Greatest inventions of the 21st century

Top 32 of the 100 Greatest Inventions of the 21st Century

Contents

32 of the 100 Greatest Inventions of the 21st Century
32 of the 100 Greatest Inventions of the 21st Century

Gene-edited babies, artificial eye & pancreas, self-driving cars, autonomous flying cars (eVTOL aircraft), Internet of Things, 3D-printed artificial organs, and robot heart are just a few of the greatest inventions of the 21st century.

Did you know?

  1. He Jiankui was jailed for three years and fined three million yuan for creating world’s first gene-edited babies!
  2. In 2017, Selwa Hussain, a mother-of-two, became the first woman in Britain to carry her heart in a backpack.

Also read: 70+ Advantages of Internet in Points and Essay in Detail

So, it won’t be an exaggeration to crown the most amazing inventions of the 21st century as being superior to their predecessor from the past.

Apart from adding to the power and efficiency of the existing technology, they have given birth to several new concepts.

Here’s the list of 32 greatest inventions of the 21st century you would love to know about. Scroll down to read in detail about each innovation.

1. Argus II Bionic Eye – A Miracle for the Blind

An artificial eye is not only one of the top 100 inventions of the 21st century but also one of the greatest achievements in the human history. The Argus II, a bionic eye, is a miracle for the blind as it can restore partial vision.

Consisting of an artificial retina, a pair of glasses, and a video unit, the Argus II can enable the people suffering from retinitis pigmentosa to visualize outlines of images and differentiate between darkness and light.

Year of Invention: 2013

Inventor: Mark S. Humayun (The R&D Magazine’s Inventor of the Year in 2005, who also received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from US President Barak Obama in 2016)

2. Artificial Pancreas – Just Like the Real Pancreas

Listed by the Time Magazine as one of the best inventions of 2013, the artificial pancreas works just like a real pancreas. It automatically shuts off regular delivery of insulin for Type 1 diabetes after detecting a drop in the sugar level.

In 2016, The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first hybrid closed loop system – called the Medtronic’s MiniMed 670G System – that can automatically monitor the blood sugar level of a Type 1 diabetic patient and intelligently adjust basal insulin doses.

3. Artificial Memory – Paving the Way for Erasing Bad Memories in People with Depression

Dubbed as Project Inception by the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) scientists, the artificial memory enabled a mouse experience false memory in 2013.

The scientists tracked and activated the memory-related brain cells of a mouse. Resultantly, the animal reacted as if it had received shocks in one place when it had actually experienced the same pain in another (place).

As one of the top 100 inventions of the 21st century, it can lead to erasing unpleasant memories in people suffering from depression.

4. Smart, Self-Aware Nest Protect Alarm System

A humble gadget, the smart Nest Protect smoke alarm unit – invented in 2013 – can intelligently execute some wonderful jobs for you. It can detect and inform you about the presence of a minute amount of smoke and carbon monoxide in your house.

Being self-aware, it can respond to your signal (waving) to get silenced if the alarm is about a little burning toast. When connected through a network, the individual Nest Protect units can coordinate with one another and with your smartphone. Also, you will receive a text message as their battery runs low.

5. New Optical Lattice Clock – Replacing the Atomic Clock and Redefining the Second

Optical Lattice Clock - one of the world-changing top 100 inventions of the 21st century.
Optical Lattice Clock – one of the world-changing top 100 inventions of the 21st century.

A research work published in Nature Communications in July 2013 brought into the limelight one of the most amazing top 100 inventions of the 21st century – new optical lattice clocks.

While an atomic clock loses a second every 100 million years, the new optical lattice clock will lose a second every 300 million years. In addition to being more accurate, they are more precise.

Instead of caesium fountains (used on the old atomic clock), a lattice clock uses lasers to excite strontium atoms.

Did you know? The next generation of clocks using ions – that’s under development – will lose a second every billion years!

1. Remotely Piloted, Autonomous, All-electric Flying Cars

Here’re 32 of the 100 greatest inventions of the 21st century that retransformed & re-revolutionized the way you live, work, socialize, and monetize things.
Remotely Piloted All-Electric Flying Car – One of the greatest inventions of the 21st century.

Airbus’s CityAirbus 4-seater eVTOL aircraft and SkyDrive’s 1-seater flying car are two major breakthroughs in the developing of all-electric flying taxies.

Also read: Pros and Cons of 50 Best Watches for Men Under 500 … 100 … 25$

2. Gene-edited Babies – Eradicating Diseases through Gene Editing

Here’re 32 of the 100 greatest inventions of the 21st century that retransformed & re-revolutionized the way you live, work, socialize, and monetize things.
Gene-edited Babies – One of the greatest inventions of the 21st century.

A November 2018 report by The Guardian revealed a Chinese scientist had claimed to have created the world’s first gene-edited babies. The very news sparked ethical and moral concerns in the world.

