Looking for Standard SmartThings Naming Taxonomy Recommendations (2015)

Hi folks - relatively new ST user here (few months playing around) and have had some great experiences hooking things up, making some rules, etc. One of the things that I noticed is the diverse strategy that folks have for naming, grouping, aligning their devices to modes, etc. For example, when you add a bunch of dimmable light switches, they all show up with the same device name making it difficult to know where they are. Rinse, repeat for other device types such as bulbs, etc. I’ve been experimenting with prefixing the names with the location (i.e., Kitchen, Deck, Bedroom A, etc.). But before I start spending a lot of cycles jumping hoops, thought I’d ask

Does anyone have any standing guidance on taxonomy for setting up ST from scratch for newbs? The OOB experience seems a bit basic compared to what a lot of the SmartApps are doing/solving. And the possibilities seem pretty extensive when devising your own. Ideally - looking to “borrow” from someone else’s well thought out, possibly beer-induced, visions and naming schemes for ST. :smile:

Topics include:

  1. Naming recommendations for things as they’re added to ST
  2. Hello, Home Action modifications to make more usable
  3. Mode modifications to make more usable

Appreciate any guidance, ideas, or pointers. Thanks all!

I use voice control a lot, so the naming of things becomes very important. We’ve formally experimented with several different approaches. (I have a housemate, and we also have a number of people who come in and out.)

I expect different things will work for different households, but what’s works best for us is a kind of traditional home automation approach:

Zone, followed by device.

In the case of bedrooms, we use the persons name.
We use “central” instead of “living room” because it’s just easier to say.


Kitchen lights

Central lights

David lights

JD lights

For individual lights in the room, we named them by their location in that room:

Kitchen ceiling

David ceiling

David nightstand

We do the same thing for other types of devices like locks and sensors, generally opting for shorter version.

Entry lock

Back lock

David window

Kitchen window

Yard gate

But that’s just us. Other people might find that harder to remember than longer names.

We initially tried coming up with very short names for almost everything but we found that the names that were obvious to me were not obvious to my roommate and vice a versa. So we were always having to ask each other what the commands were.

Once we switched to the zone/device taxonomy, it became easy for everyone to remember.

And then we refined that to zone/device-location, because that turned out to be how people thought of it. With the default assumption of "light"omitted. So “kitchen ceiling light” became “kitchen ceiling.” But we could use “laundry ceiling light” and “laundry ceiling fan” if we did have two devices on the ceiling in that zone. Although to be honest I think we would probably use “laundry ceiling” for the light and “laundry fan” for the laundry ceiling fan. Lights seem to be the thing that are most commonly in multiples in a room, and in multiple possible locations.

But then we don’t have very many rooms that have multiple lights on the ceiling. Someone with that setup might choose a different taxonomy.

I expect there will be a lot of variation.


As far as modes, again I think you’ll see a lot of variation.

For me, modes are used when I want the same device to behave differently depending on different conditions.

I usually use the example of how our household distinguishes between Night and Asleep.

In night mode, we have some motion sensors that turn on ceiling lights.
In asleep mode, the same motion sensors do not turn on ceiling lights, but rather a soft night light.

Night mode is set automatically at sunset.

Asleep mode is set when I intentionally push the button to change my fitness tracker to sleep tracking mode.

But there are other households that use modes for much more complex distinctions.

Here’s one discussion, but you can find a lot more in the forums:

Again, I expect a lot of variation.

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@JDRoberts what is the process for hooking up the echo to SmartThings ?

Can anyone buy the echo ? The site has a button to request invitation.

I’ve made a FAQ for the Echo answer to keep from hijacking this thread. See:


Thanks JD - great recommendations. I had read the FAQ article already - which is awesome. But to your point - lots of variations. Hence my collective ask on recommendations. I’m thinking that distilled from the work of many is probably a best practice of two we all can leverage - particularly for newbs. Envision something like that FAQ that says “hey, start here as a guiding principle and you’ll save some time and frustration”.

The problem is that we’d be chasing a moving target. We’re lucky to have FAQs at all, thanks to volunteerism.

But each person’s situation is different, and especially for integrations of various brands and special devices that are rapidly changing (Echo, …), your request puts a maintenance burden out there.

We love that the Community has created such amazing benefits, but it is mostly due to the efforts of a few folks who aren’t compensated. Glad they have free time and get satisfaction from helping others and mutual education.

Quick update now that so many people have added echo to the picture:

a) echo has a hard time with numeric differentiation in device names. That is if you have one device called kitchen 1 and another called kitchen 2, your echo commands will frequently fail.

b) echo lets you set up pretty much as many groups as you want. I’m not sure what the total limit is. But this gave us a lot of freedom. I tend to say “office” and my housemate tends to say “study”. So we just put the lamps in that room in two different groups, one named office and one named study. If you look at the dashboard, they’ll show up as “office.” But if my housemate says “study” to echo no problem, it knows which lights he means.

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Has anyone come up with (or is there already) a standard naming convention for home lights and switches? Wondering because I now have an increasing number which are in various locations and finding myself going back to re-label them according to room name and arbitrary number/letter such as “MBR Light 1”, MBR Light 1, Switch A)…

If you use a natural language speech recognition (or even touch screen / dashboard) to control individual Devices or report on sensor status, you will want to use as friendly names as possible in the home environment.

If you have too many devices for friendly names, then grouping / scenes / Hello Home Actions will help.

Amazon Echo has difficulty with names that have numbers (“Hall Front” is preferable to “Hall 1”).

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Thanks as always, your replies have helped me set up a few worksheets in a spreadsheet for my initial deployment of ST. Any and all preparation helps take off the edge when waiting for Hub 2.0. :wink:


Disclaimer: What works well for me may not make sense to you or meet your requirements. Once my device count topped about 50, I started naming my Things by floor and precise description; (2) Dining Room Table Light, (3) Landing Lightstrip, (4) Terrace Door Sensor, (2) Stairs Downlight. I’m now approaching 100 Things and this systems make it easier for me to find the device when I’m searching. I use natural language descriptions in my rules and groups; Master Bedroom Lights, Fourth Floor Lights… I have far fewer groups so there’s less need to organize. Using natural language descriptions works with speech control. There may be a more eloquent way but this brought order to my chaos.