Question

Renaming issue using Alexa smart home groups and Sonos

  • 5 November 2017
  • 17 replies
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Userlevel 2
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has anyone tried using the amazon smart home group feature? I tried using it, but given i have sonos in the living room and another one in the bathroom of which both are named after their respective rooms, i can't create any smart home groups with the same name, such as "living room". A work around i found was to momentarily rename the sonos speaker something else (but do this ONLY in the alexa app not the sonos app), and then create the home group and then rename the device back to how it is in the sonos app (i.e. just "living room").

I don't know if it is something that alexa needs to fix or what. I feel that alexa should have categories setup to distinguish a speaker name vs a light name vs now their smart home group names. They are all different things. Doesn't matter if you have lights all called "living room" they are lights vs a speaker called "living room".

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17 replies

Regardless if the Alexa app allows it or not it would be bad practice from a voice control perspective to have the same name used for different things even if those things are in different classes. The reason is that it makes it difficult to form functional voice commands that do not get confused about what you are referencing because of insufficient context cues.

Some good guidelines would be:

Reserve Room names and other general references for group labels.

If the name uses multiple words then the first word should be unique. "Desk Lamp" and "Desk Fan" will not be as reliable as "Work Lamp" and "Desk Fan" for example.

Avoid excessively short or excessively long names. You will soon run out of ideas if you try to do only one syllable names and they may sound similar enough to cause incorrect responses. Extremely long names seem to get misheard a lot. Either part of the name isn't heard correctly or pronunciation is more likely to vary and cause confusion.
Userlevel 4
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I put ‘My ...’ in front of the Smart home group name... it’s very easy to have multiple names imported into Alexa that are the same. Before they could all be controlled together this made sense. Now you have to rethink based on the commands you want to say.
Userlevel 2
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upstatemike - Mind sharing your best practices on this? Perhaps with one of your real world examples?
Userlevel 2
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I put ‘My ...’ in front of the Smart home group name... it’s very easy to have multiple names imported into Alexa that are the same. Before they could all be controlled together this made sense. Now you have to rethink based on the commands you want to say.

This is a good idea so you basically created a room name called "My living room", for instance. That is food for thought.
upstatemike - Mind sharing your best practices on this? Perhaps with one of your real world examples?

The Automation Group for the Living Room is called "Living Room"

The Alexa Audio Group that includes the Living Room is called "Downstairs"

There are a pair of S5s on the living room fireplace mantel wired to an Echo Dot called "Mantel". It is part of the "Downstairs" Audio Group

The living room is mostly used for formal entertaining so the lights are called "Formal Lighting". "Formal Lighting" is included in the "Living Room" automation group.

There is a lamp on the end table called "End Table Lamp". It is also part of the "Living Room" automation group.

Alexa does not seem to get confused about what device or group I am using in a command with this setup. If instead I had called the living room lights "Living Room Lights 1" and the end table lamp "Living Room Lights 2" and kept the automation group name at "Living Room" and called the Echo Dot "Living Room Echo" then I would expect Alexa to get confused, especially if there is background noise or I happen to mumble or am across the room.
Userlevel 7
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Just to put my input in, I've renamed all of the Sonos players by adding SONOS to end of each, this ensures a clear distinction (e.g. Kitchen Sonos, Lounge Sonos, etc) and means that your Alexa group name can be shorter (e.g. Group 'Kitchen' contains Kitchen Echo, Kitchen Main & Kitchen Background lights and Kitchen Sonos)
Just to put my input in, I've renamed all of the Sonos players by adding SONOS to end of each, this ensures a clear distinction (e.g. Kitchen Sonos, Lounge Sonos, etc) and means that your Alexa group name can be shorter (e.g. Group 'Kitchen' contains Kitchen Echo, Kitchen Main & Kitchen Background lights and Kitchen Sonos)

The first rule of thumb is try it and see if it works. If this setup works for you then you are golden. Best Practices just help to figure out what could be causing problems when things do go wrong.I would hesitate to follow your example only because I have had problems with some aspects of your method:

Having a name that is the shorter version of a different name seems like a good opportunity for confusion. A group called "Kitchen" and a player called "Kitchen Echo" could be a problem if Alexa missed the "Echo" part of the name and thought you were trying to do something with the group. Likewise if you had Sonos players called "Connect" and "Connect Amp" you stand a pretty good chance of the wrong player responding to a voice command.