Also read: 30+ Advantages, 15 Dis-advantages of Fashion in Points & Essay in Detail

3. Robot Heart

Here’re 32 of the 100 greatest inventions of the 21st century that retransformed & re-revolutionized the way you live, work, socialize, and monetize things.
Robot Heart – One of the greatest inventions of the 21st century.

A self-powered artificial heart solved the issue of organ donation by a human. Further development is underway. In 2017, Selwa Hussain, a mother-of-two, became the first woman in Britain to carry her heart in a backpack.

4. Internet of Things (IoT)

Here’re 32 of the 100 greatest inventions of the 21st century that retransformed & re-revolutionized the way you live, work, socialize, and monetize things.
Internet of Things (IoT) – One of the greatest inventions of the 21st century.

An incredibly powerful 21st century invention, IoT makes things talk to each other and coordinate to perform wonderful tasks on their own!

5. 3D-Printed Artificial Organs

Here’re 32 of the 100 greatest inventions of the 21st century that retransformed & re-revolutionized the way you live, work, socialize, and monetize things.
3D-printed Artificial Organs – One of the greatest inventions of the 21st century.

Today the 3D technology is being utilized to produce artificial organs, low-cost car parts, and bridges, etc.

6. Portable Artificial Pancreas System

Here’re 32 of the 100 greatest inventions of the 21st century that retransformed & re-revolutionized the way you live, work, socialize, and monetize things.
Portable Artificial Pancreas System – One of the greatest inventions of the 21st century.

Though an artificial pancreas was in production as early the 1970s, it was not portable. The modern artificial pancreas system appeared in the second decade of the 21st century.

7. Patches to Control Pregnancy

Here’re 32 of the 100 greatest inventions of the 21st century that retransformed & re-revolutionized the way you live, work, socialize, and monetize things.
Patches to Control Pregnancy – One of the greatest inventions of the 21st century.

The modern pregnancy-control patches release the same hormones into a woman’s body as are found in the pregnancy control pills. They are attached to the skin.

8. Tiny Capsule-based Endoscopy – One of the Greatest Inventions of the 21st Century in Medical Science

Here’re 32 of the 100 greatest inventions of the 21st century that retransformed & re-revolutionized the way you live, work, socialize, and monetize things.
Capsule Endoscopy – One of the greatest inventions of the 21st century.

While the old instrument is still in use, the new capsule-based endoscopy makes it easier to diagnose tumors, bowels, and internal bleeding.

9. Bluetooth Technology – One of the 21st Century Technological Inventions

Here’re 32 of the 100 greatest inventions of the 21st century that retransformed & re-revolutionized the way you live, work, socialize, and monetize things.
Bluetooth Technology – One of the greatest inventions of the 21st century.

While the Bluetooth technology has emerged in 1999, it only made its way to computers and smartphones after the dawn of the 21st century.

10. E-Readers – A 21st Century Invention on Decline

Here’re 32 of the 100 greatest inventions of the 21st century that retransformed & re-revolutionized the way you live, work, socialize, and monetize things.
E-readers – One of the greatest inventions of the 21st century.

While Sony’s revolutionary e-ink technology of 1970s could not gain popularity, the launch of Amazon’s Kindle in 2007 brought the e-readers to spotlight. Now this technology is threatened by smartphones and tabled.

11. High Density, Long Life Car Batteries

Here’re 32 of the 100 greatest inventions of the 21st century that retransformed & re-revolutionized the way you live, work, socialize, and monetize things.
Long-life Batteries – One of the greatest inventions of the 21st century.

Why do people like Tesla’s electric cars? They are fitted with high density battery packs. Each pack consists of thousands of lithium ion cells. Also, its fitting provides a low center of gravity for a better road grip.

12. Automatic Emergency Braking System

Here’re 32 of the 100 greatest inventions of the 21st century that retransformed & re-revolutionized the way you live, work, socialize, and monetize things.
Automatic Emergency Braking – One of the greatest inventions of the 21st century.

All the cars sold in the US are going to have the automatic emergency braking technology by 2023. It is going to be one of the greatest inventions of the 21st century, isn’t it?

13. Touchscreen Glass

Here’re 32 of the 100 greatest inventions of the 21st century that retransformed & re-revolutionized the way you live, work, socialize, and monetize things.
Touchscreen Glass – One of the greatest inventions of the 21st century.

One of the cutest and greatest inventions of the 21st century, the touchscreen glass is a type of super-thin, chemically strengthened glass that keeps your smart gadget from breaking into pieces at the slightest drop.

14. Electric Cars (Re-emergence and Innovation):

Did you know? The first practical electric cars emerged more than a century ago in the 1880s! But their use declined due to the emergence of the internal combustion engines and electric starters.

Their re-emergence with innovation paves their way to the list of the mind-boggling inventions of the 21st century.

15. Self-driving Cars – One of the Greatest Inventions of the 21st Century

The 21st century earns credit for bringing in improvement and sophistication in the structure, functioning, and efficiency of the electric cars. Google’s driverless cars would purely be one of the greatest inventions of the 21st century.

