Need help getting started with Home IoT devices (Bulbs & Outlets) - not sure where to begin

So I’m not really sure if this is even the right place to post this but here goes: I’m diving into smart home/IoT stuff for the first time. I really only want Smart Bulbs (multicolor LED) and some small Smart Outlets to start, but will eventually expand to a Smart Thermostat and possibly smart speakers for certain rooms in the house. I think most other IoT devices are useless and will never be interested in Smart Fridges, Smart TVs, Smart Toasters, Smart Bidets, etc…

I want to do my “Smart” stuff right. I want to make sure I start diving into home automation with properly secure hardware, if that makes sense. I’ve done a fair bit of research into the different standards; zigbee, z-wave etc… and know about the major offerings from Amazon, Google, etc… but am not sure what forumgoers here would recommend. Voice control would be cool to have I guess, but not absolutely necessary at this moment.

Right now I’m looking for smart lightbulbs (LED, multicolor, ability to control via. an app), and small smart outlets/plugs (ability to control via. app).

My questions:

  • Do I need (or is it smart to purchase) some sort of hub for my house?
  • Is it a terrible move to invest Amazon or Google hardware? I want to maintain my security, are these really as bad as they’re made out to be? (Always on mics, data collecting, privacy, etc…?)
  • Idk, any other advice?

What country are you in, how DIY (software/hardware) oriented are you?

If you’re prone to diy/home server stuff, then home assistant works as a hub.

You can use aqara (xiaomi) hardware (for example, also ikea, Philips and many other), with it without any xiaomi cloud /hubs, or diy your own hardware, or find a few smaller vendors e.g. shelly or sonoff who are opensource friendly.

If not, then Alexa and Google are what every vendor on the planet interfaces with.

Philips hue is the standard thing people use for lighting, due to quality of light, sometimes ikea. if you don’t use home assistant you need a Philips hub (or an ikea hub).

With alexa/google home, mics are always on (assuming you don’t flip the physical off switch), but there’s a tiny ML inference model that runs on the device for hot keyword detection to not send all audio to them 24x7. Beyond the hot keyword, all commands / language processing / person differentiation, is done in the cloud(s). Alexa runs a lot more device integration over the local network, whereas google home integration works by Google telling the device maker cloud to tell the device what to do.

Home assistant can also do voice commands/replies, according to the website, not sure how well that works, I’m skeptical of the quality… Then again I’ve been disappointed with how neutered Google/Amazon offerings are (basically just giant databases of thousands of scripted responses with limited context).

btw, see Tasmota Device Templates Repository - Templates for Tasmota ; there’s a large repository of information on various devices esp8266 devices known to have a chance of working with Tasmota - I’m not a fan of Tasmota and if I’m flashing a device I prefer esphome, but if it works with one, it can work with the other and that’s very useful to me.

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