Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Santa Tracking war begins: NORAD vs. Google

As was reported earlier, NORAD's famous Santa Tracker has gone Google-less, and swapped Google Maps and Google Earth for Bing and Cesium. NORAD had been using Google since 2007.

Why the change? We know it's not the efficiency and accuracy of Google's mapping division. One need only look at the Apple Maps fiasco to confirm that. Instead, NORAD said it was a joint decision between itself and Google; notably, though, Microsoft is now noted as one of the chief sponsors of the Norad Tracks Santa project.

Despite that ouster, Google hasn't given up its Santa tracking. As reported on Sunday, the company has its own, separate service.

Google says:
While we’ve been tracking Santa since 2004 with Google Earth [the NORAD partnership did not begin until 2007], this year a team of dedicated Google Maps engineers built a new route algorithm to chart Santa’s journey around the world on Christmas Eve.

On his sleigh, arguably the fastest airborne vehicle in the world, Santa whips from city to city delivering presents to millions of homes. You’ll be able to follow him on Google Maps and Google Earth, and get his stats starting at 2:00 a.m. PST Christmas Eve at
Fascinating that the Google team has a new algorithm in play. To be clear, 2 a.m. PST means 2 a.m. early Christmas Eve morning or tomorrow morning before most Americans awake.

After all, the first people to see Christmas will be in New Zealand, long before America is visited by jolly old St. Nick.

NORAD, on the other hand, is set to begin tracking Santa at 11 p.m. PST on Sunday night, Dec. 23.

Google's new Santa Tracker isn't only on the web, though. There is also a new Chrome browser extension and an Android app. NORAD has multiple mobile platforms covered, with apps available for iOS and Android, as well as Microsoft's Windows Phone platform (go figure, since Microsoft did the coding).

Google's also leveraging its Plus social networking site, with a Santa Plus page. We expect to see more posts, but for now, you can play a Santa Racer game that lets you navigate Santa’s sleigh through a track, collecting presents all the while.

There is also the Present Drop game, which challenges you to drop presents into moving chimneys.

It will be interesting to watch the Santa Tracking battle begin. It's unclear if Santa will use Google Maps or Bing Maps himself to find all the proper addresses, but we are hopeful he won't be using Apple Maps.

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