16. The iPod Players and Pocket Computers

Did you know? Apple had sold as many as 390 million units of iPods by the end of 2014! The iPod portable media players were launched in 2001. The iPod line of products also includes multipurpose pocket computers.

17. 3rd Gen Mobile Networking

It paved the way for video calling, mobile TV, and a high- quality wireless voice telephony.

18. 4th Gen Cellular Technology

This outstanding 21st invention enabled internet users in 2009 to enjoy ultra-broadband, megabit speeds.

19. 5th Gen Cellular Technology

100 times faster than 4G, it could mean the speed of 10 Gbit/s! And the 5G smartphone service – that’s set to play an important part in IoT technology – was launched a week ahead of the planned date.

20. High Accuracy GPS – One of the Technologically Greatest Inventions of the 21st Century

In 2018, the GPS got the accuracy of up to 30 cm! The technology emerged in 1970s.

21. Artificial Intelligence

Non-human entities can now make decisions, recognize speech, and visually perceive things.

22. Mobile Operating Systems

Android & iOS are powering devices for most of the world population.

23. HarmonyOS – One of the Greatest Inventions of the 21st Century

An OS for IoT devices, which are all set to shape the future of technology.

24. Multi-use/Reusable Rockets – One of the Most Amazing Inventions of the 21st Century

A Landmark achievement in making space exploration cheaper.

25. Argus II for Retinal Implant

This wonderful tool seemed an impossible invention for centuries.

26. Online/Live Internet Streaming

One of the most adorable inventions of the 21st century!

27. Robotic Exoskeletons

A power armor for the disabled with SCI, it evolved through 100+ years!

28. Small Satellites

Re-invented picosatellites as light as 100g – a mind-boggling addition to 21st century inventions.

29. Solid-state Lidar

It powers your self-driving cars & more – an Amazing gift of the 21st century!

30. Tokenization

Adding to the reliability of your Data Security System, a token is of no value to hackers.

31. Blockchain

This 21st century invention offers a heightened security system to secure your transactions and smart contracts.

32. Bitcoin

This “Speculative Bubble” is the first of the 6,000+ cryptocurrencies you see/use today.

Most of the 100+ innovations the present century boasts of are wrongly attributed to it. Some of the greatest inventions of the 21st century emerged over 100 years ago!

Here’re the top inventions that the 21st century truly deserves credit for. In addition, you will get answers to the following questions.

  • How is the 21st century the century of discoveries?
  • In what sense are the inventions of the 21st century more powerful than their predecessors?
  • What are the great inventions of the past that predate the known history?
  • Why has the present era seen a boom in tech inventions?
  • How is it justified to call 3D-printing an invention of the 21st century?

Did you know?

The inventions of the 21st century emerged at the fastest ever pace! And they are more startling and benefitting than their predecessors.

The very claim might sound intriguing. But, once you go through the list of the 32 greatest inventions of the 21st century, you will speak up in the support of it.

They have redefined and re-revolutionized the concept of fashion and style.

Though the human race has been thriving on the planet for thousands of years now, the pace of inventing new things usually remained slow.

Only the past few centuries have witnessed a boom in discoveries and intentions.

The inventions of the 19th and 20th centuries were so powerful that they thoroughly reshaped or rather transformed the lifestyle of human beings.

Did you know?

The humans who once lived in caves and hunted for food in the jungle are now making flights to other planets, using autonomous robots as assistants, and getting pizzas delivered to their doorsteps through drones.

Though the world you are living in today is totally different from the one that existed just a few centuries ago, the technological progress is being made at a more rapid pace.

It is accelerating in different areas to discover new, better ways for working, living, and surviving in the future.

To have an idea about how fast the researchers are coming up with new things, you can look back at the inventions of the past 20 years.

In the past two decades alone, the human race has seen the emergence of smartphones, social media networks, self-driving vehicles, and drones.

Huge leaps in medical science, artificial intelligence, and the storage of energy are in addition to it.

The gadgets that were in use in the 20th century have now been enhanced through the incorporation of the latest technologies.

For example, the latest 50 wristwatches for men under 500 available on the market today bring in many new things that you will find totally amazing.

Before moving to the list of the 32 greatest inventions of the 21st century, let’s have a glimpse of some of the past inventions.

Greatest Inventions of the Past Centuries:

Kendall F. Haven in the book “100 Greatest Science Inventions of All Time”, 2006 edition, lists inventions of different historical periods starting with the ones that predate history.

According to the author, the prehistory science inventions include a balance scale, bow and arrow, dam, knife, lever, pulley, rope, soap, and the wheel.

Each of these inventions has been touched in brief as under:

Wheels: You might think that the wheel is a modern invention, but the fact is different.

According to Kendall F. Haven’s book, wheels were invented more than 6,000 years ago. Initially, they were potter’s wheels!

Through digs at the ancient Mesopotamian sites, the archeologists have found potter’s wheels that date back to earlier than 4,000 BC.

Later, the Sumerians – people from the ancient civilization of Southeast Asia – are believed to have used rolling wooden wheels about 3500 BC.

