Cookpad, the Tokyo-based global recipe hosting site, revealed that it is developing its own hardware design ambitions with a new connected hard and soft water dispensing device called Oicy Water.
Oicy Water, which is still very much in the prototype phase, was unveiled at the Smart Kitchen Summit: Japan today. It works by affixing a bottle of hard water and a bottle of soft water to the top of the machine. Controls on the device as well as an accompanying mobile app allow you to control the hardness of the water you’ll cook with by mixing the contents of the two bottles as it dispenses.
You may know on some level the difference between hard and soft water—hard water contains minerals like calcium and magnesium, and soft water is treated and the only ions in there are sodium. It turns out, however, that whether you use hard or soft water can impact the flavor of what you cook. This is where Cookpad’s device could come in handy.
While it’s still a ways off, Cookpad’s plan is to fine tune recipes on its site with precise hardness controls. Let’s say you are making a pasta, a Cookpad recipe could tell you to boil it in water that is 20 percent hard water. Eventually, that digital recipe will talk with the water device and automatically dispense the exact amount of water with the proper hardness recommended.
The Oicy Water is the first piece of hardware designed internally at Coopad and is part of Cookpad’s larger plan of being at the center of a connected kitchen. Last year it launched its “Oicy” initiative at our Smart Kitchen Summit: Europe. As we wrote at that time:
OiCy (pronounced “oh-ee-shee”, which is a roughly translates to “おいしい,” the Japanese word for delicious), will take recipes uploaded to Cookpad’s site and turns them into a machine-readable format that connected appliances can understand.
So if you were trying to make a particular Cookpad spaghetti recipe, OiCy would pull data from the recipe, and “talk” to different connected appliances you might have in your kitchen and guide you each step of the way. Depending on the number and type of appliances you’d have, it would automatically boil your water, tell you when to add/remove pasta, dispense seasonings, etc..
This is actually the second hardware device that Cookpad has been associated with, the first being the Oicy Taste, which is a connected seasoning dispenser (it’s design didn’t originate at Cookpad). It’s easy to see how both of these devices play into the overall ecosystem Cookpad wants to create. By having a Cookpad recipe “talk” with appliances, users can automate the process of portioning out the right water, at the right hardness level and amount and type of seasoning — allowing them to focus more on the actual act of cooking.
This communication with devices doesn’t just help the end user to cook; it can also help Cookpad fine tune its recipes. As connected machines dispense precise amounts of ingredients, they will report back to Cookpad how much of an ingredient is dispensed. So if enough users don’t like the result of a particular recipe, Cookpad can track the aberrations in the amounts of various ingredients used.
In order to be truly useful, Cookpad will need to collect a lot of data from users on how they like or dislike recipes. But amassing a data set that big is something the company is already well on its way to creating. Cookpad says it has roughly 100 million active monthly users across 72 countries and 29 languages. Further, Cookpad has two million users paying $3 a month to access premium features. That’s a revenue run rate of $72 million a year.
Cookpad wanting to design a hardware system from the ground up makes sense, as they can tailor a device to their software. The harder question to answer, at least for the Oicy Water in the U.S., will be how many people actually care about the hardness of their water enough to buy bottles of soft water?
This article has been updated to say “roughly 100 million active subscribers,” and earlier version said “more than.”