When Alexa listens to a command it has to narrow the device reference down to the specific device you are trying to operate, The sooner it hits a unique identifier the more reliable the identification and less chance for confusion. Having multiple names with the same first word just adds to the steps Alexa must go through to get to something unique.

Having duplicate words later in the name is not as bad because Alexa has already narrowed the list some based on the first word(s) but it still can cause a problem if the first part of the name is not understood clearly and you can get a response like "I found multiple devices with the name lights" or something similar.

It might be worth asking yourself if you really need to include "lights" or 'Sonos: or "Echo" in the name if there is an alternative or if it is already obvious what you are referring to. Alternatives like lighting, sconces, spots, walls, track, ceiling, music, audio, etc. can provide more uniqueness for Alexa while still making sense to the person speaking.

There is no single naming convention that will work for every situation but if you think about the idea of making a name unique as early in that name as possible then you will likely improve the chances of your commands being processed accurately.
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Just to put my input in, I've renamed all of the Sonos players by adding SONOS to end of each, this ensures a clear distinction (e.g. Kitchen Sonos, Lounge Sonos, etc) and means that your Alexa group name can be shorter (e.g. Group 'Kitchen' contains Kitchen Echo, Kitchen Main & Kitchen Background lights and Kitchen Sonos)

I had thought of doing this, but I stopped since I wasn't sure how the "living room" room would work as "living room sonos" doesn't fit as there is a character limitation. How did you rename it? Did you rename is something like "LR sonos"? If so, how do you call to alexa to play in the living room sonos? Something like this "alexa, play blah in LR sonos"?
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I did want to mention that i have entered a feedback into amazon and they responded like below. I know there is a chance they may not understand what the problem is, but maybe they agree that this naming issue shouldn't happen.


"Hello Miguel,

I'm sorry to know that Alexa app doesn't let you to create a new room called “living room.

I regret to inform you that we are receiving lots of customers having the same query and the basic troubleshooting is not working for this issue. Hence, we have informed it to our technical team. Our technical team is aware of this issue and working on a fix. The reference number of the same is 0129081756

However, I've also reported your concern to our technical team, and they're working on taking care of it. Errors like this are usually corrected shortly after they're reported.

I would kindly request you to please wait a little longer so that it will help us to complete our research, there are times that it may take us a little longer as it is in this case. I truly apologize for this delay."
Userlevel 7
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Hi Upstatemike

Very valid points and I understand your logic ?

The only problem I get is if I ask Alexa to switch Kitchen Main lights on she also turns the Kitchen Background lights on. (I've tried to adopt a standard naming of Main and Background throughout the house and this issue only occurs in the Kitchen) I don't think this is a recognition issue and it's not causing me enough of a problem to change things as yet.
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7[quote=angelr91]Just to put my input in, I've renamed all of the Sonos players by adding SONOS to end of each, this ensures a clear distinction (e.g. Kitchen Sonos, Lounge Sonos, etc) and means that your Alexa group name can be shorter (e.g. Group 'Kitchen' contains Kitchen Echo, Kitchen Main & Kitchen Background lights and Kitchen Sonos)

I had thought of doing this, but I stopped since I wasn't sure how the "living room" room would work as "living room sonos" doesn't fit as there is a character limitation. How did you rename it? Did you rename is something like "LR sonos"? If so, how do you call to alexa to play in the living room sonos? Something like this "alexa, play blah in LR sonos"?[/quote

I used Lounge Sonos instead ?
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The Automation Group for the Living Room is called "Living Room"

The Alexa Audio Group that includes the Living Room is called "Downstairs"

There are a pair of S5s on the living room fireplace mantel wired to an Echo Dot called "Mantel". It is part of the "Downstairs" Audio Group


By "Automation Group", are you refering to the smart home groups in Amazon/Alexa? Pretty sure that's what you meant, but Amazon really did a poor job with the naming convention and organization of these features/groups in the Alexa app.