These were, however, the Egyptians, who invented the axle to connect two wheels around 2,000 BC.

Dam: Humans got the idea to build dams from nature’s logjams, which created the first partial dams.

Did you know?

It was the Egyptians who first built the dams about 5,000 years ago!

Bow and Arrow: You will find it surprising to learn that bows and arrows. They have been in use for more than 32,000 years (sometime before 30,000 BC)!

Soap: Soap is another valuable invention that predates history.

The basic cleaning agent for people, soap has been found in the archeological sites that date back to 3,000 BC.

However, it has been in use long before that recorded time. Initially, the soaps were made from a mixture of ash and melted animal fat.

Rope: Vines – also called the nature’s ropes – hanging from trees in forests were the first ropes used by humans.

People stripped them of leaves and used them to tie objects, build footbridges over streams, and make nets for hunting.

Pulley: A rope thrown over a horizontal branch of a tree or a pole is the simplest form of a pulley.

It is used to lift heavy weight attached to one end of the rope.

The use of this form of pulley predates all historical records. The compound pulleys that multiplied the lifting power of an individual were later developer by Archimedes.

Lever: You might already know about the lever, don’t you? It is a rigid bar that rotates around the fulcrum (a fixed point) and people use it to lift heavy weight.

It was Archimedes who first mathematically described levers in 230 BC.

Today the things like tongs, scissors, pliers, nutcrackers, and pump handles all use the principle of a lever.

Knife: The first knife in the world was probably built from either sharpened rocks or jagged bones.

Initially, it was used to cut things like rope, meat, bread, and fur for clothes.

Later, the knife became a tool for hunting, a weapon, and an eating utensil.

Balancer and Scale: You use a balance scale to compare two weights.

In other words, the quantity of something is measured against a standard.

Both Egyptians and Chinese were the first to use the balance scales made from metal by about 4,000 BC.

32 Greatest Inventions of the 21st Century:

It won’t be an exaggeration to call the inventions of the 21st century more powerful than their predecessors from the past.

One logical argument in the support of this claim is that they have added to the power and efficiency of the existing technology.

Here’s the list of 30 greatest inventions of 21st century you would love to know about.

1. Internet of Things (IoT):

Internet of Things (IoT) - one of the greatest inventions of the 21st century.
Internet of Things (IoT) – Image Courtesy: Pixabay

The term “Internet of Things” might not sound terrific, but the technology it refers to is simply mind-boggling! One of the fastest developing concepts of the 21st century, the IoT empowers everyday devices to simply talk with each other and coordinate to do a wonderful thing on their own!

It is the Internet of Things technology that switches on your air conditioner as you step into your room. With the help of this technology, your car will automatically start the moment you get seated in it.

And it is very likely that in the near future things will get directly shipped to your home before you know you had to place an order for the same!

It is possible if the service providing companies use this technology to learn the pattern of your living, habits, and shopping.

2. 3D-Printed Artificial Organs:

The concept of 3D printing is not new. Today’s 3D printers utilize the layering method, which originated in the late 19th century. And building a three-dimensional object as you see it today had begun in 1980.

If that be true, the technology doesn’t deserve to be called an invention of the 21st century. It is, actually, the revolution in 3D printing that started in the 21st century owing to the availability of cheaper manufacturing methods and open-source software.

Today the 3D technology is being utilized to produce artificial organs, low-cost car parts, and bridges, etc.

3. Portable Artificial Pancreas System:

The production of an artificial pancreas started as early as the 1970s, but it was not portable. The modern, portable artificial pancreas appeared in the second decade of the 21st century. So, it deserves to be listed among the 30 greatest inventions of the 21st century.

The modern artificial pancreas efficiently monitors the glucose level of the patients suffering from diabetes type 1.

4. Plastic Patches to Control Pregnancy:

While the concept and practice of family planning are centuries-old, the invention of birth control patches has made it incredibly easier for women to avoid the pregnancies they don’t want to have.

These patches release the same hormones into the body of a woman which are found in the pregnancy control pills, i.e. progesterone and estrogen. They are attached to the skin.

5. Tiny Capsule-based Endoscopy:

A traditional endoscope used to be a long, flexible tube with a light and camera attached to one of its ends. While the instrument is still in use, the world has witnessed another amazing invention of the 21st century – a capsule-based endoscopy.

In this technology, a tiny wireless camera is fitted inside a small capsule, usually the size of a vitamin pill. The patient to undergo endoscopy is asked to swallow this capsule.

As the capsule passes through the gastrointestinal tract, physicians can examine the digestive system and identify the tumors, the bowel ulcers, and internal bleeding, etc.

6. Bluetooth Technology:

Here you might be wondering that the Bluetooth technology was launched in 1999, so how can it be included in the list of the 30 greatest inventions of the 21st century?

The answer is: “Though it was launched one year prior to the start of the 21st century, the manufacturers adopted it in computers and smartphones only after they had entered the new century.

