I move into my new house after Christmas and I'm thinking about what I might want to do with regards to smart devices and home automation. Available funds will limit what I will be able to do initially, but over time I'd like to expand things as funds become more available. I've tinkered with some simple smart devices in my current place (Hue lights, a couple of Alexa smart speakers), but now that I'm moving into my own place I'm trying to work out where to start.
For instance - brands. Currently things are a bit of a mish mash, with Phillips Hue, Alexa smart speakers, and living mostly in the iPhone world for mobile and PC for desktop. How beneficial is it to stick with one brand? I was looking at smart speakers, and possibly building a multi-room audio system over time. A smart speaker, possibly with a display, could be good in the kitchen, but if I wanted to extend things to multi-room audio down the road, I'd kind of be locked in to one brand or have a mish mash of different speaker setups in different rooms. I don't know how useful/cool the multi-room sound set up would be, but I wanted to keep my options open as much as possible.
Lighting - Hue lights are great in that they are simple to setup, easy to find (Mitre 10, Bunnings, NL, etc), though they aren't always the cheapest. Is there a better option for smart lighting, and how beneficial would it be to tie it to other decisions (e.g. smart speakers)? In my new place the light fittings are mostly recessed, but there are a few downlights, so is there a good smart lighting option for those fixed downlights? Also, there is some existing garden lighting (not quite sure what the wiring situation is there - I only took possession on Friday) but it would be good to integrate the lighting both internally and externally.
Smart plugs - how useful are these, and what brand should I go for (in terms of integrating well with other smart devices)? I had a brief experiment with one many years ago, but couldn't find a good use case for it. In my new place I could see a use for it with the current external garden lighting (to turn it on/off remotely without having to go into the garden shed to manually switch them on/off), but not much beyond that. I have a heat pump, which is about 10 years old so it has no smart functionality, but I was aware a few years back that you could get a device that provided smart functionality of a sorts by connecting to wifi and relaying commands via infrared. Do any of these work well with existing automation ecosystems? Then there are things like security cameras, smart locks, automatic garage door openers, motorised blinds, and probably other things that I haven't thought of.
I guess my question, if I really have one, is what are the best steps to take right now to ensure that I have a reasonably cohesive ecosystem in a few years? For example, I've been pretty happy with Hue for the past few years and was going to go out and buy a selection of bulbs for my new place to get started, but then I wondered if there was a better alternative to Hue, and if there was, what is the best way to ensure that things all line up in a year to two? What is worth investing in now that will still be useful in 2 years time?
I'm aware that I've meandered a lot, and don't really know what I'm asking. Maybe the way to get to what I'm trying to find out is to hear from others who have embraced home automation what they would do differently if they had the chance to start out again. Which piece of the home automation puzzle would you start with, and build out from there?