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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 June, 2004, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
Practical gadgets win out in poll
Smoke alarm, PA
The smoke detector was invented in the late 60s
The smoke alarm has beaten the digital camera, mobile phone and the microwave oven in a survey to find out the British public's top 10 innovations.

The safety detector now fitted in all new buildings in the UK was considered a top gadget by 70% of those asked.

The poll was conducted by researchers at Brunel University in west London for the online bank Cahoot.

The first battery-operated home smoke detector was patented in the US in 1969 by Randolph Smith and Kenneth House.

Primal need

Almost two-thirds of respondents put the mobile phone in a list of their top 10 innovations. The convenience of the microwave oven appealed to many, getting into more than half the lists.

TOP 10 INNOVATIONS
Smoke alarm - 69%
Mobile phone - 61%
Microwave oven - 52%
Digital camera - 42%
DNA testing - 41%
Laser eye-surgery - 39%
Air bags - 37%
Cash and debit cards - 34%
Long-life light bulbs - 33%
And the huge growth in digital photography in recent years has clearly played well for the camera which came fourth in the poll.

Scientific and technological breakthroughs in the shape of DNA testing and laser eye-surgery came in fifth and sixth.

Gadgets such as MP3 players, which in other tech polls have proved popular, came nowhere in the vote.

"By favouring the smoke alarm, Brits have opted for an innovation that fulfils one of our most basic and primal needs - safety in the home," commented Professor Harrison, the report author and chair of design at Brunel University.

Convenience was also a factor in the nation's choice. Cash and debit cards and long-life light bulbs were all labour-saving developments that made it into the overall top 10.

Time machine

When asked what people would like to see from future innovations, a third voted for a washing machine that washed, dried and ironed clothes.

One in five opted for a weight loss drink and one in 10 wanted to cut out the hassles of commuting with a time capsule to ensure a speedy route to work.

"These choices demonstrate that people in the UK are more interested in practical, everyday innovation than revolutionary dreams," said Professor Harrison.

Deborah Cutler, marketing manager at Cahoot, said: "The report offers a fascinating insight into what we really value in our everyday lives."

The survey, Innovation by the Nation, questioned nearly 2,000 people.




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