Business | Technology

Battle of the Santa trackers

Google takes on Norad

  • Deborah Netburn
  • Published: 13:21 December 25, 2012
  • Gulf News

A woman monitors the progress of Santa Claus
  • Image Credit: AFP
  • A woman monitoring the progress of Santa Claus in Washington, DC on Monday. The Santa tracker at right is set up by the North American Aerospace Defence Command (Norad), a US-Canada operation.

Looking for an online Santa tracker? You’ve got options.

For the last several years, Google’s partnership with longtime Santa tracker Norad dominated the Santa-tracking market. But this year, Norad and Google went their separate ways. Now they offering duelling Santa-tracking services. Both trackers are a fun way to welcome Christmas, and they offer different features.

Norad and its predecessor Conad have been tracking Santa since 1955, when Colonel Harry Shoup, the director of operations, began receiving calls from children trying to reach Santa. It turned out that the local Sears had set up a Santa hotline but misprinted the number in its catalogue -- sending people to Shoup instead.

The colonel, whose organisation monitors the skies for dangerous objects, was a good sport about the mistake. He had his staff check the radar to see if they could pinpoint Santa’s position. A tradition was born. More than 55 years later, Norad still tracks Santa.

This year, Norad partnered with Bing Maps for a 2-D Santa-tracking display. It also has partnered with Cesium to show Santa’s progress on a 3-D display of the Earth. You can track Santa online or through the Norad Tracks Santa app, available for Windows, iOS and Android. For some old-fashioned fun, you can also call Norad’s Santa hotline, (877) HI-Norad, to talk to one of the 1,250 volunteers available to answer Santa questions. The hotline opens at 2am PST on Monday and closed at 2am PST on Christmas Day.

Google’s Santa-tracking operation, meanwhile, is headquartered at google.com/santatracker. It’s a slicker website than Norad’s, and even though the actual Santa tracking did not get started until Christmas Eve, you can explore the little virtual Christmas village and play several games -- which include a sled race and dropping presents into chimneys -- that are appropriate even for young players. It also offers a way to ask Santa to place a personalised call to your friends and family members.

Budding engineers may enjoy Google’s take on the seasonal fun. The company showcased a preview of the technology that powers Santa’s sleigh on Monday. “We’ve received this special preview from one of Santa’s many developer elves,” the company says on the website.

Developer elves? This is clearly not your grandmother’s Christmas. Happy tracking and happy holidays!

— Los Angeles Times

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