Monday, November 4, 2019

No more dead ends: Israeli app helps navigate graveyards

An Israeli-developed app offers turn-by-turn voice directions to help cemetery visitors navigate large graveyards in search of a loved one's resting place.

 "It will change everything," said Yehuda Hanfling, a service manager for Chevra Kadisha, the main group that oversees Jewish burials in Israel. The app, 'Gravez' is only available in Israel for now, but its developers plan to expand globally.

For a person visiting a grave or making their way to a funeral, finding the exact location can be tough in a large cemetery that is constantly changing.

"People who haven't been to graves for years and want to reach (the grave) get lost because graves have been added, paths have been added everywhere," Hanfling said. Chevra Kadisha began operating the app in September.

By providing real-time, turn-by-turn directions on smartphones, Gravez aims to save cemetery goers a lot of stress, and time, in reaching the grave they are looking for.

The developers, Corido, used drones and image processing tools to map over 1.3 million graves in 30 cemeteries in Israel so far for pedestrian and vehicle navigation, said Guy Liany, partner chief executive of Corido.

"We map all the geographical elements, the paths, the plots, interest points, everything that depicts the outline of the cemetery," said Liany, adding that the cemetery managers constantly update the system.

A cemetery that contains an average of 30 thousand to 40 thousand graves can be mapped within several days. The app is free for private users but cemetery operators need to purchase the system. The price depends on the size of the grounds.

The app can also suggest nearby parking and provide on-screen prayers traditionally said by the grave. The developers plan in the future to provide paid services like flower delivery or cleaning and renovating tombstones.

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