Christmas in the 21st Century: How can Santa Claus Modernise?
For too long has Santa Claus been resistant to technological change. DIGIT explores how old Saint Nick can modernise his operations and adapt to a digitally connected world…
Christmas is that time of year when the work rate slows down while the food and drink consumption speeds up.
For many, it’s a period of frantic shopping trips to get that final present sorted. For someone in particular, it’s a real headache, complete with sleepless nights and a hefty workload.
In the run-up to Christmas, Santa Claus has an extensive workload ahead of him. Hundreds of millions of people around the world eagerly awaiting their desired gift on Christmas morning; millions of tonnes worth of goods to procure, package and deliver – it’s no wonder we leave him a tipple and a snack on Christmas Eve.
According to research by TeamSport Karting, on Christmas Eve his sleigh needs to reach speeds of more than 13 million miles-per-hour to deliver all those presents on time.
These statistics illustrate “what an amazing job Santa and his reindeer do to ensure every child receives their presents on Christmas morning”, according to Dominic Graynor, managing director of TeamSport.
This stressful, laborious process could be solved by the uptake of new technology, however. While the rest of the world is modernising and adopting tech-based solutions for their logistical headaches, Santa still works in very much an old-school fashion.
DIGIT explores some of the key areas in which Santa can modernise his operations – and the impact those technologies may have on his elf workers…
Identifying who has been naughty or nice out of a population ranging in the tens of millions is a monumental task, and so too is deciphering the broken language of millions of kids.
Rather than working through millions of hand-written letters, Santa could deploy artificial intelligence to analyse the vast quantities of information being sent to the Lapland hub.
Mark Thomson, retail industry director EMEA at Zebra Technologies, says Santa “must enlist AI help”, not only to keep tabs on who’s been naughty or nice, but to enhance the production and distribution process.
“With so many global trends impacting the global production and distribution of toys, Santa could install a smart database with predictive analytics,” he says. “It could compare current stock levels and output with global patterns and sentiment from millions of children, as well as historic data points to help him make just what he needs – making him a more sustainable Santa in the process.”
Keeping tabs on millions of people throughout the year to ensure they’re behaving must also be a difficult task. Santa could use automated facial recognition technology (AFR) to identify each individual when they’re misbehaving.
Of course, based on AFR’s use by the Metropolitan Police Service (which saw significant false-positive rates), this might not be the best choice and could result in some people being wrongfully identified as naughty.
During an era of rapid technological advancement, we regularly encounter warnings over the increased use of automation in the workplace; particularly in the manufacturing sector.
While Santa’s elves are fantastic at what they do, packaging and distributing millions of gifts is an intensive process.
Robotics could be the answer to this – transforming his Lapland hub into a truly modern distribution centre similar to Amazon.
With this increased use of automation may come job losses, though, which takes us deeper into the political and social issues that often accompany the uptake of new technologies. In 2013, an Oxford University paper suggested that anywhere up to 35% of jobs in the UK could be lost to automation and artificial intelligence, which could cause massive social and economic disruption.
However, the OECD recently refuted these claims, suggesting only 12% of jobs would be lost to rapidly evolving technologies.
If Lapland experiences disruption due to the uptake of automation, then a universal basic income may be required for Santa’s elves in the future, or perhaps retraining that will enable them to pursue careers in other sectors.
Brian Baglow, commercial director at digital skills and coding academy, CodeClan, suggests that Santa could face the same problems as traditional companies in years to come.
“Santa is facing the same problem as a traditional manufacturer – in a world where the 4th industrial revolution is taking hold, job automation and digital transformation is changing the way in which companies and having to approach their operations,” he says.
Upskilling programmes, such as those offered by CodeClan, could provide an opportunity for Santa’s elves to sharpen up their CV and pursue careers in other sectors, he explains.
“Our flagship 16-week Professional Software Development (PSD) course is perfect for elves who need to bring their skillset into the 21st century. Santa can sponsor elves through the course, providing a rapid way to introduce desperately needed digital skills, while retaining institutional intelligence,” Baglow adds.
DIGIT spoke to Craig Smith, VP, IoT and Analytics at Tech Data, on how Santa can use the Internet of Things (IoT) at his Lapland hub to improve efficiency and workforce safety.
“By implementing predictive maintenance, Santa can monitor vibration and power usages on the machines in his Lapland workshop,” Smith explains. “When coupled with analytics software, he can also be alerted ahead of time if a machine is about to fail – thus ensuring operational uptime within the factory.”
Producing toys can be a messy affair, Smith notes, and as such the production floor could quickly become covered in wastage materials, tape, wrapping paper and a myriad of other hazards.
“By using IoT and analytics solutions,” he says, “The Elf and Safety team can quickly be notified via their smartphones when an area needs cleaning (meaning fewer staff accidents).”
Santa’s reindeer are expected to fly millions of miles in the space of a few hours on Christmas Eve. While this legendary band of flying beasts is more than capable of carrying out their Christmas duties, making life easier can go a long way to improve efficiency and streamline the process for the years ahead, Smith explains.
“As for Santa’s reindeer, who fly around about 316,899,309 miles in 32 hours, Santa can use wearable technology to monitor the health and fitness of his reindeer well before the big day,” Smith says. “By monitoring heart rate, temperature and exertion, he knows which reindeer are in top form and which need resting.
“Then, once Santa has set off to deliver presents, GPS sensors can be installed onto Santa’s sleigh to help monitor his progress in real-time.
“Using this information, the elves will use an “Undisclosed secret Elf tool” to temporarily freeze surveillance cameras in his immediate area to ensure Santa isn’t picked up by them as he passes by. The same sensors would also monitor the weight of the sleigh and sack to check for any anomalies. This, combined with GPS information, would be fed back to the Santa Cloud to ensure no child misses out and every present is delivered on time.”