Now that the official Matter rollout has come and gone, more and more new devices will start to support the multiplatform standard. So too will some older smart home products, with software upgrades. If you were a bit casual or cute with your device-naming approach, you might want to revisit those names before they start being shared with things like voice assistants and apps.
So let’s talk about how to name devices. First things first: I don’t know about you, but no one in my family is what you’d call an early adopter. And because they don’t get excited about new technology, I need their buy-in if I want them to use something like a smart home device. To get their buy-in, I first get their input — especially when it comes to device naming.
Take the Hue Play Light bars behind the television. I would have been inclined to simply name them “TV left” and “TV right.” However, my wife and daughter, knowing that the bulbs add synchronized ambient color behind the TV, preferred “Color Bulb left” and “Color Bulb right.” So those were the names the bars were given. I subsequently put both lights in a group so they work together with a single voice command, “Color on,” and now everyone is happy.
I took the same approach when it came to naming rooms in our house. We have two main rooms on the first floor, plus a dining room and a kitchen. Most people would name the two main rooms “Living Room” and “Family Room,” respectively. But my wife and daughter weren’t sure which name to use for the room where they spend the most time, to which they typically gravitate and watch television.
After a short conversation, they decided to use “Family Room” for the one that contains the TV and sofa because that’s the room where we as a family sit, chat, and watch television together. I’m the primary user of the room off the kitchen; it’s where I sit on my recliner and code, read, or watch streamed content on my iPad Pro 12.9 tablet. So we all agreed to let me call that the “Study.”
As you will have noticed by now, I also employ a second strategy. I urge everyone in my family, including myself, to name devices based on what they are and, often, what they do.
For example, I have a WiFi-enabled reading lamp that works with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. I initially used it on my desk in the upstairs office, so I gave it what I thought was the most appropriate name: “Desk Lamp.”
However, I later moved it to a small side table near my recliner downstairs, where I read books on an e-Ink tablet. Obviously, it’s not a desk lamp anymore, so I changed the name to “Reading Lamp.” That name not only signifies what the device is but what I use it for.
My naming convention is further illustrated with some additional examples. We call the garage door “Garage Door,” the outside light near the front door “Porch Lamp,” and my wife’s new smart kettle “Kettle.”
Names that are specific to a device’s function, usage, and location are ideal for older devices as well as new Matter devices. But what’s especially nice about Matter is that once you change the name of a device using one of your Matter-supported smart home apps, the name is then replicated across all Matter controllers. And that’s super helpful. After all, you don’t want to ask Alexa to turn on the “Reading Lamp” but have to later ask Siri to turn the same device on with a different name, such as “Desk Lamp.”
I verified this capability recently with the TP-Link Tapo Smart Plug with Matter support. I initially added it to my house using Google Home. It appeared in my Apple Home app right away. Then, as part of my test, I changed the name from “Matter Outlet” to “Tapo Outlet” in Apple Home. As soon as that name change was complete, it filtered through to the Eve app.
However, the experience wasn’t perfect.
That name change should have also filtered through to my Google Home app. It did not, which left me with the dreaded situation of Siri knowing the plug as “Tapo Outlet” and Google Assistant thinking its name was still “Matter Outlet.” I attribute this to the early days of Matter, which clearly still has some challenges to overcome. You may run into this problem, too, and end up throwing your device naming strategy out the window in the process.
In my case, the fix was an easy one. But I didn’t come up with it right away. First, I unlinked my Tapo account from Google Home and then relinked it, hoping that would solve the issue. No such luck. Only then did I manually change the name to “Tapo Outlet” in the Google Home app. Should I have to do this? No. However, it’s a minor inconvenience compared to the much larger one of having a single device with multiple names.
I imagine that eventually this issue will be resolved, and that Matter device names for one ecosystem will automatically be consistent across all of them. But until that happens, you’ll want to pay closer-then-usual attention to your smart home apps when adding or modifying a Matter device. Even before that, be sure to check in with anyone you share your home with to ensure the names being chosen work for everyone.