COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4)– The decades-old tradition by the U.S. military of tracking Santa’s exact whereabouts during Christmas Eve as he delivers presents to children across the globe is embracing more technology this year.
The annual North American Aerospace Defense Command’s so-called Santa Tracker is partnering for the first time with smart home digital assistants like Alexa and Cortana as well as the in-vehicle service platform OnStar.
NORAD, a U.S.-Canadian bi-national operation based in Colorado Springs, says the new features will help children of all ages – plus adults – interact with its popular Santa Tracker on various platforms in addition to its app, website and call center.
The organization, which is charged with warning of aerospace threats against North American, has been tracking the jolly red-robed globe trotter for the last 62 years as he allegedly zips around the world in his sled with his trusty reindeer crew for Christmas.
NORAD says its volunteers at the Santa Tracker operations center field telephone calls from over 220 countries, with children asking questions like, when was Santa expected in their town, and is he lactose intolerant?
“Yeah, we’re always interested in what the kids are asking. And of course you can guess what the typical question is that they are asking. ‘Where Santa is?’ ‘When is he going to come to my house?’ ‘What kind of cookies does he like?’ ‘Should I feed the reindeer?’ ‘Does he like eggnog versus milk?’ ‘Is he gluten-free or is he lactose intolerant?’ Tons of fun questions that we get every year from all these kids from all around the world. And we absolutely could not do this program without the help of all of our volunteers that are working the call center throughout the entire day on 24 December,” said NORAD Tracks Santa Program Manager Preston Schlachter.
The origins of tracking Santa date back to 1955 when a local ad to speak directly with Santa printed the wrong phone number, instead directing children to a military defense operations center.
NORAD says it can keep up with Santa’s swift pace by using satellites and an infrared sensor to detect heat signatures from the nose of Rudolph, Santa’s most famous reindeer helping pull his sleigh across the sky.
Those eager to catch Santa’s take-off can watch the Santa Tracker countdown clock on its website, http://www.noradsanta.org/.