What has been invented in the last 20 years?
Revealed in 1999, Bluetooth technology became operational in the early 2000s. Today it is an integral part of our daily life: an invisible bridge that allows devices to communicate even without an internet connection. The latest example? Tracking apps against COVID-19.
The giant encyclopedia in the world was born at the beginning of the millennium. It provides an unprecedented amount of content, accessible and free. It is based on bottom-up user participation and community reviews and only holds up thanks to donations.
During the lockdown, it was one of the platforms that made it possible to connect with the outside world. Struggling with growing competition, not the most used. However, it must give Skype credit for being the first alternative service to the telephone and making users who were in different countries or continents converse for free and face to face. A revolution.
If it were a country, it would be the most populous globally. It was not the first or last social media, but it is undoubtedly the most transversal and widespread. Facebook has changed the internet, users’ perception, and how they communicate, sell and advertise. And even if the younger ones are oriented towards other social networks, the reign of Mark Zuckerberg remains the richest and (by far) the most popular.
YouTube is not just a platform. The ram allowed two trends to impose themselves video has become the prevailing format of the twenty-year period that is about to close, and user-generated content has become a form of expression capable of revolutionizing the entire media system. It all started with “Me at the zoo”: the first video uploaded a shot of one of the platform founders in front of the elephant enclosure.
Google Maps (2005)
Like many technological innovations on this list, Maps represents a milestone in an evolving path. Indeed, the Google service launched in 2005 has forever changed the way to consult a map and, more generally, choose how to move. Then came competitors and applications dedicated to mobility.
They play such a central role in our existence that we sometimes forget how recent they are. The first smartphone capable of having a global echo was the iPhone, launched by Apple in 2007. The touchscreen (another invention of these twenty years) begins to slide under the fingers of millions (and then billions) of people. And to think that at the beginning, some competitors had mocked Steve Jobs: “Who will ever buy a phone without a keypad?”.
An E-reader (2007)
Paper books are alive and well, but having a digital version is now the norm. Yet it’s only been 13 years since Amazon released Kindle, the world’s first e-reader in 2007.
More than ten years after their debut, Bitcoins have not become the electronic currency used as an alternative to traditional ones. Is it a haven asset? An investment? It has undoubtedly opened a new front, pushing private individuals and central banks to explore the world of cryptocurrencies (more or less crypto, more or less decentralized). Not to mention the blockchain, the infrastructure behind Bitcoin declining into hundreds of possible applications, well beyond the financial sphere.
Digital assistants (2011)
They are the most popular interface between users and artificial intelligence: digital assistants respond more and more naturally to human directions. The first, Apple’s Siri, arrived in 2011. And since then, voice commands have come out of smartphones to (potentially) land anywhere.
Autonomous driving (2012)
Autonomous driving has many nuances and is, in a sense, more of a process than technology. However, in the history books, there will most likely be a date: August 2012. Google announces that its fully autonomous vehicle has driven 300,000 miles on city streets without accidents.
Reusable Rockets (2015)
Between November and December 2015, two private companies (Blue Origin and SpaceX) sent a rocket into orbit and landed it. A milestone in cost reduction. It is the beginning of a new (private) race to space, of which it has benefited above all from SpaceX, which has become a solid partner of NASA.
3G, 4G, and 5G
Three generations of networks in twenty years, each of which represents the arrival of faster and more efficient connections and support for the digitalization of products and services. Without the evolution of the networks, there would have been (or would have been different) app economy, social networks, streaming, IoT. And with 5G, the potential for development can only be imagined.
One of the areas closely linked with the quality of connections is streaming. To have a collection of films and TV series at home, you don’t need cassettes or DVDs. And now you don’t even need to download them. You may rent or have a subscription, and the content is always available. Who remembers the Blockbuster stores? Netflix led the way, followed by Apple, Amazon, and Disney. But the connections also allow live streaming on the model of Dazn. Unthinkable if you looked at the average quality of a connection a few years ago.
Another example of an innovation that, despite not having a date, fully covers these twenty years, with a prodigious acceleration in recent years. The cloud is the pillar of many digitization processes: it has overturned business organizations, reduced the entry barriers of many sectors, and changed online services.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning
The unprecedented availability of data is combined with the ability to process them. And to foresee possible scenarios. Marketing, finance, commerce: processes’ automation and effectiveness often pass through here. Technology is so powerful as to be risky, so much to push some international organizations (including the EU) to promote an ad hoc code of conduct.
We have been talking about it for more than twenty years. Still only in the last few that – driven by the adoption of large companies and by increasingly cheaper solutions – augmented and virtual reality have begun to have a weight (including commercial). From entertainment to logistics, the applications based on these technologies are endless.
Another category that cannot be said to have been born in these twenty years has undoubtedly increased in these twenty years. The turning point comes when systems like fingerprint scanning and facial recognition arrive on smartphones. With an acceleration starting from 2017, thanks to the functions proposed by the iPhone X., Solutions based on biometric systems, however, must be treated with caution. If not accompanied by privacy and cybersecurity, they carry risks associated with mass surveillance.
Among the many innovations granted by smartphones, digital payments are undoubted. The phone also becomes a wallet, allowing you to pay the bill directly at the cashier and transfer money from device to device. Financial management becomes more and more immediate and dematerialized.
Quantum computing (2019)
The roots are planted in the last century, and we are still in the embryonic stage, but at the end of the twenty years, 2000-2020, quantum computing is starting to provide the first essential results. In October 2019, Google announced that it had achieved “quantum supremacy”: a processor that obeys the laws of quantum mechanics has managed to perform an operation deemed impossible for traditional computers.