Echo Naming Quirks

Please add more as you find them.

  1. echo does not do well with device names that include numbers, like
    "kitchen 1." If you have a device with a name like this, and you don’t want to change it because you like having that name for your smartthings dashboard, then just put the device into an echo group of one and give it a group name that echo does like.
  1. Echo does not like the group name “everything.” Some possible alternatives include “house” or “all devices”

  2. Echo will always accept “turn on” or “switch on.”

  3. Iris has a list of 20 “basic” command formats for switches and thermostats that echo should always accept (although using a rigid command format sort of defeats the purpose of having echo’s natural language skills). But at least you could use these to test a particular problem to see if the issue is the device name you’ve chosen or the echo command you’re trying to use.

Some community members have reported that they can also use “start” or “activitate” but those only seem to work with some device classes. If anyone has figured out exactly what will be accepted when, please post.

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Echo didn’t like my virtual button for Harmony to start music on my sound system.
“Play Music”

Saying “Alexa turn on play music” resulted in.
Alexa saying “OK, shuffling music” :smile:

I changed the name to “Play PS3” which worked. Even thought it has a number contrary to the start of this thread :slight_smile:

DirecTV as a virtual switch name. It actually worked once but never again. Changing it to ‘direct tv’ worked and I didn’t have to say it any differently.

Echo does not like:

  • Turn on ABC (she keeps asking me to repeat the question)

  • Turn on Raise Blinds

  • Turn on ESPN (she turns on the ESPN TuneIn radio station and not my Harmony activity via IFTTT, I see no way around this)

Echo does not like:

  • Turn on XBMC

Echo likes:

On Commands

  • Open ________
  • Unlock _______
  • Activate ________
  • Start ________
  • Enable ________
  • Engage ________
  • Commence ______

Off Commands

  • Close ________
  • Stop ________
  • Disable ________

Echo sort of likes:

  • Lock ________ (turn on) - opposite of intended result
  • Deactivate _________ (turn on) - opposite of intended result
  • Disengage _________ (turn on) - opposite of intended result
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Echo does not do well with names that have compound words in them. I have had trouble with Entryway, Nightstand and Good night. To get around this, I named the switch one way in Smartthings, then created an Echo group with the other way the word might be interpreted.

Ok, I am making group names like :“warp drive” and “auto destruct sequence” now.

“Alexa engage warp drive”


The group name being different is a very useful trick, we use it a lot. It’s especially helpful when two people call the same thing by two different names, like “office” and “study.” It also helps when we have some goofy device thing that we want to keep for smartthings because it easily distinguishes the device, but is not a name we’d would want to say. For example, I like virtual switches to have the word “virtual” in their device names in the smartthings device list, but I don’t want to have to say that.

Echo confusion may also depend in part on what other device names you have.
We’ve had a device called “nightstand” from the beginning, never had any problems with echo understanding it. But we don’t have any other devices that sound anything like that.


I personally still can’t get any of these alternative commands to work on either of our two echoes.

Start Always triggers a music command, and Amazon support told me that “start” is a Music command not a connected home command. “Stop” is also a reserved word, used with things like timers and alarms as well as music.

I’m not sure what the deal is with “activate” is, but echo just doesn’t process that for me. Due to my disability, my voice is slightly slurred, but echo hasn’t had any trouble understanding me for anything else up until now.

I will keep experimenting.

Is there a list of words that Amazon says work or is that what you are trying to populate now?

I am going to try Activate when I get home as that is one that would be very useful but I would want to make sure it worked all the time and not just every once in a while.

Hmm, I tested each one with a device named “Table Lamp”. I also verified in the Echo app that it was hearing my commands correctly.

What is your Echo showing in the history?

No list that I know of, just trying every word I can think of that seems like a possible synonym for on/off

Well then this post will come in really handy as a dedicated list of all functioning words tested in “the real world”.

I will try some different ones tonight when I get home.

The official Amazon list is limited to “turn on,” “Turn off” and dim." But because it’s a natural language parser, we all know it will do a lot more than that. We just don’t know exactly how much more, and what obstacles it might run into along the way.

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I checked the history: it’s correctly recording the phrases “engage dimmer” and “activate dimmer” and it just doesn’t do anything with them. (The dimmer is listed as a “device” rather than a “dimmable light” so that’s why I was working with that one. It’s a zwave switch.)

Anytime I use “start” it’s pulling music, which is what Amazon support told me would happen. I do have several music services activated, as well as a lot of stuff in the Amazon music library, so I don’t know if that makes any difference.

There are some problems specific to my voice as well. I’m aware of this from other voice recognition. The volume and clarity of the words tends to drop off towards the end of a phrase. But in general that is not affected my ability to use the echo. It’s actually one of the things that has impressed me about it. So I am seeing some errors in the history, but they don’t explain why I can’t get the ultimate turn on words to work.

This may have to do with the selection of device names. The more distinctive the device name is, the more likely echo will pull that out first and then assume everything else is a device command. I have to try to come up with the test name which would really stand out.

I am under the impression that echo checks the group names before the device names, so I will try to do something with that as well.

Have you tried using a virtual dimmer as a virtual switch to see if Activate works. I seem to remember in one of your other threads that was mentioned. I was going to try that out but have not had a chance to.

Yes, I also tried it with virtual devices, it didn’t make any difference. It will process “switch” or “turn” but nothing else. The command shows up in history just fine, but is not recognized as a connected device command for me.

That’s weird that others report it works and even shows up correctly in the history.

My “table lamp” is a GE Link bulb connected to a Hue bridge so it is using the Philips Echo integration instead of the SmartThings integration if that makes a difference, although one would assume that it shouldn’t matter.

The very first thing I tried it with was a bulb connected through the Hue bridge, although that may have been a Hue bulb.

Who knows? Voice recognition is always quirky. It may just be my voice.