Designed to make standard remote-controlled ceiling fans smart, the Bond Bridge by Olibra can integrate up to 6 fans with your connected home. Once added to Bond, these fans can be controlled with the Bond app on smartphones and tablets, enabling you to preserve your fan investments and stash a pile of remotes. And, when you have Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant running, these fans can also be controlled with voice commands.
Bond also currently works with many remote-controlled fireplaces. The company plans to add doorbells, humidifiers, garage door openers, motorized shades, motorized windows, smoke detectors, and window-mounted air conditioners to the supported device list in the near future.
In oder to find out how well Bond works, we installed the bridge in our Digitized House Connected Home Integration labs, and easily linked it to some of our fans—including the Possini Euro Design Destination. Read on to see the details of our review.
Like most smart home automation bridges, Bond is a compact desktop device and includes a power adapter and cable in the box. Before plugging it in, we installed the Bond app (available for Apple iOS and Android) and created the mandatory Bond account through the app.
Since Bond runs on internet-connected Wi-Fi, we easily linked the bridge to our in-house network by following the steps in the app. Once the bridge was fully linked, it displayed a blue glow from its LED light ring—indicating it was ready to accept new devices.
Bond Bridge Review: Adding Devices
Adding fans to Bond always begins with the original remote that came with the fan or the remote from a compatible add-on kit previously installed. The remote is necessary to program Bond, and can use either RF or IR communications.
There is no need to add anything else to the fan in order to get things working. That’s the beauty of the Bond way of integrating devices. But your fan must have a working remote control to proceed with setup.
We found that adding a new fan device took only a few minutes. From the Bond app Home screen, simply tap the Add Device button to begin, then tap the Ceiling Fan item (see left image, above) to begin the pairing process (Bond refers to it as recording).
When pairing a fan, the Bond app then displays the Add Function screen (see right image, above), where an array of possible fan functions are displayed. To add a fan, begin by tapping a function button in the Bond app, then press the corresponding button on the remote. This will initiated the recording process, and the Bond app will tell you when the process completes. The Bond LED will also flash green to indicate success.
For some popular fans, Bond already has their unique IR or RF signatures in a central database, so your fan setup may process may be complete after doing a single button press. In that case, all of the buttons on the remote should be replicated for the fan inside the Bond app. Your fan will then be entirely controllable from the Bond app.
In the case of our Possini Euro Design Destination fan, we had to go through individually recording each of the buttons on our remote, including the power button, 6 fan speed buttons, and the light button. This took several minutes, but was quite straightforward. After that, the Bond app worked instantly and smoothly to control the fan.
Once we added our fans to Bond, we were able to add voice activation support through Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. This was accomplished using the Alexa and Google Home apps, searching for the Bond skill or action, and authenticating with our Bond account.
When that was done, we could easily use voice to control our newly-added smart fans on Amazon Echo and Google Home speakers. For example, with Alexa, the command “Alexa, turn on the Bedroom Fan” could be used for a device named Bedroom Fan from across the room.
Furthermore, in both the Alexa and Google Assistant ecosystems, setting up voice control also brings on-screen controls for most fans within the respective Alexa and Google Home apps. Additionally, the fans should appear on Amazon Echo Show and Google Nest Hub (previously named Google Home Hub) smart displays.
Bond also works with the IFTTT (If This Then That) automation platform. And on Apple mobile devices, iOS Widgets can be set up for easy access to all connected Bond accessories. These will be visible from the Today View, accessible by swiping right over the iOS Home screen or lock screen.
Bond Bridge Review: More Features on the Way
Given the forthcoming additions to the supported device list beyond fans and fireplaces, Bond may well become much more versatile. The latest version of the Bond app already has placeholders for these new items on the Add New Device screen (see the screen images earlier in this article), though they are not active.
Bond says the additional devices will be supported through software and app updates, so presumably current Bond bridges will be able to take full advantage of them.
The jury’s still out on how well these new integrations will work, and whether a single Bond bridge will be able to support more than the current 6 devices.
Bond Bridge Review: The Bottom Line
For many homeowners with existing investments in remote-controlled ceiling fans, using Bond can be a cost-effective way to bring these fans into the connected home realm. In fact, we are not aware of another hub that can integrate these types of legacy fans without installing a Wi-Fi module inside the fan or retrofitting the wall switch with a smart switch (Lutron offers such a product, the Caséta Wireless Fan Speed Control).
Moreover, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant capability means these former islands of fan technology can be participants in the voice-activated smart home. That may be reason enough to convince many consumers to put a Bond in their home. Based on our hands-on testing, we can recommend Bond as a complementary solution for connecting many disenfranchised devices to your smart home.
Tom Kolnowski is the Chief Content Officer & Founder of Digitized House Media, LLC, the publisher of Digitized House | Guide to the Connected Home. When he isn’t writing about smart home technology, sustainability, and high-performance architecture, you’ll find him exploring faraway destinations with his family.