Today the Bluetooth technology has become an important part of our daily lives and it will get even more significance once the Internet of Things gains momentum.

7. Eradicating Diseases through Gene Editing:

A new era of biotechnology has begun with the introduction of gene-editing technology. But ethical considerations are acting as a counter force as the technology as the potential to be used for reproductive purposes.

According to a report published in The Guardian published in November 2018, a Chinese scientist claimed to have created the world’s first gene-edited babies. The very news sparked ethical and moral concerns in the world.

Many countries in the world have already banned gene editing for the fear that the changes in DNA could pass to future generations with unforeseen side-effect.

CRISPR – short for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat – is a bacterial immune system that is being used for gene editing.

The CRISPR-based gene editing is now being tested on humans to eradicate diseases. One such successful attempt was made in Germany in early 2019 to treat a patient with beta thalassemia, a genetic blood disorder.

Recently, the gene editing procedures to eradicate diseases are underway in the US.

8. E-Readers – An Invention on Decline:

You might be familiar with the revolutionary e-ink technology developed by Sony in the 1970s. But it could not gain popularity in the previous century. The demand for e-books and the launch of Amazon’s Kindle in 2007 brought the e-readers to spotlight.

Unfortunately, the widespread use of smartphones and tabs is posing a threat to this technology.

9. High Density, Long Life Car Batteries:

Short battery life was a serious drawback in the modern electric cars that too are the inventions of the 21st century. Some people buy cars for intra-city travels, while others get them for long inter-city travels.

People like Tesla’s electric cars because they are fitted with high density battery packs. Each pack consists of thousands of lithium ion cells.

And there are other benefits of using such batteries. For example, Tesla fits them under the passenger cabin to provide the car with structural support and a low center of gravity for a better road grip.

10. Automatic Emergency Braking System:

Did you know all the cars sold in the United States are going to have the automatic emergency braking technology by 2023? It is going to be one of the greatest inventions of the 21st century, isn’t it?

The luxury cars today do not just provide extreme comfort to the passengers, they do much more! Equipped with the latest technologies, they also maximize the safety of travellers by intelligently sensing an imminent danger of a crash and take measures to prevent it.

The latest technologies innovation in cars includes systems like blind-spot warning, lane departure, and automatic emergency braking. Among the sensor-based crash-avoidance systems, the automatic emergency braking has emerged as the most significant innovation.

How does the AEB system work? Fitted with cameras and radars, it automatically analyses the possibility of a forward crash or collision and applies brakes in the absence of any response from the driver!

11. Touchscreen Glass:

Going through smartphone specs, you might have read about the Corning’s Gorilla Glass. It’s an example of what you are going to learn about now.

What makes you say the whole world is just a tap away? It is exclusively due to the invention of touchscreen. Prior to the invention of the touch screen, people used to say that the world is just a click away.

Here it is to be noted that both the touch and multi-touch technologies are the inventions of the previous century. It is the touchscreen glass that belong to the present century.

One of the cute inventions of the 21st century, the touchscreen glass adds a layer of protection and luxury to the modern-day gadgets.

This sturdy, transparent material is a type of super-thin, chemically strengthened glass that keeps your smart gadget from breaking into pieces at the slightest drop.

12. Electric Cars (Re-emergence and Innovation):

Confused how could electric cars be included in the list of the inventions of the 21st century?

If you know the history of automobiles, the first practical electric cars emerged more than a century ago, i.e. in the 1880s! Their used declined due to the emergence of the internal combustion engines and electric starters.

It is particularly their re-emergence with innovation that paves their way to the list of the mind-boggling inventions of the 21st century. Mere fuel efficiency and the ‘Euro’ standards are not enough to make a vehicle perfectly environment friendly.

The very need to save the already polluted environment from worsening and reduce the burden on the depleting fossil fuel necessitated the re-emergence and re-innovation of electric cars. You can now see them around you.

Elon Musk and Tesla are the two names that must popup in your mind while talking about the four-wheelers running on electricity. If they don’t, you might be living in the media black hole.

Elon Musk is a big name in space exploration (as the lead designer of SpaceX), electric car manufacturing (co-founder of Tesla), artificial intelligence (co-founder of OpenAI), and online payments (co-founder of PayPal).

Tesla is credited with manufacturing electric cars and making them easily and readily available to the general public. Electric cars for commercial use from the houses of BMW and Nissan are also available on the market.

It was advances in batteries that brought about a renaissance in electric car manufacturing.

13. Self-driving Cars:

Work on the the automated driving system started in the early 20th century and first fully autonomous cars had appeared after about fifty years.

The 21st century earns credit for bringing in improvement and sophistication in the structure, functioning, and efficiency of the electric cars.

Google’s driverless cars are presently in the experimental stages. They could become commonplace on the roads in the near future.

But there are certain ethical issues surrounding such cars. For example, how would a driverless car behave if faced with pedestrians on the road? This issue could be solved through artificial intelligence.

