The Bond Home by Olibra is an attractive device that lets you control your ceiling fans with your smartphone and Alexa or Google Home. But the $99 price – and limited use case – might make it low on the list of must-have smart home devices for most potential buyers.
Making your ceiling fans in your home “smart” may not be high on your list of things you want automated within your home, but that may also depend on how much you rely on it. My wife and I actually use our ceiling fan in our bedroom to circulate air at night (yes, even during the cold months), but the light switch that controls our fan doesn’t actually turn it on. For that, we had to purchase a remote (the previous owner of our home didn’t leave one for us) and more often than not, we tend to
lose misplace the remote. So for me personally, I found a lot of benefit to making our ceiling fan “smart”. I was highly interested when I came across the Bond by Olibra, a device that could act as a smart remote control for your ceiling fans.
The Bond Home is the flagship product for Olibra, a startup based out of Creskill, New Jersey. Olibra says they have future plans to implement the Bond Home to control gas & electric fireplaces, window ac units, motorized shades, garage doors and more; but it’s current singular use is to operate RF and IR enabled ceiling fans.
One may not necessarily be worried about the aesthetics and look of a smart ceiling fan controller, but the Bond has a striking design.”
So the catch here is for the Bond to work as intended, your ceiling fan needs to be remote controlled. The other ceiling fans in my home rely on pull-chain power, so they were not compatible. I don’t use them as often as I do with our bedroom one, so for me this wasn’t a total deal breaker. As I mentioned previously I had to purchase a remote, but for those who have remote functionality in their ceiling fan but do not have or use a remote, you will need to purchase one on top of the Bond. The reason for this is that the Bond uses your remote for the initial programming and setup.
One may not necessarily be worried about the aesthetics and look of a smart ceiling fan controller, but the Bond has a striking design. Adorned in black with a circular blue LED, it blends in to most furniture which is a good thing, but the LED is a bit too luminous at night. This was a point of contention for myself and my wife, because we had to keep it in our bedroom. The reason for that is because the Bond needed to be within line-of-sight for our fan to operate the remote functionality (it did not work if I put it elsewhere, which is my fans fault more than the Bond). So while most RF fans do not need line of sight to be controlled, and you could place the Bond anywhere within your home, ours had to stick in our bedroom. It wasn’t a total deal breaker, but it would be nice if Olibra implemented some sort of dimming. [Editor Note: We have received feedback from multiple users of Bond informing us that a firmware update implemented a dimming function].
Alexa, Google Home and IFTTT support elevate the usefulness of the Bond and – once it is able to control more appliances – could make it a must-have smart home device.”
Setting up the Bond was straightforward and rather pleasant, so those afraid of complicated setup instructions need not worry. Download the Bond app, setup a free account with Bond (using your existing google or facebook accounts if you so desire) and it will begin walking you through the steps. You will be instructed to point your fan remote at the bond so it can grab the proper code. The bond located my fan almost right away which I found impressive. From there, it asks you to verify and test each function that it believes the remote can operate – things like fan speed and lighting – and once that is complete, the fan is ready to go.
One of the things that I found disappointing about the Bond was that it will not function if your wifi is down.”
You are technically done with setup once those steps are completed, but if you have a Google Home or Amazon Echo device, you can take it a step further and be able to control your fan with your voice. Before beginning this step, be sure to name the fan something easy to remember in the bond app (I simply called mine “fan”). For alexa voice control, you can ask Alexa to download the bond home skill, or search for it in the amazon alexa app. From there you sign in to your bond account, then ask alexa to discover devices. Once she finds the device, you can say “Alexa, turn on fan” or “Alexa, turn on the fan light”. She can also control the fan speed, but even if your fan offers a 1,2 or 3 fan speed, you actually tell alexa a percentage instead (“Alexa, set fan to 30%”). My wife always complains that I set our fan speed obnoxiously high, so she loved this option. For google home setup, navigate to the google home app, then the devices section, and find the bond smart home option. Things function the same as they do with alexa from there on. Other than alexa and google home support, bond also offers IFTTT support for you to create routines and bundle together with other services you may have. The Bond currently does not offer integration with Samsung SmartThings, Wink or other devices, so the IFTTT support is integral. There is also no Apple HomeKit support for voice control with Siri (which may change in the future). As it currently stands though, voice control with Alexa and Google Home performs well. Alexa, Google Home and IFTTT support elevate the usefulness of the Bond and – once it is able to control more appliances – could make it a must-have smart home device.
The price of the Bond was an initial hangup for me, as it likely is for many perspective buyers. At $99 – and with it currently only able to control ceiling fans – it’s a bit of a difficult purchase to justify.”
One of the things that I found disappointing about the Bond was that it will not function if your wifi is down. For many smart home aficionados, not having local control of their smart home devices is a deal breaker, and part of the reason for that is for instances where wifi is spotty or your network is down completely. With local control, you are still able to get have your smart home devices function as expected. That’s not the case with the Bond, even though it utilizes RF/IR (and my “dumb” remote works fine when wifi is down). Bond simply does not, and although it wasn’t a total deal breaker for me, it will be for many others. My recommendation to Olibra (if they were to release an updated version of the bond in the future), would be to consider a place to build in buttons or some sort of control on the device itself. That would allow the bond to use it’s RF/IR functions and continue to operate devices during downtime; especially for those who would want to replace their remotes with the bond entirely. While I understand that may not be in the intended use case of the device, there are likely many potential customers out there who would use bond in that manner, and it would be a shame to not consider that in the future.
I do have to give the Bond the best praise I can give a smart home device: I forgot about it.”
The price of the Bond was an initial hangup for me, as it likely is for many perspective buyers. At $99 – and with it currently only able to control ceiling fans – it’s a bit of a difficult purchase to justify. While it’s certainly cheaper than the various smart ceiling fans available right now (which retail for $200-$300 or more), that doesn’t make the price easy to accept. The Samsung SmartThings hub, the Echo Dot, the second generation Echo, the Wink 2 Hub, and countless other smart home devices all retail below or at $99; and are infinitely more integral to the smart home experience than the Bond. The caveat with this is that if and when Olibra begin turning on the functionality to control other appliances within the home, it’s value will increase exponentially. Until then though, if you’re forced to choose between this and other smart home products, the bond will likely not win out. Though it may not be near the top of the list of essential smart home purchases, if you have a remote controlled ceiling fan, it should definitely be considered as a down-the-line purchase.
I do have to give the Bond the best praise I can give a smart home device: I forgot about it. Once I set it up, it performed admirably every single time I used it, even with Alexa. The Bond helped me not worry about my ceiling fan operation, and I was able to put away the remote for good. While that may not sound like high praise, in the world of smart home automation where devices and services are supposed to make things more convenient – but can quickly turn out to be nightmares to use – it is actually a glowing endorsement.
The Bond Home retails for $99, and you can purchase it on their website, or from Amazon and Home Depot.