NFC Tracks Body Transport, Cremation

Published: August 1, 2023

With NFC tag attached to body bags, Styx Logistics’ funeral home and dispatch customers have digitized data related to when a specific body was picked up or delivered for cremation.

Deathcare software company Styx Logistics, Inc. has developed a solution to track bodies as they are picked up from hospitals or other sites and delivered to cremation facilities to ensure mistakes are not made, while also boosting transportation efficiency. The company’s app has already been creating a record of a body’s pickup, delivery and cremation, while a new NFC technology offering further automates the process by identifying the remains with the tap of a smart phone.

The solution, with NFC, is designed to help meet the changing needs of families at the time of an individual’s death. Today, for instance, direct cremation, virtual funerals, and a variety of ash scattering choices are changing the way people approach management of their loved one’s remains.

Styx Logistics sells a suite of e-commerce, content management, and dispatching software modules and apps that help serve these changing requirements. Its technology is used by funeral homes and mortuary transport services, explains Styx Logistics’ CTO Penny Goodwill. The company’s software as a service is designed to enable more efficient and accurate services to care for bodies.

In the past decade, funeral home margins have dropped from 15 percent, ten years ago, to 7 percent today, the company reports. That’s in part because customers are seeking lower cost offerings such as direct cremations. In fact, the company’s own statistics find that 58 percent of Americans today choose cremation as their end-of-life disposition, while the cremation preference can be as high as 80 percent in some states. Additionally, families are looking for more standardization and convenience as people are more dispersed, as well as less likely to be influenced by religion and local culture.

Even as demands of families for lower cost, efficient death services are up, the actual servicing can be a highly manual process that requires reporting, filling out forms, and double-checking information.  Tracking and recording the collection of a body and its cremation is very much paper based according to state regulations, Goodwill explains. Many funeral homes are highly traditional, family operations that have passed down through generations and have changed little related to how the work gets done.

“We recognize this gap in the market that needed to be filled in order to serve people in the manner in which they choose to be served,” says Goodwill.

Styx Logistics enables families of the deceased to use Styx’ website or the websites of Styx’ customers to directly order a cremation. The solution consists of a software as a service (SaaS) offered to funeral homes and dispatch companies. When someone has died, their family members would go to the funeral home’s site, for instance, and take care of their business online.

Based on regulations in each state, they enter who has authorization to make the request, electronically sign the papers as the authorizing agent identify themselves and provide information about the deceased.

They can then select choices such as receiving remains in an urn, where they would want the remains shipped, or if they want to have a scattering.  The customer pays with a credit or debit card.

The funeral home then makes arrangements to pick up the deceased.  Funeral Home directors employ the Styx Logistics app to create the job, select the driver who is going to be assigned, and invite that driver to the job. The driver gets a text message and can then go into their Styx Driver App and see the details. Once accepted, drivers indicate their estimated time of arrival. The driver also receives an e-mail of the official release form they need for the hospital or other party where the body is located, to prove that the next of kin has signed a statement entrusting the body to this funeral home.

NFC Identifies the Body

The driver picking up the deceased can now also come equipped with adhesive NFC tags to provide an automatic identification of the body at each stage in its processing. Styx Logistics is using the NXP Semiconductors NTAG 213 IC in the label which stores a unique ID that can then be linked to data about the remains.

Traditionally bodies have been identified with paper documents attached to the outside of the bag. Drivers visually check the details on that document to ensure they have the right person. Toe tags are no longer used, in part because, since COVID-19, body bags are left closed.

Now they use their smartphone to read the NFC tag they are applying to the body and link that ID in the app to the individual’s data. The app then updates the status of the body as being collected from the hospital or other site.

The deceased can then be taken to the funeral home or directly to the crematory. If the tag is read at that location, the body’s status is again updated in the software. Styx Logistics and the funeral parlor have an automatic confirmation that the body has been picked up or received at a site such as the crematory.

At the time of pick-up, the next of kin is automatically sent an e-mail letting them know that their loved one is now in in the care of the proper authorities. For those reading the tag at the time of pick up or delivery, the app provides confirmation tag that they have the right person’s body.

Crematories using the app could also read the tag to capture data such as who the body belongs to and specific orders, such as shipping ashes to a certain address or preparing them for pickup by family members.

Ultimately the tag is cremated with the body, Goodwill adds. “Each site typically has its own method of associating the ashes,” with an individual and for that reason, the NFC system is no longer required after cremation.

Testing and Deployments Underway

Thus far about five funeral homes and two crematories have been testing the solution with the app and NFC technology since spring of this year. They are mostly located in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

One dispatch company that oversees the transportation of bodies as a third-party, is also testing the solution with NFC. “They are replacing a paper based way of doing things — which is a very manual process right and very repetitive — with something that is completely digital,” she says.

The system in the long term could also be shared between different parties. For instance, the funeral home could share its data with a hospital, or with the crematory, or both.   The data enables other visibility as well, such as understanding where drivers are and where and when pickups take place by that individual, based on the NFC tag scans with that driver’s phone. Ultimately, Goodwill says, “NFC serves as one more check against error or confusion. That’s a big benefit.”

The company’s rollout plan is to assess the benefits of the NFC system for its early adopting customers, gain their feedback and then potentially release to all customers.

Key Takeaways:

  • With the increased need for efficiency and digitalization around cremation of bodies, Styx Logistics is leveraging NFC technology to identify remains.
  • The tag is enabling funeral homes, drivers, hospitals, and next of kin to view data confirming the right pickup or delivery, when and by whom.