Since 2000, the world has been given huge a number of technologies that make day-to-day life easier. Whether it's a bedside alarm clock that makes your morning coffee, or an invisible bicycle helmet that lets you look as sexy as ever while getting to work, innovation is making life easier and better all the time.
The following are 10 innovations from the first 10 years of the new millennium. They've been ranked based on both their daily significance and necessity. Some of the effects aren't obvious, but that's what makes them so significant: after only a few short years, we couldn't imagine life without them. We've decided to focus on technologies that are more or less independent and truly at the frontier. This means no smart phones or tablets, since they're more or less a combination of other tech.
Before we begin, an honorable mention for social media, which does not make the list. Why? Because it is more or less a combination of many different innovations, and also a bit too obvious. While it is undoubtedly true that social media improves our daily lives, it’s a huge, diverse market, and the list would be full up if we chose to talk about each one in turn.
10 10 – Surgical Robotics
This may be a bit of a cheat, since robotic assisted surgery started in the eighties, but the all-robotic surgery and micro-surgery of today is a 2000s invention. These may not affect everyone on the day-to-day, but when it does, you'll be thankful. With tech like the da Vinci System , NeruroArm, and MiroSurge, surgeons are able to preform procedures like transplants via smaller and less obvious incisions than ever before. Not only do the finer methods reduce the risk and the duration of surgery, but recovery time is significantly reduced. As far as benefiting society goes, we think better, safer surgery with reduced, more painless recovery time is pretty far up there.
9 9 – RFID/Contactless Payment Technology
Mobil first introduced contactless payment options in 1997, but the market was limited to their gas stations with a special RFID keychain. It wasn't until the early 2000s that the technology became viable as a financial tool. Mastercard was one of the first major institutions to implement contactless payment in 2003, and it has been growing in popularity ever since. Designed for purchases under a set amount, contactless payment makes paying for things like coffee faster and easier, and it reduces the amount of unnecessary change in your pocket to boot. Getting your morning latte has never been as quick, and that makes this technology indispensable.
8 8 – YouTube
Though there were attempts in the late 90s to develop video hosting services like YouTube, it took a big budget ($11.5 million) and the greater bandwidth capabilities of the mid-2000s to make video sharing of this sort possible. Like Google, it's its own verb. Everything can be found on YouTube, from feature length films to 30 second commercials. Over 1 billion users visit YouTube each month, a quarter of whom are on mobile devices. On top of that, it's actually useful; with the click of a button, users can learn anything from guitar to physics from their own home. All of this makes YouTube a huge part of our daily lives.
7 7 – E-Readers
Go and pick up 200-1500 books. Now put them in your bag. Not so easy, is it? E-Readers have completely changed how we consume literature, sort of how books themselves changed how we consumed information. First introduced by Sony in 2004, many E-Readers have become more tablet than E-Reader. That said, there are still low cost, basic models available. Nothing quite beats the feel of a new book, but being able to carry an entire library downloaded directly into your pocket is a perk that can't be overstated. Not to mention it has solved the conundrum of Christmas gifts for years to come.
6 6 – Skype
Developed by a Swede, a Dane, and three Estonians, it could have been the start to a really awful joke, but instead was the beginning of an empire that sold to Microsoft for $8.5 billion in 2011. Skype and 2003 marked the end of relatives saying “Oh my, you've changed since I last saw you!” That can only be a good thing. Being able to call anywhere around the world for free and with instant video has completely changed how we interact on a daily basis. Add to this the fact that it is being used by teachers in urban areas halfway around the world to reach rural communities, and Skype becomes a pretty fantastic tool for all kinds of purposes.
5 5 – iPod
Whatever music you want, whenever and wherever you want it. Finding someone without an iPod or an imitator is next to impossible. Not only is it ubiquitous, but it makes life more enjoyable. Can't ask for more out of a 5 ounce piece of plastic and metal. While it's true that the first mp3 files and players were developed over the late 80s and 90s, the first mp3 players were neither as intuitive, nor as functional as the iPod. By combining iTunes, an accessible design, and the Apple brand, the iPod made mp3's the must have music devices of the decade and beyond.
4 4 – The Cloud
It may seem obvious to us now, but the concept of data stored solely and privately on the internet is not that intuitive. The Cloud is also referred to indirectly through web-based apps, which are freed from the shackles of a computer’s storage and power. Being able to email from your friend's phone in the middle of the woods? Thank the Cloud. Technically speaking, cloud computing has been worked on since internet was first developed, but the private cloud system we know today is a noughties development. The fact that we can save and share data to a non-physical, global database is a new linchpin of our society, and well-deserving of the fourth spot.
3 3 – GPS
When was the last time someone under the age of 40 printed out Google Maps directions? Whether it's a hand held device, an app on your phone, or built into your car, GPS has completely changed the way we travel. Developed before the 2000s mainly for military use, GPS began with a much smaller infrastructure and network than it enjoys today. And though it became commercial in the late nineties, it wasn't until 2005 that GPS with full satellite coverage was opened to civilian use. Used for everything from finding a restaurant to finding a lost car, GPS is a constant, unnoticed necessity of our day-to-day.
2 2 – Completion of the Human Genome Project (HGP)
The molecular structure of DNA was discovered in 1953, but it took government funding in the late 1980s to begin the mapping of those genes with the HGP in 1990. Originally set with a 15 year deadline, its mere possibility was first viewed with skepticism. The initial maps, released in 1994, were a year ahead of schedule. By 2000, it was complete. The advantages of this landmark in biotech may not be obvious, but they're massive. Not only are we gaining understanding into what causes everything from the common cold to cancer – allowing the development of better treatments – we can manipulate and alter our very genetic makeup. While the negative implications of this may be controversial, there is no doubt that the HGP has radically changed how we live and die.
1 1 – Mobile Broadband
Again, though it was started before the millennium, what we know as mobile broadband today came out in 2001 in Japan and South Korea. The technology has taken off, and now different wireless frequencies are getting bought up to make mobile internet better and faster than ever. Without this 21st century innovation, smartphones would be stuck just making calls and sending texts. Mobile broadband, allows your phone to access all kinds of services, including four of the other technologies on this list. Life without instant Google or YouTube would be nearly impossible to imagine for many in the technological age, and for that reason, mobile broadband takes the top spot. Connecting people across the globe and letting you watch funny cat videos while in class. What more could you want?