What should I name all my lamps?
January 22, 2017 10:40 AM   Subscribe

I hate overhead lights, I love lamps, and I've got home automation. Please help me figure out a naming hierarchy?

My house is full of lamps, and pretty soon every one of them will have a Philips Hue bulb in them. We're using them via Alexa's voice control, and I love it, I'm a little night blind so it makes me super happy to never have to flail for a switch.

My big problem is coming up with a naming system for the lights in each room. Things have been added a little haphazardly, so I might have a group called Living Room Lights and "Alexa, turn on the Living Room Lights" is fine, but it's full of Lamp 1 and Coffee Light and other unwieldy things to say if I want to control an individual light.

I had originally thought this would be more straightforward and I could somehow come up with names that would make it reasonably easy for a guest or dogsitter to use, but I don't think that's going to work at an individual light level and they'll have to use rooms/groups. So I need short but distinct and machine-hearable names for probably eventually up to 20 devices across 9+ "groups", some with just 1 light but some with 3-4.
posted by Lyn Never to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
How about the military alphabet? (Alpha, bravo, Charlie, etc) or other individual and distinctive names as if they were housepets? (It might help to start all the names in each room with the same letter, like, kitchen: Kevin, Katie, Kurt, bedroom: Barry, Brenda...etc etc)
posted by sexyrobot at 10:48 AM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Are the lights distinct? Because if it were me I think I'd be going with Biggest, Big, Medium, Small and Smallest. I mean I know it's semantically a little ambigious but you mostly need it to just work, right? And then you can use the same pattern in every room. Otherwise some sort of taxonomy of location: overhead, table, wall, floor. Or colors if that works. Only you know the best way to sort your lights based on what you have, but I'd try to have a system that you can bring from room to room.
posted by jessamyn at 10:52 AM on January 22, 2017

I might go with location relative to the orientation of the room - either from the door or the window, I guess, for room with multiple entrances.

So "front light", "back light", with more specificity as needed for things like "coffee table light".

Personally, I'd want something that a casual user might be able to guess. It does depend on being able to have the same name for lights in different rooms, though.
posted by sagc at 11:05 AM on January 22, 2017

The names of each light do have to be unique, they are the lowest level of the taxonomy. They are then put into named groups but if you call an individual lamp you do not mention the group name.

So I have "Lyn's Lamp" that is in group "Office" but when I turn just that one on I say "Alexa, turn on Lyn's Lamp." If I want both Lyn's Lamp and Couch Lamp turned on, I can say "Alexa, turn on the Office lights" because they are both in a group named Office. So I couldn't have four lamps called North but I suppose I could have North Office, North Bedroom, North Living Room - it's just that that gets really long and easier to stumble over, requiring a re-request from Alexa.

It's complicated!
posted by Lyn Never at 11:19 AM on January 22, 2017

I think the most adorable option would be a combination of techniques: every room's lamps share a name, but have unique identifiers. Big Kryten, Corner Kryten, Little Kryten. Nightstand Bender , Bookshelf Bender. Feel free to borrow names from your favorite media; for this example, I've pretended extra parts from famous robots have been reassigned to positions as lamps in a household.
posted by redsparkler at 11:28 AM on January 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

It's not the simplest rubric, but you could do band names for rooms, band members for individual lights, and then hammer down the theming with an LP hung up in each room. Come home, walk into the Pixies room, tell the house to turn up Kim Deal.
posted by cortex at 11:48 AM on January 22, 2017 [7 favorites]

Colors. Pretend you are a British landowner with a manor and identify each room with a major color like "the blue bedroom" "the green kitchen" "the white office" and then each lamp falls under the broad section of color but has a specific name. You don't actually have to name the groups colors, but perhaps take from the decor so it is more intuitive for guests.

For example, in the (white) office you could have snow, ecru, eggshell, ivory. In the (blue) bedroom you could have navy, azure, cobalt, cornflower. An orange living room could have pumpkin, sunset, peach, tangerine. If you stick with the basic roygbv + white black and brown that's 9, you can add metallics and pinks and divide green into warm greens and teals for more.

