In Memoriam device detects when someone dies alone

Designer Oni Yang has created a two-part system that can be installed in single-person households to notify neighbors in the event of their death, and was designed to “encourage the community to care for each other”.

Memoriam’s functional prototype system, which can be installed in the home, includes a battery-powered odor detector and beacon that are connected wirelessly.

In Memoriam detector
A beacon lets passers-by know that someone has died

Subtle in shape and color, the white odor detector can be discreetly mounted on a wall and responds to the sulfur compounds released when a person’s body decomposes after death.

A black signal lamp placed at the entrance of the house then receives this information from the detector wirelessly. A built-in servo motor tilts the upper part of the lamp by 45 degrees, revealing a glowing light informed by candles, which was created to attract the attention of neighbors and passers-by.

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Odor detector
The odor detector consists of metal, wires and a circuit board wrapped in polystyrene

“The odor detector hangs at eye level, or breathing height, because the volatile organic compounds I chose as decay indicators, in this case sulfur compounds, are heavier than ambient air,” explained Oni.

“This is similarly comparable to the installation of carbon monoxide detectors, which are often placed at the same height.”

Odor detector
It can be installed on the living room wall

Onia created the project as part of her bachelor’s thesis while studying industrial design at the Berlin University of Applied Sciences.

The designer told Dezeen that she created the project after a “tragic incident” in her neighborhood where someone died and his body was not discovered until much later when it had started to decompose.

“I learned about similar deaths in Berlin and realized through research and interviews that this phenomenon is becoming more global,” Oni said.

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“Often the deceased are discovered by family members without mental preparation, and this is a very traumatic experience. Rotten corpses also require extensive core repairs. [to homes] and can leave the premises unoccupied for a long time.”

In Memoriam
In Memoriam was created to promote community cohesion

Onia explained that she chose polystyrene for the body of the odor detector for its electrical insulation, while the metal-coated brass that covers the signal lamp oxidizes over time and takes on a color and texture similar to the skin of a corpse.

According to the designer, this is intended to remind members of the public that the lamp needs to be polished, reinforcing its message to care for one’s neighbors and further encouraging people to connect with each other in cities.

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“In Memoriam translates as ‘to remember someone’. When the signal lamp lights up, the light serves not only as a signal to the community of the house, but also symbolically remembers the deceased,” said Oni.

“Also, the mechanism of tilting the lamp and the slow rise of the light cone should symbolize the lighting of the mourning candle. The name seemed appropriate to me, because I want not only to remember the dead, but also to encourage a community to look after each other.”

Other death-related designs include a biodegradable urn by Claesson Koivisto Rune and a “living coffin” made from mushroom mycelium.

Images and video courtesy of Ony Yan.


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