Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC): Blink: A Language of Love Through Light

Campaign Summary

Blink is an innovative physical-to-digital experience designed to keep families with sick children connected when separated during medical treatment. This custom-built set of devices from Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) gives families an unspoken language of love during moments of separation and anxiety. Through technology and light, families can remain connected when they can’t physically be together.


Objective and Context:

Children with serious illnesses often need to travel great distances for necessary medical treatment. For these families, RMHC offers a home away from home near their children’s treatment facilities, because science has proven that children heal faster when their loved ones are near. However, children and parents often have to endure moments of separation, whether it’s during treatments or overnight stays at the hospital. In addition, research uncovered that parents, children, and extended family don’t always know what to say, and struggle to show love and support in ways that are meaningful. These insights made RMHC wonder if it could use technology to keep families close without needing any words at all.

Target Audience:

Families travel from all over the world to seek medical treatment for their sick children. RMHC provides rooms for families of pediatric patients 21 years and younger near these treatment facilities. All of these families share the same stress and fear for their child’s well-being.

Creative Strategy:

Blink was created to provide RMHC families with a way to stay connected during times apart. Using mobile and Internet of Things technology, children and parents can communicate through light to create a language of love. Triggered by tap and shake gestures, Blink flashes with color-coded lights for a simple messaging experience.


Overall Campaign Execution:

Blink was created and optimized through an iterative testing process in late 2016 to understand expectations and user interaction. In 2017, Blink was piloted with a select number of real RMHC families undergoing treatment.

Mobile Execution:

To create the Blink experience, RMHC combined an accelerometer and a device called an Electron that interprets a series of touch and gesture interactions. When a shake or tap is detected, the Electron translates the message, which is then routed to the corresponding Blink, where a set of six LED lights flash the message as a sequence of colored lights. Shaking one Blink sends the corresponding orb a green-illuminated message saying “Hello.” Two taps send a blue “Goodnight,” and three taps send a glowing pink, “I love you.” Messages received during sleep hours are saved in a queue for the morning when a child wakes.

Results (including context, evaluation, and market impact)

In early 2017, Blink was piloted with a select number of real RMHC families undergoing treatment. The beta families reported that Blink created a sense of connectedness during treatment, which they stated as an important aspect of well-being. With national rollout on the horizon, the Blink experience could be introduced to more than 300 houses, helping thousands of families each year. RMHC’s goal is to test and adapt Blink to meet the needs of sick children, as well as patients of all ages with physical and communication impairments.

Categories: Innovation | Industries: Nonprofits & Government | Objectives: Innovation | Awards: Gold Winner