14. The iPod Players and Pocket Computers:

The American multinational tech giant, Apple Inc. is known for manufacturing some of the top-of-the-line brown goods (consumer electronics). Many of these innovative products appeared in the present century, including iPod.

Several lines of consumer electronics from Apple include iPhone (smartphone), iPad, iPod, the Mac PC, HomePod, AirPod, Apple TV, and Apple Watch.

The iPod portable media players were launched in 2001.

Here it is worthy of note that the iPod line of products also includes multipurpose pocket computers. Many versions of the iPod can also be used as external storage devices as they come with the whopping storage capacity of up to 256 GB.

Did you know? Apple had sold as many as 390 million units of iPods by the end of 2014!

15. 3rd Gen Mobile Networking:

The dream of reducing distances and interconnecting the world had seen the light of reality in 20th century. The present era only perfected the existing technologies and enhanced them in terms of performance and outreach.

Starting from 1981 with 1G, new generations of the mobile network technology have been appearing after every 10 years. The 2G and 3G wireless networking standards were launched in 1992 and 2001, respectively.

It means the birth of the 3rd generation of mobile communication standard happened after the humanity had stepped into the 21st century.

Launched as an upgrade for the 2G and 2.5G GPRS networks, the 3rd gen offered faster speeds for connectivity and data transfer. It paved the way for high quality wireless voice telephony, video calling, and mobile TV, etc.

16. 4th Gen Cellular Technology:

A successor to the revolutionary 3G technology, the 4G broadband cellular network technology is one of the most wonderful inventions of the present century. It holds true especially when you talk about the speed of data transfer.

In 2009, the LTE (Long-Term Evolution) standard was introduced, which is also marketed as 4G LTE. The ‘real 4G’ provided mobile users with ultra-broadband, gigabit speeds.

17. 5th Gen Cellular Technology:

As if the ultra-broadband, gigabit speeds of 4th cellular network generation were not enough, research to produce even faster and more powerful connectivity continued. The latest 5th mobile phone generation came into common use by the end of 2018.

In April 2019, Verizon Wireless – an American telecommunication giant dealing with wireless products and services – launched world’s first 5G smartphone service in collaboration with Motorola. Interestingly, it was launched one week earlier than planned.

Here it is to be noted that 5G is going to play an important role in the domain of Internet of Things.

18. High Accuracy GPS:

It is in the sense of the much higher level of accuracy – pinpointing to within 30cm – that we’re calling the GPS one of the inventions of the 21st century. Otherwise, the technology was already there well before the dawn of the new era.

In 2000, the GPS had the accuracy of up to 16 ft, which reached 30 cm in 2018 when the GPS receivers using the advanced 5L band were released.

Looking back to the history of the global positioning technology, you will discover that it initially appeared in 1970s.

Did you know? The US government owns this satellite-based radionavigation service and can degrade the service or selectively deny its access to the system.

19. Artificial Intelligence:

The next item on the list of the 30 greatest inventions of the 21st century is artificial intelligence (AI). An alternative to the natural intelligence of humans, the AI relates to imparting the ability of learning and problem solving to machines.

The decade following the WW II witnessed the emergence of a discipline, called artificial intelligence. Though research on the artificial intelligence continued in the preceding century, it gained momentum and made huge progress in the 21st century.

A machine displaying the AI can do the things like making decisions, speech recognition, and visual perception, etc.

20. Robot Heart:

A heart transplant is one of the most expensive surgical operations. Still, it may not be 100% successful. And there is the issue of the availability of the right donor. The first heart surgery involving the use of an artificial heart was done in 2001.

One of the most surprising inventions of the 21st century, a robot heart solves the issue of organ donation by a human. As the use of a robot heart gains momentum in possibly the near future, the transplants involving a human heart will become a thing of the past.

This mechanical device powers itself and lacks wires which could cause infection.

Did you know? The credit for the development of the robot heart goes to Abiomed, an American company. The company called its product AbioCor.

The first recipient of AbioCor was Robert Tools, who had suffered from heart failure.

21. Mobile Operating Systems:

Did you know today most of the world population is dependent on Android and iOS as their mobile operating systems?

While the operating systems for gadgets were already in place in the 20th century, the OS for smartphones and other portable gadgets make up one of the greatest inventions of the present era.

The mobile operating systems like Android (owned by Google) and iOS (Apple’s OS for iPhone) now offer highly intuitive user interfaces and lots of app options. That’s why they now enjoy the reputation of being the most consumer-facing of all the computer operating systems.

World’s most popular OS, the Android OS was just two years old when Google purchased it in 2005. Though the software was released in 2007, the first Android-powered gadget could not be launched until September 2008.

Android is based on the modified version of the Linux kernel. It finds its application in a variety of gadgets, including smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, smart switches, and Android Auto. Here Android Auto is a mobile app for the in-dash information and entertainment system of a car.

HarmonyOS – The Latest Mobile OS: In August 2019, Huawei – a Chinese tech giant – made a proud addition to the list of the available mobile operating systems. Called HarmonyOS, the new platform has primarily been developed for the IoT (Internet of Things) devices.

