February 05, 2015      

While most people don’t like to discuss death – it’s a scary, uncertain aspect of life we will all face – the death business is a huge industry. The U.S. market alone is worth $3 billion.

But many cemeteries still rely on old paper records of funerals and available burial plots to map out the property. These outdated systems can lead to errors when graves are dug in the wrong place.

That’s where PlotBox comes in. Based in Northern Ireland, the startup created cloud-based software that uses drones to map the grounds and help cemeteries make sure they’re not burying anyone in the wrong plot, which is a costly mistake.

PlotBox, which participated in the 500 Startups’ Demo Day, has been called the “Google Maps of cemeteries.” According to PlotBox founders Sean and Leona McAllister, the drones quickly scan cemeteries for free plots much faster than traditional methods. PlotBox scanned a 50-acre cemetery via drone in 30 minutes when it would have taken 100 hours normally.

PlotBox offers tools for operations management, communicating with staff and other business partners, financial reporting, and making genealogy data searchable and available to the public.

PlotBox screenshot

“There’s no real technology in this industry that’s doing it well,” says Sean McAllister, a self-proclaimed expert in cemetery mapping. “And you can’t manage thousands of plots and not know where they’re at in relation to your data.”

PlotBox was started after a local cemetery hired the McAllisters to create a map for them.

“We decided to hire drones. While once the mapping process took 100 hours, we can now do it in two hours,” Sean McAllister tells the Belfast Telegraph. “The drone takes aerial photographs and those can be uploaded straight away, rapidly capturing all the data that we need in a fraction of the time it used to take.

“At the moment we are still hiring drones and investigating which models best suit our needs, with a view to purchasing one of our own.

“We also have a number of other processes and technologies and work that we can do in the field which no one else is doing.”

PlotBox was named Northern Ireland’s next big business innovator after it won the Northern Ireland Science Park’s INVENT awards. “Plotbox takes a modern-day problem-solving approach to a very traditional industry in which there is a general lack of tech savvy,” says Steve Orr, director at NISP Connect, the firm that runs the INVENT awards.

PlotBox has $280,000 in sales already.

An aerial image of Deansgrange Cemetery in Ireland, part of 74 acres of grave sites managed by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council using paper records.