it’s the same here. Time will pass, people will know what it is. There will be more and more people from another generation for whom digitalization is a given, and they will order it. It will come. The question is when.