The water cooler — with its utilitarian taps and white plastic base — has long been accepted as an eyesore. A new company, Apas (the Sanskrit word for “water”), is working to change that with a dramatic redesign — and address global obstacles around access to drinking water in the process. It’s an undeniably lofty goal for a start-up whose first product, the Monolith smart water cooler, appears to be little more than another Bluetooth-integrated category disruptor.
As first surfaced by Design Milk, Monolith, which pays homage to the towering black machines in 2001: A Space Odyssey in both name and appearance, monitors water consumption to ensure optimal hydration and can automatically order new water canisters when levels are low. The four-foot tall, matte black tower hides three- or five-gallon water jugs at the base of the unit, eliminating the heavy lifting that plagues conventional water coolers. It also adjusts water temperature according to ambient conditions, and features a touch-free tap, hidden in a small, unobtrusive alcove, with a magnetic valve intended to prevent spills.
Monolith is expected to begin beta testing in early 2018, and will mark the first step on Apas’ mission to upend existing water distribution models. “For now, dispensers are our best bet for implementing new technologies in a meaningful way,” said company founder Vova Alekseev in an interview posted to the company’s incubator’s blog. “That includes widespread smartphone use, constant connectivity, the emergence of big data and smart algorithms. Dispensers are more centralized and therefore help us contain and track all these things once we begin to distribute to offices and homes,” adding that transforming water supply networks is a moonshot project, “like what colonizing Mars is to SpaceX.”
In the interim, Alekseev cited thermos mugs, personal bottles, public coolers and built-in filtration as possible future additions to the Apas family. Whether they, too, will feature the same minimal, monochrome black that’s now taking kitchens by storm remains to be seen.