in Home Automation

Adventures in Voice Control Nomenclature

“Alexa, turn on the living room.”

What should my house do when it hears me say that? My intent, specifically, is:

  • Turn on the TV lamps
  • Turn on the Sofa lamps
  • Turn on the three other lamps in the room

I don’t ever mean to alter the settings of the Living Room radiator. Alexa? She’s not so sure:

“That command doesn’t work on device Living Room.”

This is one the primary frustrations of living with Alexa. When you have more than one set of SmartHome skills they inevitably have overlapping names. We have the Honeywell evohome system to control the hot water and radiators. Naturally on installing this each room is named as you’d expect: Living Room, Dining Room, Hall and so on. Then, add the SmartThings skill for your lights and sockets, and group those devices by room name. Suddenly you have two items that Alexa knows about called “Living Room”.

I’m still experimenting with the best way to deal with this. My current attempt relies on renaming all the heating controls to Living Heat, Dining Heat, Hall Heat and so on. Then, in the Alexa companion app I can created a Living Room group and add the devices to it. Since the radiator controls are not part of that group, when I say:

“Alexa, turn on the living room.”

It does just the lights, and doesn’t get confused. It also means I can explicitly control the temperature with:

“Alexa, lower the Living Heat by two degrees.”

Combining LightwaveRF, SmartThings, evohome and other devices does lead to more complexities like this. So far, it is all worth the effort – and despite my concern otherwise – it continues to have a very high WAF1.

  1. Wifey Approval Factor