Present-day advanced technologies heavily rely on the exciting magnetic and spectroscopic properties of lanthanide ions. In particular, their ability to generate well-characterized and intense near-infrared (NIR) luminescence is exploited in any modern fiber-optic telecommunication network. In this feature article, we first summarize the whereabouts underlying the design of highly luminescent NIR molecular edifices and materials. We then focus on describing the main trends in three applications related to this spectral range: telecommunications, biosciences, and solar energy conversion. In telecommunications, efforts concentrate presently on getting easily processable polymer-based waveguide amplifiers. Upconversion nanophosphors emitting in the visible after NIR excitation are now ubiquitous in many bioanalyses while their application to bio-imaging is still in its early stages; however, highly sensitive NIR-NIR systems start to be at hand for both in vitro and in vivo imaging, as well as dual probes combining magnetic resonance and optical imaging. Finally, both silicon-based and dye-sensitized solar cells benefit from the downconversion and upconversion capabilities of lanthanide ions to harvest UV and NIR solar light and to boost the overall quantum efficiency of these next-generation devices.