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A ceiling fan might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to the smart home, but there are perks to an automated fan. Adding voice controls, schedules and even IFTTT recipes to a ceiling fan creates a more convenient smart home and a more comfortable living environment. The problem? Smart fans are expensive. Both Hunter and Big Ass Fans offer Alexa and Nest compatible models, starting at $300 and $550 respectively. That's where Olibra's Bond device comes in. This $99 disc smartens your remote-controlled ceiling fan. With the ability to control up to six fans with one unit, the Bond is a useful, cost-effective way to pick up the slack where your fans or finances left off.
The Bond device is the flagship product for its parent company, Olibra. The Bond smartens ceiling fans by acquiring the signal from the device's original infrared (IR) or radio frequency (RF) remote. Ceiling fan remote controls come in both IR or RF varieties, but most are RF. If you do have an IR remote control, you'll need to be sure the Bond is placed so it has a clear line of sight to the fan. I didn't find that to be an issue, since the Bond is a relatively small, black device that fits on most tables and shelves. My disappointment here is the device's color. It would be nice if the Bond came in options like white or gray, since it will be sitting out in the open.
The Bond works with Amazon Alexa devices and the Google Home, so you can ask your voice assistant of choice to control your smartened ceiling fan. The Bond app is available for iOS and Android devices, but the Bond itself doesn't work with HomeKit or Siri.
Download the app and create an account to get started. Follow in-app instructions to connect the Bond to your Wi-Fi. Next, you'll pair your device's original remote with the Bond by pairing through the Bond app with step-by-step instructions. The Bond's LED light ring uses different color indicators for each step. From there, the app asks you to identify which function of the remote you are pairing and allows you to test the new function in the app. Once you've repeated this process for each function of your original remote, you're all set.
Connecting your newly smart ceiling fan with Alexa requires downloading the Bond skill for Alexa and logging into your Bond account. The same is true for Google Home. Your fan should be recognized by the name you assigned it during the Bond setup. Voice control with both the Google Assistant and Alexa were responsive and easy to configure. You won't need to include a "tell Bond to…" phrase with either assistant. A simple "turn on the fan" phrase after the assistant's wake word is all you need.
Using the Bond app's remote control is also satisfyingly straightforward, and the app offers most major fan control options including power, multiple speeds, timers, reverse fan direction, and light control. You'll also be able to control your fan remotely, once the Bond is connected to your Wi-Fi network.
You can also incorporate your ceiling fan into schedules and scenes with Google and Alexa. The Bond also has an IFTTT service with applets like "Activate your fan when Nest says the room is too hot" or "Turn on a ceiling fan when SmartThings detects a presence."
Yes, $99 is a lot to spend on smartening just one ceiling fan. Even though the Bond can control up to six devices, you could need more than one Bond device if multiple fans need a line of sight and are located in different rooms. Even so, it's likely much cheaper than purchasing a new smart fan. Last year, we took a look at whether or not a smart ceiling fan is really worth the splurge.
I tested the Bond exclusively with a ceiling fan, since that's currently the only compatible device, but Olibra plans to turn on integration for devices such as garage door openers, air conditioner units and fireplaces in the near future. You can see some of those options grayed out in the current app. If those devices roll out in updates, your $99 could go a long way in creating Alexa or Google compatibility for six of your home's devices.
With the Bond, you'll get Alexa or Google control of your fan at a fraction of a smart fan's price. You might even get more, if future updates do indeed bring other types of home devices onto the Bond platform. Even if the Bond doesn't expand beyond ceiling fan control, it's a simple and straightforward way to incorporate your ceiling fans into your smart home.