The last decade of product development has seen change and innovation accelerate to a breathtaking pace. The next generation of products and innovative technologies that were once the purview of science fiction are becoming commonplace, and disruptive technologies that used to remain in isolated industries are now crossing boundaries.
It can be tough to narrow down the “biggest” or “greatest” or “best” when talking about product development innovations. After all, some things that we thought might have a huge impact when they first arrived on scene are barely a technological blip now (Betamax, anyone?). Other things that arrived with a whisper and took decades to develop made enormous changes once they finally reached maturity.
That said, here is a non-exhaustive list of some of the most amazing product development innovations of the last decade. You’ll notice a couple of significant absences — social media sites that kicked off this decade of rapid social media growth actually started last decade, and tablets haven’t made quite the impact on the world as, say, wearable technology. You might also notice some things that might not have already changed your life, but are well-poised to do so in the coming decade — malaria resistant mosquitos, for instance. And a few of these innovations are based on innovative technology that’s been around for a while, but has found new application in this era of rapid change.
So here, in no particular order, are ten of the biggest innovations of the last decade.
The Top 10 Biggest Product Innovations of the 2010s
The sharing economy: For many people who travel frequently or work remotely, the sharing economy has changed the landscape of the workday. Companies like Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, and WeWork offer entrepreneurs and travelers new flexibility and creative ways to work and explore.
3D printing: In fairness, the idea and rough prototypes for 3D printing have been around since the 1980s. But only in the last decade has the technology come of age and shown us its nearly unlimited potential. 3D printers are now being used to manufacture everything from specialized prototypes to human organs to prosthetic limbs, earning itself a solid place on our list of disruptive technologies.
Private space travel: In 2012, SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft became the first private spacecraft to berth with the International Space Station (ISS). Since then, Dragon has made several resupply trips to the ISS, and in 2017, the company launched its Falcon 9 reusable rocket. SpaceX’s innovation is helping pave the way for more private companies to innovate in the aerospace industry.
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Gene therapy/genetic engineering: Gene therapy is nothing new in theory or in research labs, but the last ten years have at last seen many of these therapies come out of the lab. In 2017, a teenager with sickle cell disease was reported cured with his own genetically altered stem cells. Scientists have also genetically engineered mosquitos for malaria immunity. The potential of transferring that immunity to humans could save hundreds of thousands of lives, especially in Africa, as 200 million people worldwide are affected by the disease.
The Internet of Things (IoT): Though the term was coined in 1999, this disruptive technology really started to gain traction in 2010 with the news that Google had successfully taken 360-degree pictures and stored data on individual WiFi networks. Today, there are literally billions of connected devices around the world. And the innovative technology goes far beyond smart thermostats and home security — IoT devices span almost all industries and sectors. It’s estimated that the global worth of IoT technology could be as much as $6.2 trillion by 2025, according to McKinsey.
Wearable Technology: In some sense, we’ve had wearable technology since the first time someone put clear lenses over their eyes to sharpen focus. However, the last ten years of product development go far beyond primitive eyeglasses. From the first Fitbit tracker that recorded steps and sleep to today’s modern Apple Watch — considered a Class II medical device by the FDA — and others that integrate with our smartphones and run third party apps, the wearable technology market is on target to “become the world’s best-selling consumer electronics product after smartphones,” according to CNBC. From ECG and blood pressure monitors to biosensors, the wearable tech market promises to revolutionize how people manage chronic illness, consume entertainment, shop, and work.
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Autonomous vehicle technology: Science fiction has been promising driverless — and even flying — cars for decades, but until 2010, such promises were merely good storytelling. When Google released its first driverless car in 2010, research and development of autonomous vehicles took a huge leap forward. While the cars of science fiction still aren’t quite available for mass market use, the innovative technology is closer now than it’s ever been as GM, Ford, Tesla, Uber, and other carmakers and software firms continue to focus on research and development.
Renewable energy/clean energy innovations: With recent renewed focus on environmental issues and climate change, the advancements in renewable and clean energy are welcome news. However, narrowing down the “best” of this field is tough since so few recent inventions have entered the marketplace. Still, the fact that innovations such as 3D-printed solar trees, carbon nanotube electricity, and even nuclear fusion are on the horizon should give us hope of avoiding disastrous climate consequences.
Lab-grown meat: Die-hard carnivores might eye the concept of lab-grown meat with skepticism, but the innovation shows great promise for both mitigating world hunger and reducing carbon emissions. Since the first $330,000 burger eaten at a press conference in 2013, lab-grown meat has now entered the marketplace, courtesy of companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat.
Crowdfunding: For decades, the only hope for an entrepreneur to make the leap from garage to storefront or office building was the backing of an investor with deep pockets. While the idea of crowdfunding isn’t particularly new, the most popular modern platform, Kickstarter, launched in 2009. Since then, platforms like Kickstarter, Patreon, GoFundMe, and others have offered entrepreneurs and artists greater access to their potential audiences without requiring huge private investments or the backing of a traditional publisher, record label, or agent. While it may not be the most obvious choice for this list of disruptive technologies, Crowdfunding has made innovation in product development more widely accessible.
While the 2010s has been a decade filled with trial and error, product development innovation continues to surprise, delight, and inspire us. Here’s to the next decade of innovation!
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