Make, I guess, a little labeled diagram by the door so guests can figure it out? I feel like no dog sitter is actually going to remember individual light names and you can probably safely keep it to groups.
posted by Mizu at 11:53 AM on January 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

You could name them according to where you got them. My living room would be: Walmart lamp, target lamp, and mystery lamp.

(I'm such a dork I'd be giving them ridiculous people names like all my high shool teachers or something. )
posted by ilovewinter at 12:03 PM on January 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

I would tell you hierarchy of angels and demons with individuals being particular lamps. This allows you to say, "fiat lux" + name like Lucifer, or an archangel like Uriel with legitimacy and command. You could go all Astronomy Ancient Greek/Roman with gods and their lovers/attributes, such as Mars with Phobos and Demos.
posted by jadepearl at 12:05 PM on January 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

I think you should stick with your haphazard system, if most times, you used phrases you'd naturally use, whether that's the piece of furniture they're next to, their location in the room - whatever sticks out to you most prominently about that lamp ("couch lamp", "corner lamp", "Lynn's lamp"). I think it'd be easy to forget anything more systematized than that, and you've already got the groups. (Change the names of lamps you named while trying to be systematic, maybe.) It won't be natural to visitors, but neither would Alpha Romero etc.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:29 PM on January 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

I agree that there's no way to make the names easy to anyone who doesn't live among these lamps everyday. Use a system that comes to you naturally and others will adjust accordingly.
posted by samthemander at 12:32 PM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Whatever system you choose, add another layer by naming them consistently based on location, e.g., alphabetically counter clockwise from the doorway. The simplist thing for guests would be numerically in a consistent order from the doorway, e.g, office one, office two, etc. around the perimeter, with a subgroup which belongs to office desk or, for the whole room, office.
posted by carmicha at 1:27 PM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Living room east, living room southwest?
posted by vunder at 1:32 PM on January 22, 2017

How about a theme for each zone, e.g. artists, planets, composers, plants, makes of autos, etc.? Then each group's individual lights could have artist/planet/whatever names like Adams, Balthus, Cezanne.
posted by anadem at 2:22 PM on January 22, 2017

If you were to ask someone else to turn on a lamp, how would you describe the lamp? Use that. (Please turn on the 'sideboard lamp' and the 'tall entry lamp.') Nothing has to be very complicated.
posted by mightshould at 4:18 PM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

if you want to make this easy for guests, and keep from driving yourself nuts, just number them. get a label maker, and put small label on each lamp with a number on it. If you want to group them, do it by 10s, 20s, 30s, etc.
For example: living room group name is "tens". It contains Lamps 11, 12, 13, etc.
Kitchen is "twenties". It contains lamps 21,22,23, etc.

Easy extensible, and you don't have to worry about running out of names.
posted by cosmicbandito at 5:47 PM on January 22, 2017

Disclosure: I work on Alexa, and while the naming systems mentioned above sound fun, your best bet in terms of acoustic recognition and natural language processing is to be descriptive and obvious: "corner lamp", "standing lamp", "couch lamp", "bedside lamp", "bedroom overhead lamp", etc. Naming the lights after bands or artists runs the risk that with a small interference from background noise, tv sounds, or disfluency of speech will result in Alexa thinking you want to play music :(

Also: longer names are actually safer in terms of recognition accuracy, so as long as you have a system (e.g. room + location of light), it would work best.
posted by Ender's Friend at 7:00 PM on January 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

posted by Mister Moofoo at 10:45 PM on January 22, 2017

Echoing (ha!) what Ender's Friend says above. I have Hue + Alexa, and I have found the best practice is to name them [Room] [What the light is within that Room], so I have:

Living Room Overhead
Living Room Big Lamp
Living Room Small Lamp

Master Bedroom Lamp
Master Bedroom Bathroom Light

posted by kuanes at 4:03 AM on January 23, 2017

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