Newbie - hubs, presence and summary

Hi everyone,

First time poster so please go easy on me…!

No hub at present, just using Meross lights and power plugs. No Alexa and don’t want one. Rented accommodation.
Wanting to put in presence detection so I can have lights come on / off automatically based on people being in the room.
Do I need a hub? Any recommendations on hub or sensors? Tips and advice in general welcomed.

Just started using Smartthings on just my phone and a handful of Meross smart lights and smart power plugs / power bars. There’s an Arlo outdoor security camera which I’ve integrated. Also we have a Tado smart thermostat for our combi boiler.

We don’t have an Alexa, nor will we be getting one anytime soon. We also have no Smartthings hub, so other than my Tado (which has it’s own internet bridge and uses z-Wave / Zigbee between Tado devices) everything connects using WiFi (we have a mesh giving us excellent coverage). As it’s a privately rented property I’m a little limited in radical changes but pretty sure mounting wireless PIR sensors should be fine.

Whilst I’m loving the - primarily - time based management, with a family of 4, trying to get the kids in particular to leave the switches on for some lights but not others is a challenge to say the least…

So what I’d like to do is adopt some type of presence detection - so along with time schedules - lights and other smart devices power on when someone is using that room and powers off if there’s nobody about.

My limited research and amateur understanding leads me to believe that I need some sort of PIR or similar sensor, and these are all z-Wave or ZigBee in nature, and therefore need to step up and invest in a Smartthings hub as they support those IoT focused wireless standards.

As such my questions are:

  1. Is this understanding correct?
  2. If so, other than what I read in tech media news, blogs, reviews etc are there sensors and hubs I should be shortlisting or blacklisting? (Thinking Ecolink for both might be a reasonable option…?)
  3. Other than Alexa, are there other options available to me if I wanted to implement just voice control over my Smartthings home?
  4. Given my background, constraints and place on my Smartthings journey, are there any additional pointers, suggestions or general advice anyone would care to provide, for which I’d be most grateful.

On a side note I’ve worked in IT infrastructure for 20 odd years, although I do more on the design / consultancy these days. My point is that technically I’m fairly handy regarding networking, device management, security etc, however other than my Tado which I’ve had for many years I’m very new to the IoT scene (do we even call it IoT anymore…?!), hence my post and plea to the community.

Second side note, there’s no native Tado integration with Smartthings which annoys the hell out of me. I will be looking into this in-depth further down the road so may end up with additional management “thing” but we’ll see.

Thanks for your time reading and thanks in advanced for any assistance you can offer!