Luna Lights: Data-Based Assistive Lighting for the Elderly

By Scott Herbst, PhD

Guest Author

Donovan Morrison stands out in a crowd.  At least, he did the evening we met.  We were at a holiday party for the Private Director’s Association, an organization supporting individuals who sit on the boards of private companies.  He caught my attention during the part of the evening where we acknowledged everyone who had been a panelist during an event over the prior year.  At 25, he was easily the youngest person in the room.   This was in a room where, at 42, I’m used to being one of the youngest people in the room.  Who is this guy? I thought.

Donovan is the CEO of Luna Lights, a company that provides assistive lighting for elderly adults that also tracks behavioral data on their movement.  A recent graduate from Northwestern University, with a degree in Biomedical Engineering (and a minor in psychology), he founded Luna Lights.  In addition to that, he has worked on numerous design projects and worked with charitable organizations, working to further his goal of making the world more accessible for everyone.  The fit between behavior analysis, his passion, and the product he and his team have developed seemed natural.  After our chat, he was kind enough to agree to discuss it with me over an email exchange.

Scott: Will you give us a little more detail about your product, what it does, and who is using it. 

Donovan:  Sure thing. Luna Lights consists of an ultra-thin pressure sensor that detects when a user gets out of bed and immediately turns on small, wireless lights around the home. When the user returns to his or her bed, the sensor turns the lights off automatically.

Additionally, a software component collects data regarding the frequency and duration that an adult is out of bed at night. Our system sends a text notification to a caregiver if an older adult is out of bed for an unreasonable amount of time. It also allows caregivers to identify trends in nighttime trips and see which individuals are most at risk for falling.

We’re thrilled about Luna Lights because not only does it positively impact older adults, but it also benefits their caregivers and the senior living communities where Luna Lights is implemented. For older adults, we provide safer and more pleasant nighttime experiences. For caregivers, Luna Lights provides greater connectivity through notifications being sent if falls or other emergencies occur. For senior living communities, Luna Lights is a way to keep residents safer and in the community through reducing the likelihood of long lie falls.

Scott: I think there are a couple of things that the readers of BSCI21 will find interesting about that.  Let’s start with the data collection end of things.  Behavior analysts love data.  Right now, it sounds like you have the capacity to know when someone is in/out of bed.  One area where we really help parents is when they’re children don’t sleep through the night, especially when they refuse to sleep in their own bed.  I can see that this technology would be immediately applicable to those concerns.  That said, what plans do you have for the future in terms of developing additional data collection capacities?  And what additional uses do you see? 

Donovan: Great question. We’re currently collecting data surrounding nightly activity – the frequency and duration users are up at night, as well as any restlessness or shifting in bed. Moving forward we hope to expand our offering to include not only moisture and temperature detection, but also better tracking of users’ location after exiting the bed. It’s a fine line we need to walk – we don’t want to implement too many sensors and become “big brother,” but we also want to collect and provide data with high accuracy.

Outside of senior living we plan on expanding to individuals who wish to age in place at home. We’ll expand to consumers in 2018. We’re thrilled about Luna Lights because it’s not just designed for older adults, but any age group. For children who are toilet training or restless at night, Luna Lights is a great way to ensure safety and greater connectivity for parents. Another potential market we’re looking at is hotels, as unfamiliar room environments in the dark can lead to falls and broken toes.

Scott: That’s great.  My next question is how adaptable or modifiable is your product.  Already I’m thinking about it’s application for use with parents, and training them to train their children.  One challenge that parents face is that it’s very easy for a behavior analyst to say, “when your child does this, you should do this…” and then when it’s time for the parents to actually follow those instructions, they fly out the window.  And understandably so.  When a child is crying, especially when the child is yours, the natural response is to do what it takes to make them stop crying.  What will have the child stop crying now, and what’s going to teach them to be independent and well-adjusted (whatever that means) isn’t always the same thing.  One application I see for this technology is to a) read what the child is doing and then b) provide some sort of prompt to the parent about what to do.  And then, possibly, gather some data on what the parent does.  Said another way, I see potential for using it as a tool not only to assist people when they’re moving around, but also as something that can be used to train caregivers.  I’d like to hear your thoughts. 

Donovan: Interesting question – we’re already doing this to an extent, but as we continue to build out the system we hope our ability to provide actionable insights will increase. As is, we collect data surrounding restlessness and the frequency and duration someone is out of bed at night. After utilizing the system for a couple weeks, we’re able to establish a baseline level of nightly activity for each user. Should someone’s nightly activity deviate from their normal levels, we notify their caregivers as this could be connected to an underlying condition. Through this, caregivers can be more proactive about the care they provide and address some of these issues with residents before they worsen or even lead to future falls. We’re by no means diagnosing anything – we’re just providing a tool to help caregivers be more successful in their roles.

The same tracking and reporting will be available to parents when we expand out to at-home use for children. If kids are up more than usual at night, we’ll notify parents and provide them with the info to respond appropriately. With regards to gathering data surrounding how caregivers or parents react, at this time we have not incorporated methods to track responses. There’s an accountability component for both caregivers and parents, and we want to ensure that the data we collect and provide is being utilized to its fullest extent. Through our upcoming installations, conversations with caregivers, and interacting with behavior analysts we hope to gather the necessary info to allow us to develop this component of the product experience in the future.

Scott: That’s great.  When you talk about taking baseline data, you’re talking our language.  I’m guessing at this point our readers have a pretty good overview of your product, and given what you’ve shared, I expect many are thinking about how they would use this technology in their practice.   My final question is if anyone has any additional questions or would like to reach out, how would you like them to do that?

Donovan – Great! We’re glad we were able to provide a comprehensive overview of Luna Lights. If you’d like to learn more about Luna Lights, you can always visit our website, and feel free to email me at [email protected].


Scott Herbst, PhD is the founder and Lead Trainer at SixFlex Training and Consulting.  After six years in academia, he left to pursue his passion of training leaders and managers to create, manage, and communicate in work environments where people are productive, excited, and vital.  As a course designer, he grounds his curricula in cutting edge research in language and thinking as well as decades of research in operant performance.  As a trainer, he is an engaging and powerful speaker who makes learning fun and exciting.   You can visit his company site at, or email at [email protected] for more information.

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