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Top 5 technological advances of the 21st century

We found that communication has been a theme at the heart of some of the greatest technological advancements of the 21st century.

By Tom Ball

The 21st century has so far been an era of colossal technological advances, but above all we found that these advances all had communication at their core.

Using wireless technologies that involved disruptive hardware and software has allowed the human race to connect with vast numbers of people, having a profound impact on business, politics and culture. These advances have transformed our lives entirely to a point at which it is hard to imagine reverting.

Our list has focussed on the period between the year 2000 and 2010, a period that formed an immense foundation for the innovation and progress that continues to be made today. Examples such as the iPhone symbolise the pinnacle of design, a device that has gone through an evolution that has so far included eleven stages, while maintaining its core, iconic design and functionality.

Herein you will find a snapshot of the technological advances made in this great 21st century, see whether you would have chosen the same or whether there are some that you would exchange for others.


Bluetooth (2000)

Bluetooth brought the concept of exchanging data in a streamlined wireless way to the masses, creating personal area networks with mobile devices.

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When you look inside this technology, it works using short-wavelength UHF radio waves and it was an invention that came courtesy of Ericsson in 1994. While this was the point at which the technology really gained traction, it is an evolution of the “short-link” radio technology that was originally pioneered by Nils Rydbeck and Johan Ullman in 1989.

There is some very interesting etymology behind the iconic name that represents this first item in our list of technological advnaces, stemming from tenth-century king Harald Bluetooth. When researching the story behind this figure from the past, it is quickly discovered that he was responsible for uniting dislocated Danish tribes into a single kingdom, a representation of the power of the Bluetooth technology.


Skype (2003)

Another feat of telecommunication in the 21st century and goliath among technological advances, the Skype application software not only made verbal communication possible via computers, perhaps most importantly it ushered in the era of video chat.

Founded in 2003 by Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, Skype entered into an agreement with a Polish web portal,, gaining it an integrated offering on the market in Poland.  In 2011 Microsoft Corporation acquired Skype Communications, afterward it became incorporated as division of Microsoft.

Top 5 technological advances of the 21st century

The widespread availability of video chat brought about by Skype really had a big impact on the human race and how many of us live our lives. It provided access to a live visual experience with other people who were physically out of reach, connecting both sides of the world and narrowing the breadth of oceans.


Facebook (2004

Linking the world with communication is becoming a powerful theme through these top spot holders in terms of technological advancements, and perhaps none have pushed the envelope quite like Facebook has.

Facebook was the pioneer of social media in general, bringing the capability to the average person and changing the world forever. Now social media is essential for business, a primary channel for news consumption and it is used in an influential way globally.

Top 5 technological advances of the 21st century

It and social media more generally have had a transformational impact on the way we work and live our lives. At the core of the importance of Facebook, it created a way to connect and interact with a large number of people all in one place, providing insight into opinions and trends.


iPhone (2007)

A product of the mighty Apple Inc, the first generation arrived on the 29th of June 2007, last year the world celebrated a decade and 11 generations of the device that has become world-leading and among the greatest technological advances of the 21st century.

It has had a tremendous impact on the 21st century with its multi-touch screen and virtual keyboard, setting trends across the smartphone industry and beyond. While many changes have been made throughout the evolution of the iPhone, many iconic characteristics have gone unchanged, including the central position of the single button on the front of the device.

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The global impact of the device in terms of popularity has been truly immense, with in excess of 1.2 billion units of the iPhone sold to date. Adding to the iPhone’s popularity, the apps that are available for it have kept users interested. As of January last year, there were 2.2 million applications available for the iPhone.


IBM Watson (2010)

Entering the world as a questions answering computing system, Watson now has a prominent place in numerous commercial use cases and has become one of the gresatest technological advances of the 21st century. It applies machine learning and automated reasoning in the formation of its responses, leveraging a vast archive of information.

Of all of its capabilities, Watson’s ability to process natural language may have had the greatest impact on the 21st century, an aspect of this technology that is being pursued for major enterprises use cases today.

Upon the creation of Watson, IBM said that “more than 100 different techniques are used to analyze natural language, identify sources, find and generate hypotheses, find and score evidence, and merge and rank hypotheses.” Famously the system was trained to compete in the game Jeopardy, where it went on to compete and beat two former winners of the contest in a high-profile event.

In terms of software, Watson works by using the Unstructured Information Management Architecture framework. Hardware is also extremely important, it leverages the output of parallel POWER7 processors that are linked to the DeepQA technology.

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