Technology is, by its very nature, is forward-looking. But with a new decade upon us—one that will undoubtedly bring technological advances that are currently undreamt-of—it’s a good time to reflect on the innovations that proved most influential in the preceding decade.
Innovations with the Biggest Impact
We often think we have a solid grasp of where technology is headed…but consider what our daily lives looked like just 10 years ago. We were still listening to music on CDs and hailing taxis, and thought phones with integrated keyboards were cutting-edge. Alexa was a slightly exotic-sounding name we rarely encountered, and watches were limited to telling time. All of these things serve as a reminder that even the wisest prognosticators can’t always see what’s right around the corner.
With this in mind, here’s a look back at some of the most influential technologies of the past decade. And no, the smartphone doesn’t make our list; that was actually invented in 2007.
- Social media platforms are such an important part of our lives it’s hard to envision a time before they existed, but when Instagram launched in 2010, it was new and revolutionary. Not only did it make photography a hobby everybody could partake in without the need for expensive equipment, it basically invented concepts such as sharing and “likes.”
- When Apple introduced Siri, consumers saw the possibilities of voice search—but it wasn’t until Amazon’s Alexa hit the marketplace a few years later that the potential was fully realized. These products, along with the Google Assistant, have changed the way we search for information and shop for products.
- Ride-sharing was a foreign term just a decade ago but has become so popular that it has all but killed an entire industry (RIP, cab drivers) and paved the way for a number of similar services (DoorDash, Instacart, etc.). Drivers have the flexibility to work as many (or few) hours as they desire and aren’t tied down to a desk. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, of course; drivers are not considered “employees” and therefore receive no benefits, and safety issues have arisen. But the convenience and ease of use means Uber and competitors such as Lyft are here to stay.
- Netflix has been around for longer than ten years, but didn’t get into the streaming business until 2013. Back then, most people still watched movies on DVDs. Netflix upended the industry by allowing consumers to view movies and television from the comfort of their homes without the need for a trip to the video store or special hardware in which to play a disk. This gave way to bingeing, and proved that streaming was a viable option not only for viewing, but for listening, as well. Hello, Spotify. Goodbye, compact disc.
- The Apple Watch. Wearable trackers first hit the marketplace in 2011, but the brain trust at Apple popularized the concept and took it mainstream. After the watch debuted in 2015 with an emphasis on fitness, consumers quickly became used to viewing health information such as heart rate and physical activity throughout the day. In the near future, this data might be used to improve overall wellness and prevent potentially fatal diseases. With Google’s purchase of Fitbit a few months ago, the battle between smart watches is about to heat up.
- The iPad. As if Apple weren’t influential enough, it’s got two products that make our list. The iPad, introduced shortly before Steve Jobs’ death in 2011, led to an explosion in the popularity of tablets. Today, the iPad outsells Apple’s laptop computers and is especially popular with young kids, despite charges that it functions as a “digital babysitter.”
- Fingerprint and facial recognition technology. Remember when unlocking devices required typing in an alpha-numeric password? When Apple added a fingerprint reader called TouchID onto its iPhone in 2013, the era of biometrics was born. Everybody’s fingerprints and facial features are unique, making biometric technology a secure and convenient way to unlock all manner of devices. Detractors complain of privacy concerns and an increased reliance on surveillance, but it’s unlikely this technology will be going away anytime soon.