Here the IoT too is one of the mind-boggling inventions of the 21st century. The tech industry critics are hailing the Harmony OS as something better to both the Android operating system and iOS.

The developer (Huawei), however, said at the time of the launch of its platform that it would prefer to continue using the Android unless forced to go for an alternative.

22. Multiuse (Reusable) Rockets:

Did you know, working on the principle of action and reaction, rockets show more efficiency in the vacuum of space than in the atmosphere? Here you should also note the fact that rockets have been around for more than eight centuries now!

Having emerged in China in the 13th century, they were brought to Europe through Mongol invasions! They were initially powered by gunpowder.

If you have studied rockets, you must be aware of the fact that a rocket could be used only once and then thrown away, usually into the ocean. And the practice incurred a huge economic loss.

Here you are going to learn about the reusable rockets as one of the 30 greatest inventions of the 21st century.

Being expensive, the space missions have been traditionally sponsored, launched, and managed by governments. Though tremendous success has been achieved in the field of space exploration, the dream of building a multi-use rocket could not be realized by government missions.

Recently, a private company stepped into the field and surprized the world with this landmark achievement. Definitely, the credit goes to SpaceX, a US-based private space exploration company and aerospace manufacturer.

SpaceX was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk who is also famous for his significant contribution to the electric car innovations.

After emerging as the first private company to send a spacecraft to the ISS (International Space Station) in 2012, the company reused in 2017 an orbital rocket for the first time in the history of space exploration.

And the same rocket (Falcon 9) was also reused for the third time. Now Blue Origin, another space transportation company founded by Jeff Bezos, is also striving to launch a reusable rocket of its own.

23. Argus II for Retinal Implant:

A wonderful tool from nature, the retina plays a significant role in making a visual perception of the things around. Located at the back of your eye on the inside, it receives light from the lens, converts it into neural signals, and sends them to the brain to make visual recognition.

A damage to or an illness of retina causes visual impairment or total loss of vision or blindness. Blindness may also occur due to an inherited degenerative condition, called retinitis pigmentosa.

In severe cases, the only solution to restore vision is the retinal implant.

Owing to its fragile nature and location in the vicinity of the brain, the retinal implant seemed to be an impossible adventure for centuries.

A benchmark achievement, in this regard, was made by Dr. Mark Humayun, an ophthalmologist and bioengineer, when he collaborated with Dr. James Weiland to create a retinal prosthesis device, called Argus II.

The Argus II received market approval in Europe and the US in 2011 and 2013, respectively. The device has the potential to treat (restore the vision of) patients suffering from retinal pigmentosa or RP.

24. Online/Live Internet Streaming:

What is live streaming? How is it different from downloading? Live internet streaming refers to the delivery of content over the web in real-time to the end-user. It could be a bit different from online streaming.

Online streaming is a bit broad term which, in addition to delivering real-time data, may also refer to access data over the internet at any time you like.

Live internet streaming also differs from downloading. Here, the latter is just an alternative to the former. In the case of downloading, you first save content in your device and then view it.

Obviously, the feature of online streaming emerged long after the birth of the internet. No doubt, live streaming has been around since the 1990s when the internet was broadly adopted by the public.

However, the Internet could not get mature enough to handle the delivery of the streaming media to large audiences until the beginning of the 21st century.

To harvest the benefits of tremendous evolution in the online technologies, people can now switch from cable television to live streaming. Today, almost all the news channels allow their audiences to watch news live over the web.

25. Robotic Exoskeletons

Also called a powered exoskeleton, a robotic exoskeleton can be defined as a wearable robotic unit for the rehabilitation of the people with spinal cord injury (SCI).

Though entailing a prohibitive cost, these tech marvels are now commercially available as an advantageous rehab equipment for the disabled with SCI.

They also require a high level of training on the part of the rehabilitation specialist who will supervise the individuals with SCI.

What enables a hardsuit provide better limb movement is the use of technologies like a system of motors, levers, hydraulics, and pneumatics.

Computer boards are used to control and coordinate the movement of the devices fitted into an exosuit for the sake of an automated and improved physical activity.

The robotic exoskeletons can also be used in conjugation with wheelchairs.

Popular hardsuits include Ekso, Mina, ReWalk, ExoAtlet, Kickstart, SMA (Stride Management Assist), Keeogo, Rex, IRGO (Isocentric Reciprocating Gait Orthosis), and so on.

The choice of a suitable exosuit for a disabled individual depends on the extent of their neurological impairment.

Did you know?

A robotic exoskeleton is known with several easily understandable terms like an exosuit, a hardsuit, a powered suit, an exoframe, and a power armor.

The exoskeleton-like devices emerged as early as 1890 when Nicholas Yagin, a Russian, who developed an equipment to facilitate walking and running.

So, it took more than a century for such an amazing rehab tool to attain modern shape and functionality.

That primitive type of exosuit used bags of compressed gas. And it also required human power to assist in mobility.

