Naming Devices

(and Siri Interactions)

Naming Devices and Siri Interactions

HomeKit has a structure to it, and the contexts of these structures can impact how you interact with HomeKit devices using Siri. Both HomeKit and Siri have some builtin logic that takes room names and device names into consideration to help with the handling of a device named "Bathroom Light" assigned to the "Bathroom" room. When naming devices, you will want to consider this organizational structure and logic and how when you give Siri a command, it tries to use these contexts to determine what device(s) you are trying to target.

  • Home

    • The name of your home will probably not be referenced very often with Siri, unless of course you have configured more than one Home

  • Room

    • A grouping of accessories in a room of your house.

    • Example: Hey Siri, turn off all of the lights in the Kitchen

    • Note: unlike Scenes, which can also have groupings of devices, rooms do not have a state (on or off)

  • Accessory

    • The specific device you are trying to control

    • Example: Hey Siri, turn off the kitchen table lamp.

    • Accessories come in several categories: lights, outlets, switches, motion sensors, temperature sensors, door locks, cameras, etc

    • Some accessories have multiple functions

  • Scene

    • Scene's are used to define the state of a group of devices.

    • Example: Hey Siri, good night.

    • A single scene can affect multiple devices in multiple rooms.

    • A single scene can turn some devices on and some devices off, as well as set the thermostat, lock a door, change a bulb color, and pause music.

  • Group

    • Groups allow you to reference multiple devices as one.

    • Example: if you have a light fixture that uses four light bulbs, you can put those four light bulbs in a group called "Chandelier"

  • Zone

    • Zones are optional.

    • Zones allow you to reference a list of rooms with one command, for example "Upstairs".

    • Rooms can belong in more than one Zone.

    • Example: Hey Siri, turn off the downstairs lights.

Siri behaviors:
When naming devices be mindful of how room, scene, group and device names might impact a potential Siri command. For example, should you include "light" in the name of a light? Should you include "bathroom" in the name of a light in the bathroom? Should you add "light" to the name of a light plugged into a smart outlet? What if you have three smart bulbs in a floor lamp and you create a group called "living room floor light" and you have another other smart light in the living room and you call it "living room light" and now you tell Siri to turn off the living room light? What is going to happen? When naming devices, you will want to consider how all of these pieces might interact (and potentially compete) with each other.

Understanding how Siri attempts to parse HomeKit commands will help in reliably getting the results you want. Siri will look at the (implied) context (rooms, scenes, zones, groups, device attributes) of your command when determining what to do.

Firstly, HomeKit does not require unique device names; you could name every bulb in your house "light", and it can use the context of rooms, scenes, groups and zones to determine which light(s) to control. Siri will also use other device attributes (is it a light or an outlet or a thermostat for example) to help determine what you are asking it to do.

Another consideration is controlling scenes. While Apple has two baked in scenes (Good Morning and Good Night) that will trigger via their name only, in order to reliably control your own scenes, you will need to tell Siri to "execute" the scene. I find the best key word to use is "Set". There are other words ("activate" for example) that you can use, but I would avoid using "turn on/off" because those words work more reliably for lights and outlets. So you would say: Hey Siri, set Watch Movie. Set can also work well when controlling devices with different features, such as Hey Siri, set the kitchen to 50% brightness, or Hey Siri, set the living room temperature to 72°. Siri will look for devices which have that feature/attribute and execute the command without specifically identifying a device using a specific unique name. Because "set" works for both attributes and scenes, it is a good key word to get in the habit of using.

The important thing to realize here is that Siri is very likely not using the device name with these commands - Siri is using the context - what room? what scene? what attribute? and then taking that context and parsing it into commands for your devices. That's not saying the device name is not important, sometimes it is the only way you can target a specific device, it just might not be as important as you think.

"Turn On" and "Turn Off" can be used to control accessories with Siri. Siri can also understand several colors, so you can have Siri turn your lamps "fuchsia" for example.

Your Scene names should be precise, and not named the same as a room, group, or device.

One odd thing to be aware of is that Siri can activate a Scene, but it can't de-activate a Scene, which is odd, because you can in the app.

The problems/considerations:Automated devices in our homes present some interesting naming problems. We all have multiple lights and multiple outlets probably even multiple fans and thermostats. Sometimes, but not always, we have multiples in the same room. While HomeKit allows duplicate device names, you may want to give them unique names. For example, if you have two fans, one for the living room and one for the bedroom, you might not want to just call them both "fan" so you can distinguish it, or maybe you need to configure the device in a third party app, so while you don't need a unique name for a device in HomeKit, you might need one in other apps.

Thankfully the HomeKit app (and Siri) can dynamically reference your devices. It can both add the room location when needed for clarity, or remove the portion of the name that matches the room name for simplicity. For example, if you name a hallway light in the bedroom "Hallway", when viewing that device from the bedroom, the tile will say "Hallway", but when viewing that device from the Favorites or Scene view, it will say "Bedroom Hallway". Similarly if you name a fan in the kitchen "Kitchen Fan", the app will remove "Kitchen" from the name when displaying the fan. Siri will also use this same contextual awareness to differentiate between devices. From Siri's perspective, you don't have to use the full name if the context is clear. For example, while saying "Turn on the kitchen fan" is specific and will work, if you only have one fan, you only have to say "Turn on the fan".

Premise 1:
If you have a single device type in several rooms, you can safely include the room name in the device name to uniquely identify it. This will work with Siri and display correctly in the Home app. For example, if you have a single light in several rooms, you can name them "Kitchen Light", "Bedroom Light", "Bathroom Light", and the HomeKit app will intelligently remove the portion of the name in the system so it isn't referenced as "Kitchen Kitchen Light". You can tell Siri to turn on the kitchen light, and it will "just work".

Premise 2:
If you have duplicate devices in the same room, omit the Room name and use other differentiators to identify them, such as position. Try to use names that you would use when naturally referencing them, as opposed to simply numbering them. For example, you could use "Hallway Light", "Ceiling Light", and "Nightstand Light" to differentiate three lights in the Bedroom. Or you could name kitchen recessed lights "Left Spot", "Center Spot", "Right Spot".

Premise 3:
Room level sensors don't need to be named by the sensor type. For example, you don't have to name a temperature sensor "Kitchen Temperature Sensor". You could just name it "Sensor". If you ask Siri what is the temperature in the kitchen, it will use the context of the device's attribute "temperature" and the context of the room to find you the answer. Similarly if that device also had a humidity sensor, you could ask Siri for the humidity in the kitchen without referencing the device by its specific name.

So keep things simple at the device level and unique at the Room and Scene level. Remember to distinguish devices by room if there are multiples of the same name in the home.

Using the room name as a context allows you to keep the device name simple. So your device names should be short and concise (and can have duplicates), while your rooms, scenes, and zones need to be unique to avoid confusion/ambiguity.


  • Use sensible Room names, and use them in commands to reference devices to prevent confusion.

  • Use simply Accessory names (one word where possible) and append a clarifier to the front if needed.

  • For clarifiers, use the Room name if there is no conflict in that room, otherwise use another single word that makes sense to people in the house.

  • Consider adding Zones and Groups to simplify Siri commands for common group actions. (Remember you can't turn Scenes off using Siri)

  • Keep Zone, Room, and Scene names unique to avoid Siri misunderstanding the context.