The living room is mostly used for formal entertaining so the lights are called "Formal Lighting". "Formal Lighting" is included in the "Living Room" automation group.

There is a lamp on the end table called "End Table Lamp". It is also part of the "Living Room" automation group.


I see the logic in this, but it becomes a problem when it comes to the names being intuitive and easy to remember. It's not too bad for me, but for other members of the household it's a pain.


Alexa does not seem to get confused about what device or group I am using in a command with this setup. If instead I had called the living room lights "Living Room Lights 1" and the end table lamp "Living Room Lights 2" and kept the automation group name at "Living Room" and called the Echo Dot "Living Room Echo" then I would expect Alexa to get confused, especially if there is background noise or I happen to mumble or am across the room.


Yes, it does, but if I can't remember that I called it End Table lamp instead of Table lamp, then it doesn't really matter whether Alexa understands or not.

I personally like the convention of "Room Name + Device Type". Device type would be Sonos, Echo, light, fan, lamp, etc.

I also want to add that there are going to be some smart devices that you will never (or rarely) do voice commands directly, because they are part of a group. You can use non-'easily pronounced' name for these to keep them "out of the way". For example, I've got 2 lamps in the living room. I call them L1 and L2, and are grouped as Living Room Lamps. I haven't played with it much, but if you're setting up smart groups for the purpose of dropping the room name, then the name of smart group doesn't need to be prouncable either.


Whatever naming convention chosen, be consistent. I made the mistake of sometimes calling the room 'living room', sometimes 'family room'. Changing everything to match correctly is a pain.
I agree that the "Room Name + Device Type" convention is a lot simpler and if I can get Alexa to be reliable going that route I will definitely adopt it. For now though the uniqueness method has solved a lot of problems with Alexa understanding reliably at the expense of my having o remember all of those unique names.

I also need to do more testing of operating devices from the Echo within a Smart Home Group against operating the same device from an Echo outside of the group to be sure whatever methodology I use works well in both situations.

Additionally I need to reconcile my Alexa naming convention to the naming I use in other systems like my Home Automation and Lighting Control systems. In these I also had to wrestle with naming devices based on device location vs. the location of the load they are controlling, etc. They also have concepts like rooms, floors, scenes, and device folders that should somehow be aligned with naming Alexa Smart Home Groups, Audio Groups, Smart Home Scenes, and Alexa Routines. I hope a good methodology emerges that works logically across all platforms without getting Alexa (and me) totally confused.
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I myself use the "room name + device type" methodology, and i too have lamps that i have named "left" or "right". However, with hue lightbulbs i am able to create a new "device" that connects then together since i will rarely turn one lamp on and not the other so i have "bedroom lights" or "living room lights" (i only use lamps to light my space up not the overhead lights so this helps to not have another "living room lights" vs a "living room lamps").

I have found the smart groups with alexa helps to really leave out the headache to remember the name as i have played with it and it works marvelously. However, i have this duplicate issue with my sonos being called "living room" and i can't create an alexa smart group called "living room". Therefore i have to figure out if i will call sonos something different and how long it is since i can't add simply the word "sonos" at the end as "living room sonos" is apparently too long of a word. I'm afraid to name my sonos (in the living room) something like "LR sonos" since then i may have to ask alexa to "... play in LR sonos" which is not elegant nor easy to remember or intuitive...

This is actually why i started this discussion in the first place to see if others have faced this problem and what people suggest. So far i'm happy with the turn out this discussion has had.
Has anyone tried naming their speakers after friend's name? Alexa play song on bill, or julie? Then keep lights by room and type? I prefer naming the speaker by room, but it is frustrating when it doesn't recognize. I haven't tried it yet figuring it would be too hard to remember 7 differnt speaker names. But once you remember would it work better?
Or how about something simpler, like "(room name) Sonos" or "(room name) speakers"?
Or how about something simpler, like "(room name) Sonos" or "(room name) speakers"?
That's what I currently have but all my light switches are smart. And Alexa cant consistently understand the difference between living room light, living room sconce, living room fan, and living room Sonos. Maybe I mumble or maybe there is better phonetic names that aren't easily confused. I want simple but I also want it to work.