Santa’s Little Helper: The Internet of Things

The seasonal operation of getting presents to all good little boys and girls is quite a monumental task for Santa Claus, especially with the world as it is today. In the past, there were plenty of elves, a lot fewer children, and most believers were in the same geographical areas.

But now things are different. There are over seven billion people on the planet, and children of all backgrounds across the globe expect a visit from jolly old St. Nick. The workshop must be as efficient as possible to get a wide range of presents to these children within a short period of time and without any glitches.

At first, it seems like magic is the only explanation for how Santa has been excelling at his job all these years. But if you look really closely, it’s clear that a lot of his success can be attributed to his avid adoption of technology.

This year, Santa implemented a smart, connected product strategy to make it possible for him to collect and exchange real-time data with his employees, customers, and resources and be more efficient than ever before.

Smart, connected products improve workshop operations for Santa

Predictive maintenance on workshop machines: If certain equipment fails, Santa’s workshop can come to a complete stand-still. In the old days, the elves would have to carry out preventative maintenance on production equipment themselves or fixed present-wrapping and assembly machines as they broke, leading to down-time and delayed production schedules.

North-Pole-Inc-operationsBy connecting production equipment to the Internet, Santa and the elves are able to collect information being transmitted from each machine, which allows them to know ahead of time if  parts need replacing and if any servicing is needed.

Inventory control for toy parts: Maintaining toy supplies is crucial for Santa’s workshop to run smoothly, especially as trends change year-over-year. What if he underestimates the number of Frozen-themed toys children would want this year? Or what if there’s a shortage of electrical components to create the gifts requested by today’s tech-savvy generation?

To address these issues, Santa’s workshop has begun using a closed loop process to automatically order toy parts. Sensors placed in storage bins alert an order management system when inventory levels fall below a certain level and electronic orders for new parts are sent directly to suppliers. Elves no longer worry about monitoring supplies, which free them up to do other important tasks, and the ordering process reduces buffer stocks of toy parts as they are ordered on demand, as required.

T2T (Toy2Toy) communication: Creating toys that can communicate with each other and transmit data back to the North Pole creates huge benefits for Santa and his team. Sensors and embedded intelligence make for a very fun experience for kids as they watch their toys interact with each other—much like these Toy Story Interactive Buddies figures—and could revolutionize play for a new generation.

Father Christmas also uses sensors to remotely support toys and provide preemptive fixes in case something breaks during delivery. Data on which gifts are opened first, how difficult they are to open (to improve wrapping procedures), and how quickly/often toys are played with is collected to give insight into whether the North Pole is meeting kid’s demands, and what steps can be taken in 2015 to improve production.

Wearables keep Santa ‘out of the red’: It’s not just the toys and machines in the North Pole that have sensors collecting data. The elves, reindeer, and the head honcho himself are all using wearable devices connected to the Internet to keep track of myriad data.

The elves work long hours during the Christmas period to make sure orders are fulfilled. Wearable tech, like Jawbones and Fitbits, are used to monitor their work, sleep, and health patterns, and the data from these devices are analyzed daily to ensure the elves’ well-being isn’t jeopardized. The reindeer also have specially developed collars with embedded sensors that track health and performance. Santa can plan for any necessary ‘refueling’ or break points if one of the reindeer becomes tired (pulling the weight of Santa and those presents can, of course, be taxing).

Santa uses the same fitness tracker wearables as the elves (they need to make sure he doesn’t overdo it on the milk and cookies) and also uses Google Glass to show him a range of information about the residents of the house he is visiting, the presents he needs to leave, and up-to-date diagnostics on how the sled and reindeer are doing. The glasses also give him real-time information on weather, so he can prepare himself for rain, snow, sleet, and extreme cold.

The smart, connected sleigh: The elves equipped Santa’s sleigh with gadgets, sensors, and software to make Santa’s journey as smooth as possible. A world-class GPS system gives directions to each home, and sensors placed at strategic points on the sleigh monitor speed, sleigh distortion, temperature, weight, and on-board inventory levels. The data is sent back and analyzed by the elves in the North Pole, who find ways to improve the sled year-over-year to increase the speed of delivery and comfort levels. The sensors also allow for the monitoring of scrapes and nicks the sleigh gets as it goes around the world so that any maintenance required as the night continues can be anticipated.

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