A Google home, Echo Spot, Smart Bulb, and Smart Plug

Smarthomes still aren’t very smart, and voice assistants don’t truly understand you. Beyond using groups, you should name your devices carefully to avoid overlap, hard to remember names, and confusion—both for you and your voice assistant.

Similar Device Names Introduces Command Confusion

Have you ever asked Alexa or Google to turn off the living room light, only to get asked repeatedly which living room device you want off? You can try to enunciate better or be more specific, just to be left frustrated because Google and Alexa don’t understand what you want.

Usually, the problem is you. If you named a smart outlet “study,” a smart light bulb “study,” and a smart switch “study,” your voice assistant won’t understand which device it should turn off. You can solve some of this by setting up groups. But it also helps if you follow some basic rules when naming your smart devices.

Plus, naming your smart devices well from the beginning helps you avoid having to relearn those names when you’re forced to change things down the line.

Name Groups After Rooms or Purposes

Alexa app with groups named Basement, Christmas, and Kitchen

The most important names for your smarthome are the names of your groups. If you aren’t grouping the devices in your house, you should be. You’ll accomplish more with fewer words, and you’ll have less to remember. Both Google and Amazon have made it easy to create groups, and the sooner you do this, the better off you will be.

One good strategy is to name your groups after the room in which they’re located. A group for devices in your living room should be named Living Room, a group for your study should be called Study, and so on. The exception is for groups of things not tied to a specific room. In that case, you should use their purpose for the name.

For example, if all your Christmas lights are on smart outdoor outlets, then put them in a group named Christmas. You’ll tell your voice assistant “turn off Christmas” when you want to control the group.

This also applies even if devices are in the same room as other devices, but you want to control them separately. For example, maybe you’ve got a lamp or a bias light behind your TV that you don’t want to turn off along with the other devices in the room. In that case, leave those devices out of the main group and put them into their own group if you need to.

RELATED: Want Better Smarthome Voice Control? Use Groups

Always Use Unique Names For Your Devices

Once you have groups out of the way, it’s time to worry about naming devices. The worst thing you can do is use the same name for different devices. If you name a smart light and a smart switch “study,” your voice assistant will get confused when you say “turn off the study.” It won’t know which device you mean.

Voice assistants need some way to differentiate between devices. You can accomplish either by naming devices after their locations in the room or with the name of the room followed by a number.

Name Similar Devices For Their Location in a Room

Alexa app with lights named Fireplace, Playstation, and Window

You should name most devices after their physical location in the room. This especially applies to smart lights, as you probably have more than one in a room. If you have a smart light named “fireplace” and another light named “window,” you will have a better chance of remembering their unique names. This matters most when you want to control individual devices, such as the light above or across the room from your TV.

Remember, when controlling individual devices it’s not only important your voice assistant understand what smart thing you’re referring to. It’s also important you can easily recall what name to use.

If you can look at a device’s location and easily remember its name, that will make everything easier. If the name of the location itself won’t work, then try something associated with that location. For example, we named a light near our home entertainment center “PlayStation” because the TV itself is voice controlled, but the PlayStation isn’t. The more obvious name is taken, but we still found a unique name for our devices.

Add Numbers When Individual Control is Unnecessary

Google App with devices named Christmas 1 through Christmas 10

Sometimes you don’t need to control all the different smart things in a room or group. If you have three overhead lights in the kitchen that are controlled by a single switch, it’s unlikely you’ll ever turn on just one or two by voice. Likewise, if you have all your outdoor Christmas lights on a smart outlet, you probably won’t turn them on one by one. The best thing to do is name them sequentially after their associated group. For kitchen lights, that could be Kitchen 1, Kitchen 2, Kitchen 3. For the Christmas lights, you could name them Christmas 1, Christmas 2, Christmas 3, and so on.

On the rare occasion that you do want to control just a single smart device, Google and Alexa can still handle this. The main purpose here is identifying the devices easier when you’re grouping them—after that, you’ll control them by their group name. And you won’t have to spend much time thinking of a unique name. The number in the name is still necessary. It avoids the confusion of your voice assistant asking “which kitchen do you mean?”

These simple guidelines are a powerful way to make your smarthome work better. Voice assistants still have problems understanding us and can stumble. We humans are pretty forgetful, too. These tips will make your voice assistant understand you better, and aid you in remembering the correct things to say.

Josh Hendrickson Josh Hendrickson
Josh Hendrickson has worked in IT for nearly a decade, including four years spent repairing and servicing computers for Microsoft. He’s also a smarthome enthusiast who built his own smart mirror with just a frame, some electronics, a Raspberry Pi, and open-source code.
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