Going public in 2014, ReWalk Robotics was the first to come up with the first commercially available exoskeleton in the US.

Time and Popular Science magazines dubbed ReWalk the “best invention”.

Passive Exoskeleton vs Robotic Exoskeleton

Both these types of exoskeletons differ from each other in that the former – the passive one – lacks a combination of sophisticated technologies like computer boards, hydraulics, electric motors, levers, and so on.

26. Small Satellites – Re-invented Picosatellites

Today you can see small groups of individuals designing, building, and flying ever-smaller (artificial) satellites with ever-increasing efficiency and capabilities. They have got a diversity of applications.

While microsatellites were already in use, the 21st century might deserve credit for their re-invention in miniature form. It was possible due to advances in the fields of solar cell technologies, GPS (global positioning system), the Internet, and micro/nanoelectronics.

That is, the advancement in nanosatellites and picosatellites can be regarded as one of the greatest inventions of the 21st century. The year 2010 witnessed the launch of 3 pico-, 15 nano-, and 4 microsatellites.

Small satellites had emerged in the 20th century when the former Soviet Union launched 25 microsatellites into orbit in 1986, 24 of which were for military communications.

Later in 1999, the US Air Force tested the microsatellites for use in the inspection and servicing of the target satellites. The inspector satellites store and transmit data to earth while orbiting the target satellites.

The service satellites, on the other hand, are used for servicing a target satellite after docking with and taking control of it. So, they are more complicated.

Did you know?

  • A picosatellite can be as light as 100 g (0.1 kg)! Its maximum weight is 1 kg.
  • The weight of a nanosatellite ranges between 1 and 10 kg.
  • A microsatellite weighs 10 to 100 kg.

27. Solid-state Lidar to Power Self-Driving Cars & More

As the majority of the most important inventions of the 21st century, lidar technology has been in use in the past century. It was the modern 3D lidar that appeared in the present century.

The idea of lidar emerged as early as 1930 when EH Synge contemplated the use of powerful searchlights to investigate the depths of the atmosphere.

The invention of solid-state lidar paved the way for the development of self-driving cars – another item on the list of the greatest inventions of the 21st century.

Using this technology, self-driving cars can navigate independently by precisely collecting 3D environmental data. The analysis of this data helps them reliably perceive their surroundings.

Did you know?

  • Lidar is an acronym for ‘Light Detection and Ranging’.
  • It was originally called ‘Colidar’ – Coherent Light Detecting and Ranging.
  • Lidar has got myriad applications in various fields including laser guidance, atmospheric physics, geography, and forestry.

28. Tokenization – Your Token for Heightened Security

As a credit or debit card user, you might be benefitting a lot from the tokenization technology – one of the revolutionary inventions of the 21st century.

Tokenization is a sophisticated and reliable data security system used to prevent the theft of sensitive information.

It makes use of a token, i.e. a randomized number or a non-sensitive alternative to a sensitive data element.

Classmates.com, a social media platform, is believed to be the first to use the tokenization system in 2001 to protect the sensitive information of its subscribers.

This technology has also found its application in driverless cars to dash to ground the malicious intent of hackers.

Did you know?

  • Shift4 Corporation was the first to apply the heightened security of tokenization to payment card data in 2005.
  • A token is of no value to hackers or identity thieves as it is used only once per transaction.

29. Blockchain – A Revolutionary 21st Century Invention

The credit for inventing blockchain – one of the mind-boggling inventions of the 21st century – goes to the same Satoshi Nakamoto (an individual or a group of individuals) who created the world’s first decentralized digital currency.

Consisting of a series of cryptographically linked graphs, a blockchain poses resistance to change of or interference with the data.

So, blockchain technology can be utilized as an efficient and heightened security system to record transactions between two parties.

In addition to its widespread use in cryptocurrencies (especially Bitcoin and its alternatives), blockchain technology has got its application in smart contracts, financial services, video games, and so on.

30. Bitcoin – One of the Most Important Inventions of the 21st Century

More than 6,000 cryptocurrencies have been created since the launch of Bitcoin – world’s first decentralized digital currency – in 2009.

Bitcoin emerged as a peer to peer electronic cash system without having a central bank.

Blockchain technology – defined as an incorruptible way to execute transactions between parties – was deployed for the creation of Bitcoin.

Today financial entities and other industrial groups are using this cryptocurrency for the monitoring of supply chains, money transfers, food safety, and so on.

Credit for its creation goes to Satoshi Nakamoto who was the original author of the Bitcoin white paper and posted on the ‘bitcoin.org’ domain. His identity, however, remains unknown.

Did you know?

  • Bitcoin involves price volatility and it has been criticized for use in illegal transactions.
  • People having Bitcoins can exchange them for products, services, and other currencies.
  • Some economists have dubbed it a ‘speculative bubble’.
  • Attempts were made to create cryptocurrencies in the late 1990s, but they didn’t bear fruit.

20 thoughts on “Top 32 of the 100 Greatest Inventions of the 21st Century”

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